Apply for the AQS

Applying for the AQS for the first time?

If you are thinking about applying for the Advice Quality Standard on behalf of your organisation for the first time, these pages should give you all the information you need to know. If you still have questions, then contact Amanda Jordan from Recognising Excellence Amanda.jordan@recognisingexcellence.co.uk or use the contact form on this website.

Is the AQS the right standard for us?

There are many standards available to help organisations assure the work they do and you need to decide whether the AQS is the best fit for your organisation.

The Advice Quality Standard is designed for any organisation which provides some help to the public in the area of social welfare legal advice. You may not describe your service in these terms but if you provide services which include:

  • Detailed information about rights and about how to resolve a problem using rights
  • Help clients to understand their entitlement to benefits and/or grants and how to apply for them
  • Complete application forms on behalf of clients for benefits and/grants
  • Assist clients to get to the bottom of a problem and give them options for resolving them
  • Take actions on behalf of clients for example phoning official bodies or writing letters

You are providing social welfare legal advice (or what we call ‘advice’ here) and will be eligible to apply for the AQS.

There are other services which organisations offer and which they may also call ‘advice’, but these are not covered by the Advice Quality Standard unless they are offered as part of a package with the list above:

  • Basic and generalised information, for example in the form of leaflets, newsletters etc
  • Signposting to other organisations who provide help
  • Counselling, mediation or help with personal, relationship or life choices
  • Decisions regarding health, medical or social care options
  • Legal advice given by qualified lawyers acting in that capacity

As many voluntary organisations have grown organically and in response to the needs of their clients, it may not be clear whether your service is covered by the Advice Quality Standard. Some services have choices about which standards apply, for example where a lawyer supervises lay volunteers. We are more than happy to talk this through with you and help you decide whether the AQS or another standard is the best fit for your organisation. Please call us for assistance.

As a general rule of thumb, the term ‘social welfare legal advice’ covers all or part of the following areas of law:

  • Welfare benefit
  • Debt
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Community Care
  • Consumer
  • Education
  • Health
  • Immigration and asylum
  • Family

Please note: if you are providing advice in either immigration/asylum law or in the area of debt management/money advice, you must register with official regulators, the Office of Immigration Service Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority. To give advice in these areas without registration is an offence and you can phone either of their helplines to get advice regarding the need to register. If your service uses a lawyer in any capacity, you will need to check whether other regulators such as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority would apply.


Your Advice Quality Standard award is valid for two years and you renewal date will be specified on your AQS certificate. You must be reassessed before the expiry date if you want your AQS to be continuous. You will be contacted roughly six months before your AQS renewal date by Recognising Excellence in order to book a date for your assessment and then you will be reminded approximately every 5 weeks up to your renewal date. Our assessors are very busy so if you do not book in your renewal visit early, you may find it difficult to get a date that suits you.

Where can I get a copy of the Standard?

From the information you have seen so far and you think you would be interested in applying for the AQS, you should contact Recognising Excellence. They will send a copy of the full Standard with a temporary agreement that you can hold the AQS for a limited length of time whilst you prepare to apply for the Advice Quality Standard. This is normally a maximum of three months.

When you apply for the Advice Quality Standard you will automatically be sent a copy of the Standard and, if successful in achieving the Standard, you will be licenced to hold this copy until the end of your AQS term. You will also be given access our ‘Members Only’ section of this website. Here you will be able to access copies of the AQS as well as a number of other useful documents to help you with your application.

AQS is operated under a licence agreement and is only released to organisations who either hold the AQS or who intend to apply for the AQS. The licence agreement permits you to hold it for use by your organisation only and for a limited period of time. You can not share copies of the AQS with other organisations without both parties breaching the licence agreement.

If you have a temporary agreement to hold the Standard, by the end of the term you must either:

  • renew that agreement or
  • apply for the AQS

We understand that some organisations need to undertake a considerable amount preparation in order to be sure that they meet all the requirements of the AQS. For this reason, we are happy to consider extensions to temporary agreements where organisations can demonstrate their commitment to proceeding to application. Please contact us if you need more time for your application in good time. If you do not contact us in time or you are unable to show your progress towards application, we will revoke the licence agreement and ask you to destroy all copies of the AQS that you hold.