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Other ways to get involved – Public Bodies and charities   

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Board Members of Public Bodies
Charity Trustees

Board Members of Public Bodies

There are few areas of Scottish life that do not depend on public bodies to some degree. Jobs, health, education, recreation, the environment, travel, the law - public bodies make a contribution in all these areas, working in partnership with central government, local authorities, voluntary and community organisations, businesses and individuals.

In 2001, the Scottish Executive carried out a review of public bodies in Scotland. Andy Kerr, the Minister for Finance and Public Services has stated that the Scottish Executive are committed to raising public awareness of the important role that public bodies play in Scottish life and to encouraging a more diverse cross-section of people to apply.

Guidelines issued by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA), the body responsible for monitoring public appointments, clearly states:

“The principles of equality opportunity and diversity must be inherent within the application process.. Care must be taken, at every stage, not to discriminate on the grounds of gender, race, age, disability, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or community background.” (p.9 OCPA Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies, July 2001)

There are approximately 144 public bodies in Scotland, all accountable to the Scottish Executive. Public bodies are known as “Non-departmental Public Bodies” or NDPBs, however they are often referred to as “quangos” (which derives from the name under which these bodies were previously known – “quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations”). Public bodies are divided into 5 distinct types, each covering a wide range of activities and responsibilities.

  • Executive NDPBs
  • Advisory NDPBs
  • Tribunals
  • Public Corporations and Nationalised Industries
  • National Health Service Bodies

    You can find specific information about the different roles and functions of these types of public bodies in the Appendices.

    Public bodies are run by a Chair and Board Members appointed by the Minister of the relevant department of the Scottish Executive, for example the Health Minister appoints members of NHS Boards. The role of members can vary but there are a few ways to find out a bit more about what the role involves. You could:

  • take part in the public bodies work-shadow initiative
    This is a scheme that provides those interested in becoming members of a public body with the opportunity to see first hand what board members do. Participants ‘shadow’ an existing board member for one or more days as they carry out their public duties. You can find out how to take part in this scheme by contacting the Scottish Executive Public Appointments Unit.

  • attend a board meeting
    This is an easy way to find out a bit more about the work of a board member. Check the website of the body or bodies you are interested in to see whether their meetings are open to the public, and when and where they are due to take place.

  • contact the public body directly
    Public bodies should be able to provide a summary of the duties and responsibilities of its board members on request. Some may even include that information on their website.

    Board members are chosen because they have the various desirable skills and qualities. These skills would include:
  • communication skills
  • ability to interact with highly knowledgeable groups or specialists
  • ability to challenge and support colleagues
  • critical reasoning

    The list is not exhaustive and there are other important and desirable skills and qualities for board members, including a commitment to the aims, objectives and values of the organisation.

    Most appointments are for 3-4 years and may be renewed up to a 10 year period of service.

    Not all vacancies are advertised, but high profile posts and those involving significant payments or managing significant budgets are supposed to be advertised in a variety of press. There are other ways to get your name considered:

  • Being known to the Minister who suggests you
  • Being nominated by organisations consulted by the civil servants
  • Being nominated by a current member of the board
  • Self-nomination by registering your willingness to serve with the Scottish Executive Public Appointments Unit

    Public body board members will receive at least their out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel and accommodation). However, other public bodies will pay a set amount, dependent on the level of commitment required. You can find details about levels of pay for board members by visiting the following website:

    Charity Trustees

    There are thousands of registered charities in Scotland, covering a huge range of areas and interests. All registered charities have a Board of Trustees (sometimes known as a Board of Management or Executive Committee). Trustees are volunteers who are responsible for the running and overall management of a charity and oversee all major decisions on behalf of the charity. They also have voting rights on the charities governing body.

    Trustees are responsible for ensuring that the charity:

  • adheres to its constitution
  • follows and meets its objectives as detailed in its constitution
  • spends its financial resources exclusively on its objectives
  • practices good conduct in its affairs
  • affairs are managed carefully and sensibly

    Being a charity trustee is both demanding and worthwhile. The commitment of time and attention is often high but the role brings great satisfaction in seeing a well-run charity making a difference to those it exists to help.

    Anyone over 18 can become a charity trustee, except those who are legally disqualified from hold such posts. This applies to people who:

  • are undischarged bankrupts
  • have been convicted at any time of any offence involving deception or dishonesty, unless the conviction is legally regarded as being spent
  • have been removed from being a charity trustee because of misconduct or mismanagement
  • are disqualified from acting as a company director

    Most new trustees are recruited by word of mouth and are often already known to the current chair or other trustees. If you would like to become a trustee of a particular charity then contact them to register your interest. Some of the larger charities advertise trustee vacancies in the local press and in the Society section of Wednesday’s Guardian newspaper.

    Beyond Barriers (UK) accept no responsibility for the content of external sites.

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