What is 'quality' in the voluntary sector?
'Quality is essentially about learning what you are doing well and doing it better. It also means finding out what you may need to change to make sure you meet the needs of your service users.' (Charities Evaluation Service)
The term 'quality assurance system' is used for specific programmes or frameworks, which have been developed to ensure the work and management of an organisation or company is carried out to an officially recognised standard. It means carrying out planned and systematic activities so that 'quality' requirements for a service are fulfilled.
There are a wide range of quality assurance systems, from the very formal (e.g. Investors In People), where your organisation is usually scrutinised and assessed by an external consultant, to the more flexible ones based on self-assessment (e.g. PQASSO).
Some organisations develop their own quality systems, either from scratch or by adapting one of the established off-the-shelf systems.
The Charities Evaluation Service (CES) set out five recommended steps for organisations that are implementing a quality system:
- 'Agree on standards'. These concern the performance that staff, trustees and users expect from the organisation
- Carry out a self-assessment. This means that you compare how well you are doing against these expectations
- Draw up an action plan. This will include what needs to be done, who will do it, how it will be done, and when
- Implement. Do the work
- Review. At this stage, you check what changes have been made and whether they have made the difference you were hoping to achieve
CES have produced a useful short guide to choosing a quality assurance system 'First Steps in Quality'.
The Social Council can provide support in choosing a quality assurance system. Please call us on 020 7243 9807 if you would like to find out more.