What can funders do?
The Advice Services Alliance see an important role for funders in assuring the quality of services across the voluntary sector. One aspect of the role is supporting the organisations they fund to acquire a quality mark because:
- Committed and supported practitioners are crucial to good services and quality marks creates the right conditions to grow good practitioners
- Provides assurance to the public regarding the quality of service provided
- Recognises the professionalism within the voluntary sector
- Provides rigour and scrutiny of services internal processes
Funders can support organisations to achieve quality marks by:
- Including the costs of applying for quality standards in any award you make
- Provide support to organisations applying for a standard, particularly for the first time (for example through funding officers, use of templates, sharing good practice form other organisations etc)
- Link together funded organisations with the same quality standard
- Fund network bodies who can offer support to their members applying for quality standards (for example AdviceUK)
- Include achievement of quality marks as a condition of funding.
There are of course, a number of excellent quality marks available to voluntary organisations and services may indeed have a choice.
The Advice Quality Standard offers:
- The only sector-owned, independently audited standard focusing on advice.
- The recently revised version pulled together best practice from across the advice sector through an advisory group of advice practitioners
- AQS has requirements about how case files are kept:
- firstly that written records of advice are kept;
- that they are well organised;
- that conflict of interest checks are carried out;
- and that there is a key dates system.
- Staff must have access to relevant legal material and keep up to date with the law;
- There are requirements about adviser experience and competence;
- Advice supervisors must have two years’ experience, up-to-date practical experience as well as legal knowledge;
- Supervisors must allocate casework to caseworkers in line with their experience;
- Caseworkers have to demonstrate ongoing experience in casework categories;
- Agencies are required to operate an internal file review procedure to ensure quality of advice and adherence to procedures and there must be systems in place to ensure corrective action is taken.
No other voluntary sector standard contains such requirements.