The aim of this workstream was to develop a new quality standard for the advice sector, to replace the CLS General Help Quality Mark.
As well as developing standards to ensure advice agencies are well run, the project sought to devise criteria for assessing the quality of advice given to clients.
We completed the work to develop the standard under Working Together for Advice (WTFA), but because of lack of funding were unable to roll the standard out immediately after the end of the project in 2011.
What has happened since the end of Working Together for Advice?
In April 2012, ASA took over the ownership of the General Help Quality Mark from the Legal Services Commission and renamed it the Advice Quality Standard (AQS). The AQS is now audited by Recognising Excellence, an independent assessment and certification body that has audited the standard for the past three years. This means that the sector now owns a quality standard that is tailored to its particular activities and is robustly and independently audited.
ASA intends to roll out the quality of advice assessment developed under WTFA, and incorporate it into the AQS. In the meantime, we encourage advice providers to hold the AQS. More information can be found on the Advice Quality Standard website.
The standard developed under WTFA was designed to be awarded by an external auditing body and we believe that external audit is essential to guarantee a consistent standard. But, as there is currently no external auditing body for the quality of advice assessment, we have adapted the existing materials slightly to make them easier for agencies to use for internal quality improvement.
In order to ensure that the remit of the new quality standard was clear, we developed some agreed definitions for terms in common use in the advice sector, such as information, advocacy, casework and specialist. This document (Definitions to help you understand the advice sector) was designed to help agencies decide whether the quality standard was appropriate for their service but we hope it will be more widely used in the sector to spread common understanding of terms.
Consultation and evaluation
In developing the new standard we consulted widely with advice agencies and networks, funders, and providers of other standards. We recruited and trained auditors and piloted draft quality criteria and assessment processes with 20 advice agencies, drawn from different networks and providing advice to diverse client groups.
- First General Consultation on the Draft Standards and Potential Assessment Methods – Findings Report, April 2009
- Developing the New Quality Mark – Consultation Findings Executive summary
We commissioned an independent evaluation of the pilot which found that there was strong support for the standards and that the criteria and methods of assessment constituted a robust measure of quality.