The structure of the St Vincent de Paul Society in England and Wales divides into five levels:
- District Councils
- Central Councils
- National Council
- National Board of Trustees
This provides a communications network so that opinions and ideas can go from local level to national level; and so that decisions and initiatives from the national level and reach the local level by the same route.
This is the basic unit and is defined as "a small group of members meeting regularly to help the needy in a particular locality". The members meet weekly and make weekly visits to beneficiaries.
An "Auxiliary Member" is anyone, whether in a Conference, Special Work or CSP, who has committed to support the Society regularly and actively by completing the enrolment process and whose name appears on the Society database but does not undertake any activities which require DBS checks to be undertaken.
This definition may also apply to someone who is brought in to perform an administrative task for the Conference, such as a Treasurer, fundraising or Data Officer.
This enables busy people to contribute their talents and goodwill.
Conferences are mainly parish-based, but there are also "Special Works" Conferences covering projects such as furniture stores, hospital visiting and prison visiting.
Each Conference elects a President who then appoints the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer.
Conferences are grouped into convenient geographical areas known as "Districts".
The areas covered by a District often correspond to the local Deanery. The Conference Presidents in those areas meet together periodically as a District Council. The District Council meets at least once a quarter to discuss problems, projects and other events in the wider area of several parishes.
As with the Conferences, the District Council elects a President who appoints the Vice President(s), Secretary and Treasurer.
There are 23 Central Councils in England and Wales, roughly corresponding to the Roman Catholic Dioceses. Central Councils provide a local focus for co-ordinating the activity and development of the District Councils and Conferences within their area. They also play a key role in the identification of local needs and the steps which might be taken to address them most appropriately. Central Council Officers and District Council Presidents meet periodically to direct the work of the Central Council.
As well as the District Council Presidents and Central Council Officers - President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer - the Central Council may have a number of "Special Works" Representatives (eg, covering Twinnage, Furniture Stores or Youth) who attend meetings by invitation when their area of activity is on the agenda.
The National Council consists of the 23 Central Council Presidents plus a National President, a National Vice President, a National Secretary, a National Treasurer, members of the National Board of the Society and members of special boards and committees.
The Presidents of the 23 Central Councils, which form National Council, elect a National President from within the membership of the Society every five years. The National President then forms a national Board of Trustees, elected from the membership, with a broad range of skills and experience.