The ambition of the NCAN project is to ensure a consistency of quality across the range of advice services provided in Norfolk. We seek to support our members to continually aspire to the highest quality standards but equally to help them demonstrate this effectively to clients, partners and funders.
Shelter Eastern Counties act as the Quality Co-ordinator for NCAN and take lead responsibility for quality issues as laid out in the project plan. Shelter was chosen for their exemplary record in achieving LSC Specialist Quality Marks and providing highly respected and effective advice, casework and representation services in their specialist field.
There is no single industry-wide quality standard or mark. Some national organisations such as Citizens Advice and Age UK maintain their own internal quality standards and systems. There are also various models and quality marks existing for advice agencies and other areas of support work. This table produced by the learnEAST project gives an overview of some of these.
The main independently assured quality mark for advice services is the General Help Quality Mark. As of 24th April 2012 the Advice Services Alliance took over ownership of the General Help Quality Mark from the Legal Services Commission. It will now be known as the Advice Quality Standard. Further information can be found on the ASA website.
The national Working Together for Advice Project (WTFA) funded by the Big Lottery had a workstream dedicated to developing 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. A lot of work was completed including a Quality Standard and Service Standard, Definitions and pilot assessments. Unfortunately there is not currently the funding available to set up an auditing body but the materials and evaluation of the project are still available at the Advice Services Alliance website.
In 2010 NCAN provided a training session for members on the development of this new Quality Mark, with the help of Advice UK Development Consultant Glenda Terry.
NCAN offered members training on general quality standards in advice work. These sessions were provided by Shelter Business Support and have covered:
- Initial Interviews
- Confirmation of Advice
- Case Notes
- Case Planning
- Why Supervision is important
- Different types/levels of supervision
- Key standards of supervision
- Supervision template and schedules
- Why File reviews are important
- Key standards for file reviews
- Numbers and frequency of file reviews
- File review templates and schedules
On the back of these workshops it was identified that there was an appetite for concrete tools and approaches to start assessing and improving the quality of advice services. Shelter and NCAN are therefore working closely with two agencies (DIAL Gt Yarmouth and Norwich City Council) to trial simple file assessment regimes to identify key areas and starting points for improving quality.