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Improving information and advice

The Scottish Government is working to improve the standard of information and advice provision throughout Scotland by developing and promoting the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers.

Background

Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers (SNSIAP): A Quality Assurance Framework (2009) is the accepted quality framework for agencies providing advice on housing, money, debt and welfare issues. The National Standards were compiled with the assistance of advice providers in the voluntary and statutory sectors and the SNSIAP framework is owned by the Scottish Government. The Standards are a framework for the development of effective and efficient services and were compiled in recognition of the fact that people choose to access information and advice from various sources. Some agencies specialise in advice whereas others provide advice only as part of an overall service. The Standards framework can be used by any advice provider to improve the quality of its advice service. Accreditation was introduced in 2005 to provide formal recognition of achievement of the Standards for not-for-profit agencies providing advice on housing, money/debt and welfare benefits.

In 2014 the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) were commissioned to conduct a review and engage with relevant stakeholders to re-design the accreditation process for the Standards. Options were presented to Scottish Ministers on conclusion of the review in mid-2015. The Scottish Government then asked SLAB to develop and implement a new accreditation model for the Standards.

SLAB are managing the first 3-year test cycle of the new accreditation model (November 2016 – November 2019) for advice providers. SLAB are co-ordinating the audit and peer review of advice providers as part of this. The Scottish Government retains ownership of the SNSIAP and also the awarding of accreditation.

Types of advice

Under the Standards advice and information is divided into three types:

  1. Type I refers to activities such as providing information, sign-posting or referring people looking for help.

  2. Type II refers to casework, which includes interviewing people to find out what their issue is, explaining their options to them and helping them to deal with that issue. This can include negotiating with the other side in a dispute, providing practical help with letters or forms or helping the client to sort out their problem themselves.

  3. Type III advice follows on from casework and primarily covers the situations where the adviser represents a client in a tribunal or court or mediates on their behalf with a third party. It includes some activities that can only be undertaken by a solicitor.

The new accreditation model

The Scottish Government is funding the first three-year cycle (November 2016 – November 2019) in which advice providers can go through the new process for accreditation or re-accreditation for free.

The new model of accreditation retains a focus on both the organisational and technical quality of advice, and separates out the audit of evidence provided by the organisation of achievement across the Standards from the peer review of casework.

Peer review takes place prior to audit for organisations providing Type II (casework) and Type III (representation or mediation at court/tribunal) advice based on the competences defined in the SNSIAP framework.

The aim of the new model is to support advice providers to continuously improve.

The SNSIAP framework itself has not changed, although the Section 2 Competences for Advisers has been updated to ensure it reflects current legislation.

Accreditation

In the context of the SNSIAP, accreditation is formal third-party recognition that the organisation applying has been assessed as meeting the Standards framework.

The accreditation process differs for agencies providing Type I advice, Type II/III advice and Citizens Advice Bureaux.

You can access detailed information on the process, how to prepare for accreditation and how to apply for accreditation on SLAB's website at http://www.slab.org.uk/providers/advice/Accreditation_Model.html

A list of accredited agencies is available on the webpage National Standards for Information and Advice Providers: accredited bodies

Self assessment

To prepare for accreditation advice providers must self assess against the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers (SNSIAP): A Quality Assurance Framework (2009). Please note that section 2 of the framework has been updated in line with current legislation and can be accessed at SNSIAP competences for advisers: November 2016 update. Do not refer to section 2 within the framework as it is out of date. We will review and republish the Quality Assurance Framework in its entirety in the nearest future.

SLAB have developed separate self assessment tools and new guidance for advice providers and CABx.

Contact

For further information:

Email: SNSIAP@slab.org.uk@gov.scot
Tel: Sarah Hamer, Policy Development Officer, SLAB, on 0131 240 2177