Getting ready for the Northern Ireland Advice Quality Standard

Implementing quality processes to ensure your organisation can met the Northern Ireland Advice Quality Standard (NIAQS) can be overwhelming as well as time consuming.

Almost certainly, there may be many questions to be asked, such as:

  • Where do I begin?
  • Where will we get the time? 
  • Do we have people in our organisation that have the skills needed for assessing quality of advice?
  • Is there training available for our Advisers?
  • Can we get support for our Assessors?
  • Where do I get help developing and updating policies?
  • How do I use the quality portal to evidence our work?
  • Where do we get funding to cover quality?

Joanne Farrell, one of our members who has gone through the NIAQS process, has kindly written about her experience.  In her account below, she aims to answer some of the questions you may have.    

Joanne Farrell from the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre said:

“Starting the quality standard was very daunting, I just saw it as such a massive piece of work and I was unsure where I would find the time to complete it.  We are a very small team in BURC and the actual organisational policy work was something I didn’t have a great deal of experience in.  I am the sole Adviser and Advice NI were able to team me up through a peer review process with Rita Turley at SCA.  The relationship has worked brilliantly and I am sure I can speak for Rita in saying the quality partnership has made such a difference to our work.

Marie Gilmore from Advice NI has provided us with online one to one Case File Review training, Case Recording and Quality of Advice Audit training and very helpful Assessor workshops.  Marie has been available to support us through phone calls, emails and zoom meetings.  

Marie also supported us through completing our gap analyses for the standard and we worked through this section by section together to collate all the information we needed to meet the requirements.  We were able to use the policy guides developed by Advice NI Quality Sub Group on the Quality Portal when we needed them and Marie helped us develop and update some existing policies where they were relevant for our individual circumstances.  We are now currently in the process of updating our policy file with the help of Advice NI quality team.  

Once we had everything together, we were supported and trained on using the online Quality Portal.  We then uploaded our evidence into the relevant sections.

The Quality Portal makes life so much easier as everything is uploaded, easily viewed and is easy to access for updates, it also means that for us the whole Quality process is virtually paperless.  

This has been a natural progression and through the support Marie has provided, it has made a big difference to our approach to case recording. I can only speak for myself to say it has had a positive effect on how I deliver advice now. I have a clear structure in what I need to do for each client ensuring I cover holistically everything that client may need from us. 

Honestly, I am glad we started the process when we chose to as we are now through the toughest part of collating, updating and developing policies/procedures.

Rita and I meet independently and conduct quality processes checks on each other, Marie is there for support when we need it. 

Any advice I could give to others, would be to go ahead and contact Marie to make the start.  At some point the funders may link our funding to having the standard, so why not be ahead of the game.  Marie is always on hand to share tips, advice and support throughout and we are grateful we have had these opportunities for help and support. 

Sitting at the end of the process now I can say that, contrary to what I initially thought about finding the time, once we had the groundwork done, it literally takes us a couple of hours each month to carry out assessments.  I am happy to have a chat with anyone thinking about or beginning the process.”

If you have been thinking about the NIAQS and are interested in beginning the process of getting audit ready, please contact Marie Gilmore, Quality Manager, Advice NI for support and assistance.  

Marie Gilmore
Advice NI