Minutes of the VSS Board Meeting No 72

Board Meeting Type: Quarterly Board Meeting      

Thursday 30 July 2020 at 10:00am

Remote – via Zoom



Board Members Present:

Oliver Wilkinson (OW)               Chair

Patricia Haren (PH)                   Board Member

Bertha McDougall (BMcD)         Board Member

Richard Solomon (RS)               Board Member (from 10:40am)


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


Apologies were received from Beverley Clarke (VSS Board Member).



B      Minutes of Previous Meeting


The minutes of the previous Board meeting held on 09 June 2020 were approved.


C      Action Points


31.03.20 AP3: Board appraisal session to be rescheduled. It was noted this session will take place early September 2020 via Zoom. Date to be confirmed with Steve Mungavin.


MSFM Ref 4.4.3: Ministers shall meet with the VSS Board formally each year. It was noted no response has been received following the reissue of request in January 2020. MB to follow up.


D      Conflict of Interest


D1    Supplier List / Agenda Items


The Board noted this paper.


D2    Declaration Form


No conflicts of interest were declared.


E      Chairman’s Report 


The Board noted this paper.


F      Quarter End March 2020


F1    CEO/AO Exception Report


MB presented this report to the Board and highlighted VSS key areas of focus for Q2 2020.


In relation to the VSS business delivery plan, MB advised that it’s too early in the year to be definitive on the impact of Covid-19, however, it is anticipated that some areas, such as complementary therapies, personal and professional development and social support won’t be achieved this year as a result of the pandemic. MB is confident that VSS can manage these underspends and advised the Board that an October 2020 monitoring round bid will be made for additional funding for areas such as psychological therapies.


Taking into account the impact of Covid-19, the targeted outcome in respect of the Regional Trauma Network (RTN) is also at risk of not being met. MB updated the Board on the recent communications between VSS and DoH in relation to legal advice around the RTN. It was noted the RTN is currently on hold due to Covid-19.


MB provided the Board with an update on the strategic risk register. It was noted that there have been no new risks added since the previous update. It was noted that risk STG55, Victims Payment Scheme, has been escalated from an amber to a red risk following the scheme not launching on schedule and there being no new proposed date for launch as yet. An update on the recent Sectoral Implementation Working Group meeting was then provided to the Board.

It was noted that three risks coming forward have been successfully de-escalated. MB advised the Board that STG51 Staff Health and Wellbeing has changed from a red risk to a green risk and both STG52 SMT Pressures and STG56 Historical Institutional Abuse to amber.

MB provided the Board with an update on service delivery plans for victims and survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse. It was noted VSS will continue to develop & operationalise plans for the long term arrangements for provision of Health and Wellbeing services to victims and survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse which is now expected to commence from October 2020.


F2    Quarterly ALB Performance Report


The board noted this paper.



F2.1   Annex 1 - Strategic Risk Register


The board noted this paper.



F2.2    Annex 2 – Budget Report


The board noted this paper.



F3    Quarterly Assurance Statement


The Board noted this paper.



F4    Quarterly Outcomes Based M&E 


The Board noted this paper.



G      Board Sub Committees


G1    Audit and Risk Committee Update


BMcD and RS provided the Board with an update on the Audit and Risk Committee.


It was noted Julys ARC meeting has been rescheduled and will now take place via Zoom on 7 August 2020. It was noted that the ARC Self-Assessments have been completed and comments will be discussed at the ARC members’ pre meeting on 7 August 2020.



G2    Health & Wellbeing Committee Update


PH provided the Board with an update on the Health and Wellbeing Committee.


It was noted that the documentation in respect of the procurement for a clinical advisor for the VSS Health and Wellbeing Committee has been reviewed by VSS HWB Committee members and due to be finalised in the coming days.



H      Board Workplan and Development


H1    Board Attendance/Work Plan


The Board noted this paper. 



H2    Board Training Update and Questionnaire


The Board discussed specific areas for training. It was noted head of corporate services will carry out research into what training is currently available online for Board members. 



30.07.20 AP1: TL to research online training for Board members.



H3    Board Self-Assessment Update                                   


The Board noted this paper. 





I      Standing Agenda Items


  I1    Compliance Update


TL provided the Board with an update on the four suspected fraud cases open at the quarter end. The Board noted that one case is still awaiting a CCNI Final Report and CCNI have indicated there is unlikely to be follow up actions for VSS.


Of the three active cases open at quarter end, two are currently with the PSNI/Gardai and one with TEO/GFIS.


Of the four debtor balances identified at quarter end, it was noted VSS have finalised the debtor balance owed by one organisation. VSS await advice from TEO in relation to this. 


The Board noted that there was one whistleblowing allegation received during the quarter. It was noted an internal investigation was carried out by VSS which concluded there was no substance to the allegations received. This case is now closed.

There were no new Ombudsman Complaints received during the period and no open cases carried forward. There are no ongoing governance reviews as at 30 June 2020 and no AQ’s open or received.


There was one FOI request carried forward from the previous quarter. A full response was prepared and issued within the required timeframes and the request closed. Two FOI requests were received and closed during the quarter, with a full response prepared and issued within the required timeframes.


Four further FOI requests were received during the quarter which remain open. A response is currently being prepared by management for each.

There were four complaints made to VSS in the quarter with two not upheld. It was noted an investigation around one complaint was ongoing as at 30th June 2020 but VSS have since referred the individual to the organisation in line with their own complaints policy. In respect of the fourth complaint, an independent panel has been appointed and an investigation is ongoing.

It was noted there has been some anomalies with the call reports since VSS moved to remote working. Analysis will be conducted on the missed calls to identify any patterns that might exist, for example, most common times/days etc., to help VSS better understand the issues and seek suitable resolutions.

One Data Sharing Agreement is still outstanding from a VSP funded organisation. VSS have obtained legal advice on this matter and are currently acting on that.

It was noted that online refresher training in GDPR has been provided to VSS staff. TL advised that the VSS Data Protection Officer attended a Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO) course in early July.

It was noted that VSS have purchased and rolled out software designed to mitigate against one of the most common data incident/breaches – sending an email to the wrong person. It was noted this software will complete checks on emails ahead of sending by looking for potential errors such as external email addresses, missing attachments, etc.


  I2   Client Risk Update


No client risk to note.


  I3   Data Protection Update


Covered within compliance paper.  


 J    AOB


It was noted communication will be issued by Brown O Connor Communications on behalf of VSS following the news of the current Commissioner for Victims and Survivors term of office ending in August 2020. It was noted that this communication will be issued to reassure victims and survivors that there will be no impact on services provided by VSS and to thank Judith Thompson for her work over last 5 years.


K     Date of Next Meeting


The next meeting of the Board is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 9 September 2020 via Zoom.