Minutes of the VSS Board Meeting No 74

Board Meeting Type: Quarterly Board Meeting        

Wednesday 21 October 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

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

Elaine Murphy (EM)                     Head of Service Development

Melissa McCartan (MM)             Business Support Officer (minutes)



A      Apologies


No apologies received.



B      Minutes of Previous Meeting


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

C      Action Points


TL provided an update on the outstanding actions points. The following key points were noted:


30.07.20 AP1: Research and contact is ongoing in relation to training for Board members.


09.09.20 AP1: Invitation was issued directly to special advisors 14th October 2020.


It was noted 8 action points have arose following the VSS Board effectiveness session on 01.09.20. The Board noted the following: 


01.09.20 AP1: Review of risk appetite will be included in November 2020 board meeting agenda.


01.09.20 AP3: Quality Mark is due for review next year (2020/21).


01.09.20 AP5: VSS to request a review of co-design approach and operation. It was noted MB is due to meet TEO and CVS on 26.10.20 to start discussions.


01.09.20 AP8: Reflect on the implications of the vacant Commissioner position on policy and practice. It was noted both CVS and VSS CEO have met and agreed co-design approach going forward.  Monthly agenda and meetings are to be established.


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 Q3 2020.


MB advised VSS are content with the progress against the business plan. In relation to Psychological Therapies, it was noted VSS are significantly ahead due to the high demand as a result of the pandemic. MB noted that based on the last 6 months data, there is a strong indication that client outcomes are the same whether psychological therapy takes place face to face or online. It was noted VSS will begin to explore the impact on new clients versus existing clients.


It was noted Complementary Therapies, Social Support, Personal and Professional Development continue to be below target due to the pandemic, however, overall, MB is confident that VSS can manage these underspends accordingly.


MB advised VSS have issued a Covid-19 survey to all organisations to gather feedback regarding their experience of Covid-19 – key challenges, key opportunities etc. Following the findings of the Covid-19 survey, it was noted VSS will do a call to the sector for additional activities.


MB provided an update on the following 3 risks:


-       Risk that the needs of the bereaved are not being met within current schemes. It was noted the submission to Ministers is still with the Department. MB noted VSS met with Statisticians on 19.10.20 to discuss. It was noted TEO have not yet submitted the ministerial submission on this matter.

-       Risk that victims and survivors who are eligible and in receipt of a Home Heat award did not receive second payment in September 2020 as planned. Associated risk to VSS reputation in delay of these payments. MB advised VSS have been working with the Department to try and find a reasonable approach. It was noted VSS SMT have agreed a solution and will be implemented wc 26.10.20. 

-       Risk that appropriate Health and Wellbeing services are not in place for victims of HIA and date remains unknown. It was noted MB is due to meet TEO and HIA Interim Advocate to discuss urgent action following VSS and HIA Interim Advocates recent correspondence to the Department in relation to this. The Board agreed to issue TEO a letter ahead of the meeting on Friday to further highlight the clinical risk and reputational damage as a result of the delay. It was agreed urgent action is required.


AP1: VSS Board to issue letter to the Department ahead of meeting on 23.10.20.

The Board noted Fiona Ryan has been named as the commissioner for victims of HIA and her term will take effect on 14 December 2020 and last for five years. It was noted this may result in a further 6 months of inaction which the Board agreed is too high of a risk.


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


The Board noted this paper.


BMcD and RS noted there is nothing further to report.


G2    Health & Wellbeing Committee Update


BC provided an update on the Health & Wellbeing Committee.


MB updated the Board on the procurement process for the HWB Committee specialist member. It was noted that the invitation to tender has been completed, however, there is a delay due to the difficulty in sourcing a suitable number of candidates. 


H      Board Workplan and Development


H1    Board Attendance/Work Plan


The Board noted this paper. 


H2    Board Training Update and Questionnaire


The Board noted this paper. 



H3    Board Self-Assessment Update                                   


TL provided an update on the Board Self-Assessment actions. It was noted VSS are proceeding to prepare a draft partnership agreement for presenting to TEO for consideration.


OW asked for an update on succession planning in terms of recruitment for Board members. It was noted TEO have communicated the succession planning is proceeding, but no further update to note.



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


Of the four debtor balances identified at quarter end, it was noted one case has been referred to legal.


The Board noted that there were no new whistleblowing allegation received during the quarter and one carried forward.


There were one Ombudsman Complaint was received during the period. A response was provided on the same day. No further communications have been received.

There are no ongoing governance reviews as at 30 June 2020. It was noted two AQ’s were received via TEO during the period. Two full responses have been issued and are now closed.


There was four FOI requests carried forward from the previous quarter. A full response was prepared and issued for all requests.


Four FOI requests were carried forward from the previous quarter. All requests are now closed in full. Five further FOI requests were received during the quarter. three are now closed and of the two remaining, VSS do not expect any issues in responding within the required timeframes. 

There was one complaint made to VSS in the quarter. VSS have issued an acknowledgement and expect to provide a response within ten working days from receipt.  

TL advised call volumes have increased due to client calls to enquire about the arrangement for the payment of the 2020/21 Home Heat award. It was noted Clients are still able to contact VSS via webchat service through the VSS website.


GDPR Update

One Data Sharing Agreement is still outstanding from a VSP funded group. TL advised work is ongoing on this matter but existing data sharing agreements remain in place.

It was noted two data incidents occurred doing the quarter which have both been deemed low risk and closed.

OW asked for an update on the software rolled out for VSS staff, designed to minimise risk relating to GDPR data incident/breaches. It was noted VSS will make arrangements for VSS Board to be set up on a secure gateway in order to receive and send information as securely as possible.


AP2: Secure gateway to be set up for VSS Board members. 


  I2   Client Risk Update


No client risk to note.


  I3   Data Protection Update


Covered within compliance paper.  


 J    AOB


 J1  VSS Board Terms of Reference


TL presented the VSS Board Terms of Reference draft for Board approval. The amendments were approved by VSS Board.



J2   VSS ARC Terms of Reference


TL presented the VSS ARC Terms of Reference draft for Board approval. The amendments were approved by VSS Board.


OW provided an update on VSS ARC reappointments. It was noted Chair of ARC appointment will be extended for one year due to current circumstances relating to Covid-19.


K     Date of Next Meeting


The next meeting of the Board is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 10th November 2020 via Zoom.