Improving information and advice

We are working to improve the quality of information and advice provided to people on issues such as housing, money, debt and welfare, by developing and promoting national standards.

Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers (SNSIAP)

The Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers (2009) were developed in recognition that people choose to access information and advice from various sources. Some agencies specialise in advice whereas others provide advice as part of a wider service.

The national standards, which are backed up by an accreditation system, can be used by any advice provider to improve the quality of its service.

The standards divide advice and information into three types:

  1. Active information, sign-posting and explanation - activities such as providing information either orally or in writing, sign-posting or referring the user to other available resources or services, and, the explanation of technical terms or clarifying an official document, such as a tenancy agreement or a possession order.

  2. Casework - 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. Advocacy, representation and mediation at tribunal or court action level - covers situations where advisers 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

A redesigned accreditation model for information and advice providers is being implemented following a 2014 review by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB). The aim of the new model is to support advice providers to continuously improve.

We are funding the first three year test cycle (November 2016 to November 2019) of the new scheme which is being managed by SLAB on our behalf. We will continue to own SNSIAP and awarding of accreditation.

Advice providers can go through the new process of accreditation, or re-accreditation, free of charge

The new model of accreditation, as with the previous scheme, focuses on both the organisational and technical quality of advice. It separates out the audit of evidence provided by the organisation from the peer review of casework.

Peer review takes place prior to audit for organisations providing Type 2 (casework) and Type 3 (representation or mediation at court/tribunal) advice based on the competences defined in the SNSIAP framework.

The SNSIAP framework itself has not changed, although we have updated the competencies for advisers (section 2) to ensure they reflect current legislation.

Accreditation process

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 1 advice, type 2/3 advice and Citizens Advice Bureaux (see above for different advice types).

See SLAB's website for more information on how to apply for accreditation, what the process involves and how to prepare for this.

See a list of accredited agencies.

Self assessment

To prepare for accreditation, advice providers must self-assess against the SNSIAP framework. Do not use section 2 as this has been updated. See the updated section 2 (competencies).

We will review and republish the quality assurance framework in its entirety as soon as possible.

SLAB has developed separate self assessment tools and guidance for advice providers and Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Contact

For further information:

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