The CTSI College of Fellows is has been a vital lynchpin of the Trading Standards profession for more than 70 years. It provides financial aid to CTSI members and their families in times of crisis, supports Fellows in pursuing educational and research projects that strengthen the profession, and offers a vital network of social and career support to members old and new. College of Fellows Chair, Chris Armstrong, explains: “The College of Fellows was set up in 1951 and became a charity in 1957. Although it’s associated with CTSI, it’s a separate body which reports to the Charity Commission and the CTSI Council.
“Our primary aim is welfare of members of CTSI and their families and children. If they should fall on hard times, as has happened recently, it is our mandate to support them.”
The past few years have proved challenging for the Trading Standards profession, with the problems that arise from diminishing job security and an ageing workforce being compounded by the COVID-19 crisis and the occurrence of unexpected tragedy in several members’ lives.
“The welfare side of things is something we hope we never have to deal with, for obvious reasons,” says Armstrong. “But in the last couple of years, there have been some really tragic cases where members have passed away before their time, leaving young families.
“We always think that older people are well cared for these days, with pensions and all the rest of it, but that obviously isn’t always the case. And we’re also concerned about younger members who are experiencing problems with things like the cost of childcare.”
Brian Stone, Secretary of the College of Fellows, says: “Welfare services and education grants are available
to any member of CTSI. In 2021, we spent £11,000 on welfare, which was in support of members and
“Examples include support for a member who’s had long COVID and was off beyond their normal sick pay leave. We’ve also supported a member dealing with the death of a close family member, and another whose partner has been suffering serious illness with long-term effects. We were able to put some money in place to help them. Usually it’s to address immediate needs – we’re not a long-term support function but if a crisis occurs, we can offer some money to help get over that hiccup.
“This year, we’ve already paid out annual education grants of £3,000 to children of CTSI members. That’s for six children; it’s £500 per child and it’s just to help out with some education bits, perhaps a school trip or whatever the parents feel is needed. That includes a new member whose husband sadly passed away in December.”
Education and research
In addition to providing financial support in times of emergency, the College can also assist members with funding for research projects that feed back into the Trading Standards profession. Stephanie Young, CTSI Joint Lead Officer for Animal Health and Welfare, is the latest recipient of funding. “My research is related to enforcement of animal health and welfare legislation and its application outside of mainland GB,” she says. “There is a personal perception that frequently when considering the application of legislation, it is easy to consider GB as a mainland and overlook its islands and how enforcement in more remote areas is managed.
“I would like to undertake research in this area, particularly concentrating on animal health and welfare enforcement and journey times for livestock based upon recent consultations that have been put out by the three devolved nations, with an intention to reduce travel time for livestock in a bid to increase animal welfare.”
“I was delighted with my proposal being accepted,” she adds. “The application process was easy and the Fellows came back to me in a very short timeframe confirming that they would support the research, allowing me to start and make plans.”
The College also offers further education grants to members who wish to bolster their qualifications and develop their careers, but whose employers are unable to help.
“There are two aspects of further education grants,” says Stone. “One is where we provide scholarships for members seeking to improve their qualifications in an area that their local authority wouldn’t pay for. Recent examples include a member doing an MSc in Food Policy; the officer wants to develop their own knowledge and obviously, that contributes back into the profession, so we were able to pay the course fees for that. That member then gained that MSc with distinction, which was very good.
“The other aspect of further education grants is something that arose out of a member’s death last year. We’d been in contact with him prior to his death about what needs his family might have, and he was concerned about his children’s higher education and university education. We hadn’t previously provided that sort of support – we’d only given small educational grants up to the age of 18.
“So as trustees, we examined it and saw merit in doing it; obviously, there’s a huge cost now to going to university, and if you’ve lost a member of your family, the pressure is on even more. We agreed that for people in those circumstances, we would provide a grant over the three years, up to a total of £5,000, as a contribution towards the costs they’re going to incur.”
While the financial support that the College of Fellows can offer is obviously an essential part of its remit, the social aspects of membership should not be overlooked. These have, inevitably, been curtailed in recent years by COVID-19 however. “For the past two years we’ve been meeting online; our only face-to-face was at last year’s Symposium,” says Armstrong. “I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of people that came up to me and said, ‘we’ve heard what the College has done for members’ families and are really grateful for the support’.”
“The social element happens very rarely, unfortunately, as the College only gets together very occasionally,” Stone adds. “It relies on one of our members graciously offering to organise something; we had a great weekend down in Cornwall, in Penzance, a few years ago. The Scottish Fellows meet up each year and have just done so for first time since the pandemic.
“The other aspect of being a Fellow is that people who are Fellows are interested in the profession; they are experienced officers who have got something to contribute. We try to distinguish that from the work of the charity, but it means that this body of people can offer something back to the Institute in terms of experience and views, and help develop ideas and contribute to things such as the new Vision (see page 14). There are a lot of Fellows who are retired members but are still active and have got a part to play in developing the profession as it goes forward.”
The College of Fellows is also a staunch supporter of the CTSI Hero Awards; “We sponsor the consumer journalism award – we’re very pleased to be associated with it as it fits in with our objective as part of educating the general public,” says Stone.
It is also a permanent fixture at CTSI Conference, where it holds a ceremony to induct new Fellows. To become a Fellow, a CTSI member needs to have ‘gone the extra mile’, either for the profession or in support of the Institute. They can then be nominated by a colleague, if they are seconded and supported by six other members. “Anybody can be nominated for Fellowship, Armstrong says. “If a member thinks a colleague is worthy of a nomination they should get in touch and provide us with information about their work and achievements.”
Looking ahead, Armstrong says, “I personally would like to see what more we can do as a charity to try and examine anything and everything that might arise in the future. There are clearly some things that we cannot do. But as long as we can fit them into our charitable criteria, who knows? There could be all sorts of things that might crop up. And I think it’s particularly important to keep the younger people involved.”
For those members seeking help, Stone says, “each branch has appointed a College Liaison Officer, who will take the lead in referring matters to us based on their local knowledge and branch area. That’s the normal route. But often we get notified of these things by other routes as well. And we will try to respond straightaway. Normally in a matter of weeks, we can make a decision.
“We encourage members to come forward to us, and if they want to just ask a question, we can probably give a very quick view on that. Education grant applications take a little bit longer but we respond very quickly to welfare matters. And welfare matters are always confidential.”
In closing, Stone adds: “We can’t work without the support and donations of CTSI members and the regional branches, so big thanks goes to them. Most branches are very generous when they can give us a donation which helps us to fund this work.”
For further information about the College of Fellows, including details of how to apply for grants, funding and support, as well as how to nominate a colleague as a Fellow, click here.