Minutes of the VSS Board Meeting No 71

Board Meeting Type: Strategic Board Meeting

Tuesday 9 June 2020 at 10:00am

Remote via Zoom



Board Members Present:

Oliver Wilkinson (OW) Chair

Patricia Haren (PH) Board Member

Bertha McDougall (BM) Board Member

Richard Solomon (RS) Board Member

Beverley Clarke (BC) Board Member


VSS Officers in Attendance:

Margaret Bateson (MB) Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Walker (AW) Acting Head of Operations

Tara Lewsley (TL) Acting Head of Corporate Services

Melissa McCartan (MM) Business Support Officer (minutes)



A Apologies


No apologies received.



B Minutes of Previous Meeting


The Board noted minor changes to be made to the previous minutes. Corrections were agreed and the minutes of the previous Board meeting held on 12 May 2020 were approved.

C CEO Reporting by Exception


The Board asked the CEO to present this report.


It was noted that one organisation is currently in an appeals process, with the panel having been appointed and another organisation is indicating their intention to appeal. It was noted that VSS are currently providing this organisation with information that has been requested in preparation for the appeal.


MB provided the Board with an update in relation to Covid-19 and the VSS recovery plan. It was noted that the VSS HR team are currently in the process of establishing a Covid-19 Working Group. The VSS Covid-19 Working Group will look at changes to be made; which will include, but not limited to, workplace safety measures, cleaning and disinfectant processes, office configuration, physical distancing and employee availability based on family and health circumstances. It was noted VSS staff will only return to the office when it is necessary and safe to do so.


It was noted that the shortlisting for the Head of Service Development has been completed and interviews are scheduled to take place on 17 June 2020 via Zoom. It is anticipated that the recruitment for Head of Health and Wellbeing is likely to commence sometime after.


MB advised the Board of the recent communications that were issued daily during Mental Health Awareness Week and Volunteering Week. It was noted communication will also be issued in respect of Carers Week and PTSD month.


It was noted VSS did not submit any written evidence to Northern Ireland Affairs Committee by 1st June 2020 in regards to policy around legacy. It was noted some VSS funded organisations did submit.



D Historical Institutional Abuse


The CEO provided the Board with an update on Historical Institutional Abuse.


It was noted that, in the interim, VSS will provide temporary support for victims and survivors of HIA from June - August 2020. Following weekly communication and engagement between VSS, TEO and HIA Interim Advocates Office, it was noted that a Personal Support Unit (PSU) has been developed to ensure that appropriate services and support are available and accessible to victims and survivors of HIA.


MB discussed the PSU in detail and welcomed questions from the Board arising from this. It was noted that the PSU will assist victims and survivors engaging with the HIA Redress Board. It was noted that victims and survivors requiring emotional support to engage in the difficulties and challenges of recounting and documenting their own personal experience will be made aware that support and/or aftercare session is available should it be required.


It was noted MB is due to meet TEO and HIA Interim Advocate this week to agree on a communications plan. In regards to the HIA permanent solution, it was noted that health and wellbeing support and services are expected to be in place by September 2020. It was noted MB is currently finalising the business case which is due to be submitted by Friday 12 June 2020.


The Board acknowledged the recent HIA data breach and MB provided an update on support put in place for victims and survivors of HIA as a result of this.





It was noted that almost all VSS staff have completed their Access NI refresh checks and that those remaining will be completed in due course. It was also noted that, going forward, HR will include the VSS Board members in this process, rather than TEO.


AP1: HR to include VSS Board members in Access NI refresh checks.


TL noted the above AP will be followed up as a matter of priority.


It was noted that BM (VSS Board Member) has been appointed onto the Governance Board of Operation Kenova and that VSS will act responsively should any conflict of interests arise in relation to this.



F Date of Next Meeting


The next meeting of the Board is scheduled to take place on Thursday 30 July at 10:00am via Zoom.