Introduction to the Manual
This publication builds upon the National Standards produced by HomePoint in 1995 and revised and re-issued in 2000 and 2006. It is in three sections: Section 1 contains the National Standards; Section 2 contains the Competences for Advisers and agencies in which they work; Section 3 contains the Good Practice Guidance. Contact the Scottish Government for a self-assessment checklist.
Since the original Standards were published there have been considerable developments in the advice world and these are reflected in this new edition which covers housing money and welfare rights related advice. These Standards have been tested in practice with services providing debt counselling, as well as advice on money, housing, income maximisation and welfare rights/benefits.
This introductory section reflects the experience of services that have been actively implementing the Standards. This has allowed us to develop an awareness of the key issues that impact on the implementation process for the range of services that provide housing information and advice in Scotland.
How the Standards relate to your own service delivery
One of the factors relates to the make-up of the advice sector in Scotland. The sector is diverse, with an identifiable four-way split in the structure of organisations providing an advice service. The differences are related more to the range of functions that an organisation has than to the sector it belongs to. These groups are identified below:
- organisations with a specific core function of provision of information and advice;
- organisations that have a central advice function, but provide advice on a range of issues, for example, CABx, law centres or money advice centres;
- organisations that have multiple functions, one of which is provision of advice or information and that have dedicated staff for this task, for example, housing associations that employ welfare rights advisers; and
- organisations that have multiple functions, and that have staff with generic roles, for example, local authority local housing offices or homelessness teams, or voluntary sector services that provide support to a particular client group across a range of issues.
The Standards are designed for providers and funders in the voluntary, private and statutory sectors with an interest in developing effective information and advice services. The Standards recognise that people access information and advice from a range of agencies. These agencies range from those that deliver a service specialising in specific topics of advice, for example, housing or money or welfare rights, income maximisation and generalist advice services offering their services to all members of the public to agencies where information and advice form only a small part of their work. Agencies include those whose main business is, for example, the provision of housing, such as housing associations, local authorities with their range of responsibilities but with a statutory duty relating to advice as well as a tradition of providing advice through consumer services, social work and welfare rights services. Some agencies may only serve a single disadvantaged community.
In each of these scenarios, while there are different issues for interpreting and demonstrating achievement of the Standards, the Standards themselves stay the same.
The Implications for Implementation
The range of delivery methods for advice and information services means that there are some key implications for interpreting and implementing the Standards.
You need to decide what your advice and information service is. This is because you will be applying the Standards to the advice and information element of your work, rather than to the whole organisational activity.
You should also decide what Type of information and advice service you provide. The three Types of service are defined in this manual. You should seek advice regarding interpretation if you are unsure how they relate to your own service.
There has to be a degree of flexibility in interpretation of the Standards. You need to look at how they apply to the context you are operating in. Your first point of reference should be the Standard itself. You should consider how it relates to your organisation's way of working and how you would understand it.
You should always remember that the Good Practice is there to provide guidance and to give you ideas and examples from real services. If the practice in your own organisation does not match the examples in the good practice guidance this does not mean that you have failed to achieve the Standard. You should seek further advice on interpretation if you are unsure.
There is a degree of flexibility within the Standards to allow for the different settings in which advice and information are provided. The differences will lie in the sort of evidence that you will have available to demonstrate achievement of the Standards, not in the Standards you will be meeting.
A key factor in implementing the Standards is to realise that there is support there for you. There is a comprehensive programme of support, including direct consultancy and advice on interpretation, and a training programme linked to the housing competence requirements of the Standards. Contact the Scottish Government for further information.
Accreditation for Advice Services
The Standards are backed up by a system of accreditation. The accreditation model was developed through consultation and active involvement of advice and information services across all sectors.
Accreditation is awarded to services rather than individual advisers. The process has been designed to provide independent recognition of achievement of the Standards.
For further information on the process you should contact the Scottish Government.
Phone: 0300 244 4000
Central Enquiry Unit
St Andrews House