Quality assurance is widespread in the advice sector. It typically involves the use of a standard and a regime of inspections to provide assurance that appropriate systems are in place and standards are being maintained. Funders often use a required standard in order to select or shortlist suitable advice services. If the standard is appropriate to the organisation and sufficient resources are available, it can provide organisations with a basic framework against which they can review their own structure and processes.
However, standards do not necessarily help organisations understand and continuously improve their services, because they tend not to include any method for defining or achieving quality. Similarly, standards cannot increase the supply of advice services, or help make difficult choices about what kinds of service to provide, or how to provide them.
Unhelpfully, the terms quality and standard are often used interchangeably or together, implying that they are the same thing or that one delivers the other. Many standards have the word quality in their title and thereby, perhaps somewhat misleadingly, claim to provide quality assurance. This is as much the case in the advice sector as elsewhere.
You can download our Quality briefing here, it covers:
- Current standards available
- AdviceUK’s perspective on quality – why it matters, and some unintended consequences of standards
- How you can improve your advice service
- Support available and next steps
- Useful sources of information