Council of Assembly Charity Trusteeship

Charity Trusteeship: what is involved?

Introduction

The Council of Assembly is responsible for monitoring, evaluating and co-ordinating the work of agencies of the General Assembly through receiving regular reports, preparing the Church's annual budget and determining central staffing and resourcing requirements. You can read the full remit below.

The General Assembly of 2010 appointed the voting members of the Council of Assembly to act as charity trustees for the Unincorporated Councils and Committees of the General Assembly (the Church of Scotland, Scottish Charity Number SC011353). This includes all of the major Councils: Church and Society; Ministries; Mission and Discipleship; Social Care; and World Mission. It also includes the work of smaller but equally important committees such as the Guild and Safeguarding as well as the support services for the Church such as Communications, Finance, Law and Human Resources.

There are 18 voting members of the Council of Assembly. Six are appointed by virtue of their office but the remaining voting members are appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Nomination Committee. In addition, senior staff of the Church serve as non-voting members. General Assembly appointed members serve for a period of four years although, in certain circumstances, they are eligible for re-appointment for a further period of four years. In accordance with good practice for charity governance, the Nomination Committee is seeking to widen the field of potential trustees through a process of open recruitment. It welcomes applications from anyone possessed of the required skills.

'Charity trustees' means the persons having the general control and management of the administration of a charity. A charity trustee must act in the interests of the charity and must, in particular, seek in good faith to ensure that the charity acts in a manner which is consistent with its purposes. Trustees must act with the care and diligence that it is reasonable to expect of a person who is managing the affairs of another person.

The Solicitor of the Church has produced two documents which may be helpful for potential Council members which can be downloaded below:

Potential applicants may also wish to view the website of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) which contains much information on the duties and responsibilities of charity trustees (www.oscr.org.uk).

Trustee members of the Council of Assembly

The Special Committee's Supplementary Report to the 2010 General Assembly considered the skills and experience which are required of trustee members of the Council.It recommended that all trustees should:

  • possess an understanding of the life and culture of the Church of Scotland; and
  • be committed to developing and implementing the vision and mission of the General Assembly; and
  • possess an understanding of Scotland's contemporary culture

In addition, the Council requires the following specific areas of expertise among its trustees:

  • communication
  • finance
  • governance
  • law (civil and church)
  • management
  • strategic planning
  • theology
  • training

It is for the Nomination Committee to ensure that there is an appropriate spread of skills. A skills audit among the existing trustees found that all of the required skills were already well-represented but that the Council would benefit from new trustees with experience of finance, law or communication. Applicants with skills or relevant experience in those areas would be particularly welcome. Applicants will be selected on merit alone but we would encourage applications from women and younger people, both of whom are currently under-represented on the Council. You can download the full and supplementary reports of the Special Committee on the Review of Charity Governance below.

The Church will ensure that trustees have enough information about its activities to be able to make decisions. New trustees will be expected to take part in an induction process and to take advantage of ongoing development opportunities.

The Council of Assembly maintains a register of trustees' interests; this is recommended for good governance and also acts as a protection for individual trustees should there ever be allegations of impropriety. The Council will shortly introduce a code of conduct for trustees; this will guide trustees on when to declare a conflict of interest and on the appropriate action thereafter.

Trustees may be personally liable for the actions of charities and the Church is currently seeking to set up arrangements to indemnify individual trustees against such claims. The existence of realistic and robust risk assessments for all areas of Council and Committee work across the Church, and their submission at regular intervals to the Council of Assembly, help trustees exercise their duties under charity law and help to protect them against unexpected liabilities.

Council of Assembly meetings

The Council meets on the third Monday of June, September, November, December, February, and April (the April meeting can vary depending on the date of Easter). Meetings begin at 10.30am and generally continue until mid-afternoon; lunch is provided. Meetings are usually held in Edinburgh at 121 George Street.

In the interests of good governance, appropriate and regular opportunities are given for voting members of the Council of Assembly to meet alone as charity trustees. This applies, for example, when significant staffing matters are under consideration.

The Council currently has five sub-committees on which you may be invited to serve. These are: Audit; Staffing; Finance; Communication; and Governance. There are occasionally ad hoc groups and meetings for other purposes. Most members of Council would devote around 20 days a year to its work.

The Council would expect of its members:

  • diligence in reading papers and otherwise preparing for meetings
  • the capacity for asking questions on reports from other councils and committees
  • regular attendance at Council meetings
  • participation in one of the sub-committees and/or ad hoc groups

How to apply

To apply, please download and complete the application form below. The form can be then filled in and emailed as an attachment to pwilson@churchofscotland.org.uk. If you are experiencing problems completing the form electronically, you may require the latest version of Adobe's PDF Reader software.

Alternatively, you can send a completed copy of the form to:

The secretary, Nomination Committee,
Church of Scotland Offices,
121 George Street,
Edinburgh,
EH2 4YN

The closing date for applications is 31 October 2016