Minutes of the VSS Board Meeting No 80

Board Meeting Type: Quarterly Board Meeting      

Tuesday 20 April 2021 at 10:00am

Remote – via Zoom



Board Members Present:

Oliver Wilkinson (OW)               Chair

Patricia Haren (PH)                   Board Member

Bertha McDougall (BMcD)         Board Member

Beverley Clarke (BC)                  Board Member


VSS Officers in Attendance:

Margaret Bateson (MB)             Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Walker (AW)                Acting Head of Operations (from 11:14am)

Tara Lewsley (TL)                     Acting Head of Corporate Services

Bryan Leonard (BL)                   Head of Health and Wellbeing

Melissa McCartan (MM)             Business Support Officer (minutes)



A      Apologies


Apologies received from VSS Board member, Richard Solomon.



B      Minutes of Previous Meeting


The minutes of the previous Board meeting held on 09 March 2021 were approved.


C      Action Points


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


31.03.20 AP1: Board to review structure and mix of skills of Health and Wellbeing Committee. TL advised the Board that the HWB Committee is currently working towards appointment of a specialist member with completion antipcated by Summer 2021.


21.10.20 AP2: Secure gateway to be set up for VSS Board members. TL advised the Board that the gateway system has been identified and testing will take place in Q1 2021/22.  

In relation to MSFM Ref 4.4.3, Ministers shall meet with the Board formally each year, MB advised there is no further update and agreed to issue another letter of request.


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 Chairman provided the Board with details of his recent engagements and correspondence received during the quarter.


It was noted VSS Chair and VSS CEO are due to appear in front of TEO Committee on 19 May 2021 to provide an oral briefing on how VSS is engaging with victims and survivors of HIA.


OW advised the Board of his recent correspondence with Chris Stewart, Director of Strategic Policy, Equality and Good Relations at TEO.


It was noted VSS Chair and CEO continue to meet regularly with the Commission of Victims and Survivors.


F      Quarter End December 2020


F1    CEO/AO Exception Report


MB provided an update on the current progress against business plan targets and delivering on outcomes.  It was noted the quarter end outcomes report will be available in July 2021.


The Board noted 9 out of 34 delivery plan targets have not been met in 2020/21 due to the significant impact of Covid-19. With additional services put in place, including social isolation initiatives, increased psychological therapies, food and essential parcels, MB is confident that the full budget allocation has been utilised for the 2020/21 year.


It was noted Ministers have approved the re-opening of the Bereaved SDA Scheme with effect from 1 April 2021. MB advised VSS will continue to work with Community organisations to identify longer term support and needs.


Engagement with the Victims Payment Sectoral Implementation Working Group remains ongoing and VSS continue to make operational preparations for the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme opening.


MB provided an update on the BACs transition project completed in Q4 2020/21. It was noted 2/3 of all recipients are now receiving the 2021/22 payment by BACs.


The Board noted that VSS will be engaging with TEO and CVS in a co-design programme for the new Victims and Survivors strategy following completion of the evaluation of the 2009-2019 strategy by RSM. BSO to share upcoming Co-Design dates with Board members.


In relation to the operational gaps in services, MB advised that a number of working groups have been established including, Gender, Addiction, Social Support and Oral History/Storytelling. It was noted the programmes team will launch gender and oral history/storytelling initiatives through calls to funded organisations in Q1.


MB provided the Board with an update on strategic risks STG61, which relates to the delay in the 2021/22 Home Heat awards and risk STG50, relating to Board Quorum. The Board noted these issues and discussed next steps.



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 provided an update on the most recent ARC meeting, held on Wednesday 14 April 2021.


The chairperson extended his thanks to VSS staff for the work carried out to complete the audit, resulting in a satisfactory audit rating.


TL noted the internal audit contract is currently out for tender.


G2    Health & Wellbeing Committee Update


PH provided an update on the most recent Health & Wellbeing Committee meeting, held on Tuesday 23 February 2021.   


PH highlighted that the Committee is still working towards appointment of a specialist member to bring additional clinical experience.


H      Board Workplan and Development


H1    Board Attendance/Work Plan


The Board noted this paper.

The Chairman advised that he will be in contact with Board members individually to arrange Board appraisal dates.


20.04.21 AP1: TL to circulate 2020/21 Board appraisal form.   



H2    Board Training Update and Questionnaire


The Board noted this paper. 



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. It was noted further contact was made with CCNI in January 2021 in relation to the longstanding case. No response has been received to date.


Of the 3 active cases open at the quarter end, two have been referred on to TEO and GFIS, who have subsequently engaged the PSNI/Gardai. TL noted one new case arising March 2021, which has also been referred on to GFIS.


Of the four debtor balances identified at quarter end, it was noted all cases are actively being sought by VSS, with one referred on to legal.


The Board noted two whistleblowing allegations raised in respect of funded organisations. TL advised initial investigations have found no evidence to substantiate these allegations.

There are no ongoing governance reviews at 31 March 2021 and no assembly questions received.

The Board noted three FOI requests received during the quarter from one individual. It was noted the deadline for response to one request was extended twice due to the complexity and volume of documentation being considered for review.

TL advised six complaints were received by VSS during the quarter, with one complaint passed to the VSS Board and one passed to a Complaints Panel. The Board noted all complaints were closed within the required timeframes and none were upheld.

The Board noted that one Ombudsman complaint was carried forward from a previous quarter, which VSS have since received confirmation that this complaint will not be pursued. Two new complaints were received in the quarter, which VSS have prepared a full response for and submitted to NIPSO for consideration.

TL provided an update on the call handling, noting incoming calls increased by over 50% in February and March as expected due to the INP 21/22 launch and queries relating to the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme and the reopening of the SDA Bereaved Scheme.


GDPR Update

Three data incidents were recorded during the period, however, no personal data was at risk and so these are not considered to be reportable data breaches.

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.

The Board asked for an update on the software rolled out for VSS staff, designed to minimise risk relating to GDPR data incident/breaches.


  I2   Client Risk Update


No client risk to note.


I3   Data Protection Update


Covered within compliance paper.  


 J     AOB


It was noted the Board 2020/21 self-assessment and objective setting for the year head will take place Summer 2021. TL to arrange an external facilitator.


MB advised she will be taking August and September 2021 off for study leave and noted the SMT arrangements for this period.


K     Date of Next Meeting


The next meeting of the Board is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 11 May 2021 via Zoom.