The National Accreditation Scheme (NAS) is an industry based certification process for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) that supports and recognises good practice in the delivery of community legal services.
The NAS provides a quality assurance process that gives CLCs, funding bodies and clients confidence that CLCs are operating according to good practice and industry standards. The NAS is a joint initiative between NACLC and state and territory CLC associations that promotes a culture of on-going continuous quality improvement.
The accreditation process involves the following steps:
- Online self-assessment:
CLCs have access to an online self-assessment system, the Standards and Performance Pathways (SPP), through which CLCs can assess their organisation against the NAS Standards. The SPP ‘Reading Room’ provides templates policies and procedures which CLCs can adapt to fit their organisation.
In addition to the NAS Standards, the SPP includes the quality management requirements of a number of other Government funding agencies which apply to the community sector and other common quality standards. This means that as a CLC addresses the NAS Standards, the assessment tool automatically also addresses these other standards, reducing the time and effort required for monitoring and reporting on standards compliance for a CLCs funded under multiple programs.
- Site visit by accreditation reviewer:
Community Legal Centres Queensland employs an Accreditation Coordinator who works with each CLC to review the results of their self-assessment and subsequently conduct a site visit. The Accreditation Coordinator considers other relevant documentation, assesses how policies and procedures are applied in practice and meets with CLC governing body members, staff and volunteers.
- Report and recommendation:
Accreditation Coordinators provide a report on their findings and assist CLCs to develop an Improvement Plan to improve compliance with and performance against the NAS Standards. The accreditation coordinator provides the report and recommendation for accreditation to the Certifier to decide on certification.
Certification under the NAS
CLCs which are successful are awarded Certification and a Licence to use the NACLC Certification Trade Mark (CTN) for 3 years. A CLC that has been assessed and certified is entitled and encouraged to prominently display the NACLC CTN (shown here) and can use the NACLC CTN on all their publications and relevant materials.
The CLC is required to provide 6 monthly reports against their Improvement Plan during the certification period.
Continuous Quality Improvement
Phase 2 of the NAS has a greater emphasis on moving from compliance with the NAS Standards, to continuous quality improvement.
The NAS encourages CLCs to:
- reflect on practices to identify opportunities for improvement;
- address specific issues as they arise and consider ways to reduce the likelihood (and/or severity) of recurrence;
- streamline/strengthen systems to enhance outcomes for clients and the community;
- establish effective management systems that are routinely reviewed and revised as required;
- recognise and acknowledge their strengths and achievements;
- support exploration of new approaches, share experience and examples of good practice with other CLCs; and,
- build sector credibility, support funding efforts and encourage collaboration.