Volunteering as a VSS Trustee

This Trustees’ Week, Liz Taylor talks about why she joined the VSS Board and what it means to her.

12 November, 2018

I’ve been a Victim Support Scotland trustee since 2012. My time on the Board has been rewarding, challenging, interesting, and sometimes even surprising.

Why Victim Support Scotland?
I initially decided to volunteer to become more involved in my community in a meaningful way and for a while thought about prisoner support. As I conducted research about volunteering opportunities in this capacity, I realised that whilst the lot of the prisoner seemed pretty limited, the victim of crime was even further down the pecking order!

So I applied for a volunteer role at the Victim Support office in Drumchapel. This was just before the Scottish Parliament had been established and the criminal justice landscape looked very different compared to today; the charity was structured differently too. The Witness Service had not yet been born.

I have received excellent victim support training over the years and much of my time in the early years was spent conducting home visits on my own, with the support of a wider volunteer team. I’ve supported many different people affected by a range of crimes who have been impacted in many different ways.

As my knowledge has grown, so have my views about what we should be doing as an organisation for victims of crime. My commitment and involvement have increased the more I’ve seen the impact of crime on people and communities, as well as witnessing the good that VSS can achieve by supporting people.

Why a VSS trustee?
In 2012 a senior member of staff asked me to consider becoming a trustee on the Board. I hadn’t thought about joining before, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to now. I didn’t want to get caught up in what I perceived were some fairly serious politics at the time, and if I am honest, didn’t fully understand VSS’ structure.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I could not effect change by sitting on the side-lines. I had skills to contribute as well as an idea that change was needed, and thought it would be beneficial for the Board to include another voice of the service delivery volunteer who had an understanding of what was happening at grass-roots level.

What is the role?
The role of VSS trustee is governed by two bodies in law – OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) and Companies House (VSS is a company limited by guarantee as well as a charity). The trustee role is one of overseeing the governance of the charity and setting the strategy with the CEO. It is not just about challenge (asking questions and holding management to account) but it is also about support, both in terms of the CEO and management team, and of the charity’s purposes. In other words, what it does and what it stands for; the services it delivers.

The role is a strategic one – trustees are not in place to manage, but to look to the future, identify risks, and oversee the accounts and financial reporting. Trustees at VSS are also volunteers, some are drawn from services or area committees and some have joined because they support the work of VSS. As trustees, we are ultimately accountable for the organisation’s revenue to ensure that it is appropriately spent on providing the much-needed support of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The Board meets approximately six times a year, but in addition trustees are involved in various committees including Finance and Governance which meet less frequently and report back to the Board. Trustees join various VSS events such as the six-monthly roadshows, ad hoc visits to services and other meetings which might arise during the course of the year.

As I reflect on my time as a trustee, I feel privileged to have been on the Board at such a crucial time in VSS’ history and to be part of an evolving team which is shaping the future of our organisation. My priority, which was what drove me to the organisation in the first place, is putting Victims and Witnesses first and I feel we are truly focused on that now.