Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers: a quality assurance framework

Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers: a quality assurance framework 2009.

1. General Management Standards

This section of the Standards is designed to ensure that there is effective management of the service and its resources.

Standard 1.1

All service providers must have clear management structures that identify the roles and responsibilities of all post holders involved in the planning, management and delivery of the service.

Whilst some of the language and particulars of this section have highlighted issues for voluntary organisations, the principles of clarity of role, system and decision-making apply in all types of organisation.

All staff and volunteers should know the boundaries around their own roles and the roles of others in their service. These should include, where appropriate, management committee members, paid managers, all paid and unpaid staff.

To comply with this Standard, service providers will need:

  • To have a document identifying all of those involved in the planning, management and delivery of the service
  • To have a document detailing special responsibilities, terms of reference and decision making authority (delegation procedures) and
  • All staff and volunteers to be able to describe the scope of their role and, where appropriate, identify to whom, when and how they could refer matters for decision

It is important that management structures recognise the often stressful and potentially isolating environment within which advice staff may be working and that they provide for adequate support mechanisms to address these factors. For example, by ensuring that advice staff have the requisite time and resources to manage time-sensitive work without undue or prolonged stress.

Whilst many small services operate on the goodwill and enthusiasm of individuals, the long term viability of a service as individuals move on is dependent upon the clear definition of roles and the assignment of responsibilities and expectations. The structure and the delegation of responsibility need to be clearly understood by everyone, so that there can be no confusion as to how policy and strategic decisions are made, who is responsible for their execution and for the day to day management of the service.

In developing management structures, the service provider will need to address a range of questions.

  • Who is responsible for making policy and strategic decisions within the service?
  • What are their responsibilities?
  • Are there limits to their powers and responsibilities?
  • How can powers be delegated?
  • What are appropriate divisions of responsibility between committee members and paid staff?
  • Whilst there are certain legal requirements in respect of who is ultimately responsible for certain decisions within a service, there is not necessarily any 'right' structure

The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 reforms and modernises charity law in Scotland. A key provision of the Act is the establishment of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator ( OSCAR) which is responsible for the regulation of charities in Scotland. A Scottish charity or a charity regulated in Scotland is an organisation entered on the Scottish Charity Register. Any organisation wanting to be entered on to the Register and become a charity will need to apply to OSCAR at

Organisations registered or recognised as charities in 'foreign' jurisdictions (for example, in England and Wales) will have to register with OSCAR if they:

  • Occupy any land or premises in Scotland
  • Carry out activities in any office, shop or similar premises in Scotland or
  • Wish to represent themselves as being charities in Scotland

Further guidance can be sought in the document Guidance on Registration with OSCAR for Charities in England and Wales available at

All voluntary organisations are controlled by a governing body. These can have a variety of names, including management committee, Board, Council, and so on. Whatever the name, they all carry broadly the same range of responsibilities. These are discussed below.

All governing bodies are made up of individuals. We refer to them as 'Trustees'. A Trustee is a person responsible under the governing document of a service for controlling the management of that service, regardless of whether they are called committee members, governing body members, non-executive directors, council members, and so on. These are the people who carry the ultimate legal responsibility for the stewardship of the assets and resources of the service. Even where a voluntary service is incorporated (that is, a company limited by guarantee), members of the governing body can still be personally liable if it can be shown that they have not acted reasonably and prudently in all matters relating to the service.

The governing body's duty is to act in the interests of the beneficiaries of the service. In general terms, its role can be defined as:

  • Legal - to safeguard the assets, use them effectively and ensure that the organisation operates within the law
  • Strategic - to set clear objectives and to establish priorities
  • Operational - to support and oversee the day to day activities of the organisation (the degree of involvement in day to day activities varies substantially among different organisations dependent upon size, culture, and so on)

TIP In developing a management structure, voluntary services should consider the golden rule: 'Trustees can delegate authority but they cannot delegate responsibility'.

The main activities of the governing body are likely to include the following tasks:

  • To ensure that the activities of the service are both within the law and within its charitable aims and objectives
  • To determine the mission and purpose of the service
  • To develop and agree policies
  • To develop and agree strategic plans
  • To agree the budget and monitor financial performance, including accountability to funders
  • To ensure the service has adequate resources and that these are effectively managed
  • To monitor service provision and delivery, ensuring accountability to other stakeholders such as funders
  • To ensure legal accountability
  • To act as employer - reviewing staff performance as required, reviewing the performance of the most senior member of staff, setting salary levels, acting as the appeal body in personnel matters, and so on
  • To regularly review the service's performance through monitoring and evaluation
  • To manage the service's public relations and represent the views of the service and
  • To review its own performance as a governing body

It is important that all staff and volunteers understand the role of the governing body and its individual members. Its members also need to be clear about their roles and boundaries of authority. Increasingly, good practice suggests that job descriptions should be provided for honorary officers.

The central role of the governing body within a voluntary service is a key component in defining the management structure and responsibilities for the service. It may decide to delegate some of its work to sub-committees, and these should also be clearly shown within the service's organisational chart. Any sub-committees should have clear written terms of reference and reporting back procedures, as the delegation of responsibilities to a sub-committee still leaves ultimate responsibility in the hands of the governing body.

In most services, day to day management is delegated to staff. However, as the governing body remains ultimately responsible for all decisions taken within the service, the manner in which delegation occurs and processes for decision-making should be set out clearly. The governing body is the ultimate employer of all staff, and has to ensure that the service is well managed and operates within agreed policies, its budgets and the law.

TIP In determining the areas where different people have authority it is also worth considering who should speak for the agency in public (for example, to the press), and so on.

It is important that all stakeholders in the service know how the service is structured, both in terms of the governing body and staff, and who has what responsibilities. People can be enabled to operate more effectively if they know who does what. Every service should be able to demonstrate clearly:

  • The structure of the service, its committees and sub-committees and how they interrelate and
  • Its staffing structure and how this relates to the governing structure

This structure will also indicate accountabilities:

  • Who reports to whom
  • Who has what delegated responsibilities and
  • How decisions can be made and implemented

Services should review their structure regularly. Are there sub-committees that were established for a specific purpose, but which are now moribund? Does the service need a new sub-committee? Review can ensure that the governing and managing structure of the service meets the challenges facing the service. Any new committees and sub-committees established should have clearly defined, written terms of reference.

Standard 1.2

All standard office procedures must be documented.

Procedures and practices vary greatly between services and are subject to constant modification and improvement. The smooth running of a service depends upon all of those involved in its delivery being fully conversant with the practices and procedures of the service.

To comply with this Standard, the service provider will need to demonstrate that:

  • All policies and procedures are collated (normally compiled in an Office Manual)
  • Responsibility for the maintenance of this manual is clearly assigned in the management structure and
  • All staff and volunteers have access to this manual and it forms a distinct part of the induction of all individuals involved in the delivery of the service

Staff and volunteers need to know what is expected of them in relation to overall service standards. The Office Manual should ensure that policies and these standards are readily available to all, so that poor performance cannot be attributed by staff to not knowing what is expected. The Office Manual is a key resource in the induction of new staff, volunteers and committee members.

The Office Manual will detail terms and conditions, all relevant policies and procedures and show how such policies are made or amended. It should contain the performance standards required within the service and details of office practice. It is often forgotten that good office practice and administration is one of the key elements in ensuring that a good service is delivered to service users. The nature and detail of all the documentation to be included in an Office Manual will depend on the service. However, there are basic guidelines that should be followed by all services.


This section covers some of the detail of the policies and procedures required in an Office Manual.

TIP The manual should be clearly divided into sections on what the service will do (policy) and how it will do it (procedure).

Policies relate to the regulation of the service's relationships with the external environment, such as its responsibilities to its service users; and to how it regulates its internal environment, for example, how it ensures staff meet the required standards in all aspects of their work. At a minimum, it should include:

  • Equal Opportunities policy
  • Confidentiality policy
  • Health and Safety policy
  • Grievance and disciplinary policy
  • Training policy
  • Case selection strategies and referral arrangements
  • Policies on service user complaints and rights of redress
  • Delegations of authority and
  • New technology (introduction of and health issues) policy

Procedures and Practices

It is very helpful to the efficient running of even a small office with one or two staff, to draw up lists of all office practices. This area will be subject to regular revision. Office administration practices may include:

  • Incoming and outgoing post. Are there any special procedures that need to be followed, for instance, in dealing with confidential items or with letters including money or cheques?
  • Telephone answering - where there is a non-casework/advice line, who answers the phone, including lunchtime cover arrangements
  • Office supplies - detailing ordering and distribution practices
  • Equipment maintenance - what is done in the event of equipment breakdown, who should be called out and who is responsible for calling out engineers
  • Office security - who is responsible for overall security and ensuring that the office is locked when unattended, and so on? Who are the key holders in emergencies?
  • First Aid assistance and accident reporting - who is responsible for maintaining adequate first aid supplies, and how accidents are recorded and reported
  • Fire and other emergencies - evacuation procedures

TIP Presenting the procedures guides as a process map rather than pages of instruction can help some people visualise them better.

Some services issue manuals to each member of staff, which can include their personnel records (leave cards, and so on), arrangements for supervision and appraisal, access to training and training records. This may be a costly option for some services.

TIP The Office Manual should form a keystone in the induction of all new members of staff, volunteers and management committee members. Where individual manuals are not issued to members of staff, the main manual must be available at all times in an easily accessible point in the office.

It is essential that responsibility for the review maintenance and updating of this manual should be clearly assigned in the management structure.

Standard 1.3

All service providers must have robust systems for financial management.

In order that both funders of services and service users can be confident that a service can survive and meet its obligations they need to be assured that all monies are properly accounted for and that the service is financially viable.

To comply with this Standard, there should be clear documentation on how responsibility for financial management is exercised. In addition, voluntary organisations should be able to demonstrate that accounts are monitored, at least quarterly, by their management committee / board of trustees.

All organisations should ensure that they maintain the following information:

  • An annual budget
  • Quarterly variance of income and expenditure against budget
  • An annual profit and loss account or income and expenditure account and
  • An annual balance sheet

TIP In organisations where the budget for information and advice is subsumed within a more general budget cost centre it is important to be able to identify the cost to the organisation of providing this element of the service. This can be done through calculating from workplans the percentage of each worker's time that is devoted to provision of information and advice, the percentage cost of office supplies for this area of work, stationery, photocopier, postage, telephone charges, and so on.

To meet this Standard, services will need to ensure that there is a clear division between day to day management and administration of the service's finances and arrangements for the careful stewardship of the service's resources. Services need to develop appropriate means of reporting financial and management information to the designated decision-making bodies. Stewardship should include both internal and external checks on the accuracy and honesty of bookkeeping and on the preparation of accurate and appropriate financial projections.

In preparing a financial management policy the service should ensure that the following areas are agreed and clearly documented:

  • Delegations of responsibility - these should define who has day to day management of finances in the service and the details of responsibility for maintaining financial records and preparing reports
  • Systems and procedures for effective reporting
  • Procedures for preparing and approving financial plans and budgets
  • Banking arrangements, cheque signatories, and so on
  • Arrangements for the payment of staff and other agents of the service
  • Policies and procedures for purchasing goods and services
  • Procedures for authorising expenditure
  • Procedures for controlling, opening, listing and distributing any incoming mail that may contain money, cheques, and so on
  • Procedures for ensuring the security of any cash held on the premises, including access to a petty cash box or safe, key holders, and procedures to be adopted in the case of loss, for example, notifying appropriate board or committee member and/or when the police should be called
  • Fund-raising procedures and
  • Contracting signing procedures, including authorisation of contracts placed for services purchased by the service and for contracts placed with the service by outside purchasers

Budgets need to be constructed realistically and carefully monitored, to ensure that good management can be practised. Careful costing of priority areas and any new projects is essential and reviews of overall financial performance should not only be regular, but regularly reported to the governing body of the service.

Two areas often overlooked in preparing budgets in voluntary services are the real costs of administration, and the fact that good personnel practice has a cost. Further details of preparing budgets in line with Full Cost Recovery guidance can be obtained from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations [ SCVO].

Standard 1.4

There must be clear lines of internal communication.

Good lines of internal communication are important to ensure the efficient operation of the service and as a mechanism for updating all staff in policies, procedures or priorities.

To comply with this Standard, there should be regular meetings for all individuals involved in the delivery of the service.

There are two reasons for this Standard. The first is to ensure the efficient operation of the service and familiarity of all with its key policies and procedures and any changes to these. The second is to ensure a good flow of information about changes in case law and practice and other issues that may arise in advice work among the different advisers in a service.

There are a wide variety of ways in which internal communication can be facilitated. Whatever means are chosen, services need to consider some fundamental principles. Prior to deciding the most appropriate means of communication, services need to define:

  • What needs to be to communicated and
  • Why this needs to be communicated

The means for internal communication may include:

  • Team meetings
  • Office intranet
  • Memos
  • Notice boards and
  • Supervision sessions

For any of these or other means that the service identifies as helpful, clear guidelines will ensure their effective use. These guidelines should include:

  • Agendas for meetings
  • When meetings will be held to ensure all appropriate staff and volunteers can attend
  • Length of meetings
  • The input expected from participants and any limits to their input
  • Whether meetings are intended to make decisions or are for information only
  • Any requirements upon staff and volunteers to attend meetings
  • Circulation lists of publications and updating materials
  • Procedures for ensuring notice is properly given and
  • Responsibility for taking and distributing meeting notes

Internal communication is only effective if people feel that it is focused and useful. For this reason, good practice suggests that:

  • Meetings should have clear agendas which are circulated in advance wherever possible. Open-ended, unstructured meetings can confuse as much as they can enlighten
  • Meetings which are overlong are not a good use of resources. Meetings often overrun where there is no clear agenda and where the facilitation of a meeting is not well controlled. Well chaired meetings achieve more than meetings which are undisciplined
  • Setting the times for meetings is also important. Bear in mind the needs of staff and volunteers who have caring commitments or work part-time or only at some times during the week
  • Where regular team meetings form an important part of internal communication mechanisms, staff and relevant volunteers should be expected to attend, unless they have very good reason for absence. Staff and volunteers will make excuses not to attend meetings if they think they are not worthwhile, because they will normally prioritise their advice specific work, with such meetings receiving a low priority
  • Where internal notice boards are used, the service should ensure that these are regularly updated

TIP Formal minutes are not always required for team meetings but an agenda and a note of the main points discussed and any decisions made is a useful record. Notes should be filed for future reference and shared with anyone not able to attend the meeting to make them aware of decisions affecting them or their area of work.

Standard 1.5

Each service provider must be able to demonstrate that it is complying with all relevant general legislation.

All services must stay within the law to protect those responsible for the planning, management and delivery of the service from the risk of prosecution and to maintain public confidence in the service delivered.

To comply with this Standard, service providers will need to demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of the legislation relevant to the service (for example, Company Law, Charity law) and its role as a service provider (for example, Public Liability Act) and as an employer (for example, Health and Safety) and
  • Evidence that current insurance provides the necessary protection, for example, Public Liability, employer's insurance, and so on

The need to stay within the law and to protect all of those responsible for the planning, management and delivery of the service from the risk of prosecution is self-evident. In addition, as a service that is concerned with protecting the legal rights of service users, service providers should place a special emphasis on ensuring that they are above reproach.

This Manual does not provide an exhaustive list of the legal requirements placed upon service providers. These are many and various, dependent in part upon the size of a service, the number of staff employed and the type of work undertaken. In addition, services that are branch offices of organisations that are based in England may be subject to English Law as well as Scots Law. All UK law affecting services, whether passed at Westminster or Holyrood, is now subject to laws approved by the European Commission.

Other general areas of law that are likely to affect most service providers include:

Offices Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations
Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969
Wages Act 1986
Freedom of information Act 2001
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981
Trade Unions & Labour Relations Acts
Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 (as amended by subsequent Trade Union and Labour Relations Acts)
Employment Rights Act 1996
Chronically Sick and Disabled Person Act 1970
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & 2005
Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts 1944 & 1958
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 & 1986 and 1999 Regulations
Race Relations Act 1976
Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
Equal Pay Act 1970
Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983
Human Rights Act 1998
The Scotland Act 1998
Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
The Charities Acts (for those whose head office is in England or Wales)
Companies Acts (for incorporated bodies)
Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990
Local Government Acts
OSCAR - charities regulator
Local fire and planning regulations and bye-laws

Areas of law that are likely to impact upon Information & Advice Services providers include:

The Consumer Credit Act 1974

If providing any advice on financial matters, particularly debt, services are required to register with the Office of Fair Trading and secure a licence to undertake this work. More detailed financial planning advice may bring services within the scope of the Financial Service Acts and will require registration with the appropriate regulatory body:

  • The Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002 and related secondary legislation
  • Data Protection Acts
  • Covering any information held about service users
  • Freedom of information

This is not an exhaustive list and services should seek guidance about any statutory requirements that may affect the service. Appropriate sources of further assistance include:

  • Other advice networks - such as Citizens Advice Scotland, AdviceUK, Money Advice Scotland, Rights Advice Scotland and Shelter
  • Local Councils of Voluntary Service
  • Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and
  • Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities

TIP Individual agencies who are members of for example CAS or AdviceUK may be covered by group licences - check with your member organisation.


Email: Phone: 0300 244 4000 Post: Central Enquiry Unit
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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