Community Accountancy Service
Our Community Accountancy provides information, advice, support and training on financial matters to voluntary and community groups. Our experienced staff can offer a bespoke service to meet your needs:
Ensuring that proper financial procedures are in place, suitable for the organisation, and complying with legal requirements.
Petty cash systems
Financial requirements of funders and bodies such as the Charity Commission or Companies House
Reporting financial performance
Dealing with payroll and PAYE
Financial management policies
Help with financial planning.
Preparing budgets and cash flow forecasts
Supporting and reviewing any aspect of an organisation’s financial system, and making recommendations for changes where necessary.
Help with setting up and maintaining manual or computerised accounting systems.
Assisting in preparing year-end accounts for organisations with an income of up to £250,000 (including charitable companies)
Year-end Independent Examinations of Accounts
Training in financial matters to meet the needs of staff and trustees with financial responsibility
Training and Support on Accounting Systems, including Computer Accountancy Packages
Finding book keepers, accountants, independent examiners and auditors.
Financial Health Checks
We can conduct an in-depth review of all your financial policies, procedures and controls. The results of the review will be compiled in a report which will include recommendations of improvements that can be made. If you need help with implementing the recommendations, we can work with you to help put them into practice. This is a free and confidential service.
'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.'
Qualityis about learning what you are doing well and striving to do it better. It also means discovering what you need to change to make sure you meet your clients’ needs.
A quality assurance system is a formal management system that you can use to strengthen your organisation. It is intended to raise standards of work and help you to do everything consistently.
There are a number of reasons why quality assurance is important. The users of voluntary organisations’ services and the general public expect high standards. There are increasing pressures on voluntary organisations to be formally accountable to their funders, to prove that their performance is of a high quality and to adopt more business-like management. They may have to demonstrate how quality can be guaranteed, and how they perform in comparison with others. Quality assurance systems may indicate the quality of your services or be a signifier that you have effective and robust organisational structures in place.
Implementing a quality assurance system can increase an organisation’s credibility by demonstrating its accountability to various stakeholders. A quality assurance system also enables an organisation to strive for continuous improvement in all it does and improve the way in which it manages and delivers its services and activities.
Some funders ask about an organisation’s approach to quality as part of an application for their funding and the ‘right’ quality assurance system may be vital if you are considering competitive tendering. Others may ask that a quality assurance system be introduced, and almost all funders require evidence of the quality of service provision through regular monitoring reports.
Which Quality Assurance System?
There are many quality assurance systems from which you can choose and it is important to choose a system that fits with the size of your organisation and the kind of services that you deliver.
Most quality assurance systems are externally accredited. This means that someone from outside your organisation will come in to determine whether or not your organisation is meeting the standards required by the quality assurance system. A few systems are not externally accredited and the thoroughness and levels to which your organisation meets set standards is entirely down to you. External evaluation is usually quite expensive.
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.'
- We have briefly outlined some of the most popular quality assurance systems in the voluntary sector.
PQASSO, produced and owned by the Charities Evaluation Service, is designed for use by small and medium-sized organisations. It offers a staged approach to implementing quality through 3 levels of achievement. PQASSO is a self-assessment tool, which an organisation can progress through using a Work pack and CD Rom. PQASSO focuses strongly on outcomes, and helps you to measure the differences to your organisation and users that come about by planning and implementing improvements. You can also choose to work towards the externally assessed PQASSO Quality Mark.
The PQASSO Quality Mark validates an organisation’s progress made through self assessment, and costs between about £1,055 and £1,200 depending on the size of your organisation. www.ces-vol.org.uk
Investors in People
Investors in People is probably the best known Quality Assurance system in the UK, and can provide an independent stamp of approval for prospective staff and other stakeholders. It is externally evaluated and is designed to advance an organisation’s performance through the management and development of its people. It is mostly used by relatively large organisations where the staff are the primary resource. There are several principles to which an organisation must subscribe, along with standards that must be met and evidenced.
The assessment process costs from £550 - £750 per day and the number of days required will depend on the size of your organisation. www.investorsinpeople.co.uk
C3Perform is designed specifically for use by third sector organisations. It provides a simple framework for evaluating how an organisation is performing and identifies strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. It can be used as a standalone performance improvement tool, and is also helpful as a precursor to tackling a quality assurance system.
C3Perform encourages organisations to focus on the results they want to achieve and what needs to be done to achieve them. In other words, it encourages organisations to be customer and results focused.
CP3Perform is free and there is no requirement for external validation. It can be used as a self assessment tool allowing an organisation to be as honest and open as possible in gauging its performance. www.c3partnership.org/about-c3/259/
Investing in Volunteers
Investing in Volunteers is a quality standard for organisations which involve volunteers. The Standard enables organisations to comprehensively review their volunteer management, and also publicly demonstrate their commitment to volunteering. The Standard is managed regionally by Volunteering England.
The Standard is based on four areas - planning for volunteer involvement, recruiting volunteers, selecting and matching volunteers, and supporting and retaining volunteers. The cost of the Investing in Volunteers package varies, but for an organisation with up to 10 volunteer roles and based within one office it would be around £2,000. www.investinginvolunteers.org.uk
Community Legal Services Quality Mark
There is currently one nationally recognised quality standard for the provision of legal advice and information about the law and legal entitlements - the Community Legal Services Quality Mark. Work is currently being undertaken by the Advice Services Alliance to develop a new, accredited Quality Mark for advice and information agencies. This new standard will be the successor to the current Community Legal Services General Help Quality Mark. The new standard will aim to have a greater focus on assessing the quality of advice given and user views
Until the new standard is up and running in 2011, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has put in place interim measures to externally audit the existing standard.
The Assessment Network has been the agency chosen to carry out these audit functions on behalf of the LSC. The costs of auditing will depend on the number of people providing advice in your organisation and whether your organisation holds the Quality Mark at the General Help level already (£862 - £1725) or whether your organisation is applying to obtain this GHQM for the first time (£1,725 - £2,875). www.tan.org.uk
Visible is aimed at community centres and multi-purpose community organisations. It has been developed as a standard by Community Matters and can be used as a diagnostic and development tool by organisations keen to identify gaps in their performance.
The Becoming Visible Workbook, which costs £25 - £55, contains clear achievable indicators to help show that proper procedures and systems are in place within an organisation and to assess how well they are working. It will also help you to demonstrate a broad range of services that are inclusive and meet the needs of local people. The Visible standard has recently introduced an independent assessment of the standard achieved by organisations and costs (£1,400 - £1,650 + VAT). www.visiblecommunities.org.uk
The matrix Standard is the national quality standard for any organisation that delivers information, advice and/or guidance on learning and work. Your organisation may deliver information, advice and guidance to external clients. Alternatively you may be an employer offering your staff support or assistance in areas such as skills training, management development, appraisals, promotion and succession planning or redundancy programmes.
The way that the matrix standard is assessed is based on achieving excellent end-results that anyone working or visiting your organisation will consistently hear, see and experience. The matrix standard is a flexible quality standard that can be used by a wide variety of organisations including the following: adult and community learning providers, work based learning providers, careers advisory services, trade unions, etc. The costs of accreditation are £600 per day (VAT and assessor expenses need to be added). Most accreditations involve an average of 3 days. www.matrixstandard.com/about/index.php
Quality in Play
Quality in Play is a quality assurance system for out-of-school play and childcare provision for school-age children. The standard was developed by play work practitioners and is based on established play work values. Achieving Quality in Play accreditation helps play providers to demonstrate good practice and the quality of their service to parents, communities and funders. Play England have recently launched an updated and expanded scheme, which had previously been available through London Play. www.playengland.org.uk/Page.asp?originx_383xt_232555417667y42d_20083511s
How to prepare for Quality Assurance
Implementing a Quality Assurance system effectively will take several months, and it is important that you commit sufficient resources (time and money) to doing it properly. A quality system should be integrated into all aspects of your organisation’s work, rather than being seen as an add-on. It must involve time and commitment from different people within your organisation.
long document on quality