Focus: People Management - Victim Support sets up expert network

Graham Willgoss, graham.willgoss@haynet.com

Consultants will advise local managers on the latest management issues.

Victim Support is establishing a national network of HR experts to improve people management in its local branches and protect it from litigation.

The charity currently has access to seven HR practitioners, who volunteer their time and services to help Victim Support managers in local branches with issues including recruitment and grievances. They also help managers keep up to date with employment law.

Roland Stainton-Williamson, national head of HR at Victim Support, wants to recruit a total of 50 HR experts to create a network that can provide professional support to all 90 Victim Support branches in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"In the past we've only had HR people who could help with certain aspects of HR, and we definitely couldn't cover the entire area in which we operate," he said. "I want to ensure that all Victim Support branches are as robust as they can be, leaving the manager with more time to focus on improving support for victims and witnesses."

Victim Support can afford paid HR staff in only 10 of its branches, which Stainton-Williamson said leaves managers open to the threat of employment tribunals if they are not kept informed of the latest people management practices and employment law.

"We either end up in employment tribunals or discover that our HR practices are not as good as they could be," he said. "When I look at the data I have received on what led to those tribunals, I see that many of them could have been avoided if we had had access to good HR advice.

"I want managers of our branches to be able to come to me and say 'have you got anybody in our area with those skills?' Then we can match them with the right people in the right locations who have the skills to deal with the issues at hand."

Rosemary Curtis, a self-employed HR consultant who offers her services to Victim Support, said there were benefits for both sides.

"It's a good opportunity," she said. "You're not just putting something back into the community - you're also learning something and gaining more experience yourself.

"I'm conscious that funding is tight and that few organisations have any HR experience, and as a result there is a huge need for HR advice in the voluntary sector. Much of the time what charities need is someone with specific HR experience who can give them the right advice in the right context."

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