Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Quality assurance award for Expert Advice

Expert Housing Advice Service operations manager Andy Nutley reflects on the recent assessment and award of the Advice Quality Standard.

Shelter's Expert Housing Advice Service was awarded the Advice Quality Standard in May 2024. The assessor praised the service, highlighting many best practices and commending its excellent performance against the AQS Standard.

Why the Advice Quality Standard matters

Shelter has delivered expert housing advice to professionals and volunteers for over 30 years. A team of dedicated housing law specialists supports people in various roles, including experienced local authority housing officers, and staff and volunteers in local advice agencies.

Engaging in an external review has been an ambition for a long time, especially since Shelter's other second-tier advice service, Specialist Debt Advice, already had a quality mark.

Quality validation

Shelter was always confident in the quality of the Expert Housing Advice Service. We chose to put that conviction to the test by seeking external validation. It was also an opportunity to identify ways to improve, which we are always keen to do.

Demonstrating progress to our funder

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities funds the Expert Housing Advice Service.

The Department didn't make the quality assessment a funding condition. We decided to go ahead because we wanted to evidence the quality of our service. It's a great chance to show progress as we enter the third year of our current contract.

The assessment and interviews

Becky Chambers, Shelter's dedicated quality assurance manager, provided invaluable assistance in the preparation. The experience from our Specialist Debt Advice Service’s previous assessment gave us insights into what to expect.

Preparing for the assessment was time-consuming. It required us to showcase all our processes, from operational documentation to client feedback. Everything needed to be up to date and meticulously organised.

Assessment of case handling

The assessor arranged to meet first with me, then the team leaders, followed by individual interviews with four advisers. The advisers shared their screens and discussed a randomly selected case, explaining their actions and decisions.

The assessor wanted to know how the adviser had diagnosed the problem, and how they'd tailored their advice to their client's needs. They were asked what online tools and information they use in advice delivery, and what they do when they need support with a case.

Tailored advice for a user centred service

The Expert Housing Advice Service has continually refined its processes to ensure a user-centred service. We have guidelines for tailoring advice that are clear but flexible enough to give our clients what they need. Some clients prefer a simple link to a source or legal reference, while others need a comprehensive explanation.

Advisers make judgment calls based on the client’s needs, ensuring we provide the best service possible without making assumptions about the client's prior knowledge.

Supervision ensures consistency and quality

The assessor closely examined our file review processes to confirm our commitment to consistency and quality. Each team leader reviews files, assessing them for quality of advice, client handling, and data integrity, with a strong emphasis on the accuracy of advice and issue identification.

Team leaders meet quarterly to identify trends and areas where advisers might need additional support or training.

What the quality mark means for the future

Our clients can trust they are receiving top-tier advice. Many organisations that use our service have undergone similar assessments and understand the effort involved.

For our funders, this external validation confirms our commitment to maintaining high standards. This achievement is not a one-time event; we will continue to uphold the quality mark standards.

An achievement for the team to celebrate

I am extremely proud of the Expert Housing Advice team for achieving this accreditation and recognition for the work they do. The whole team works hard to provide invaluable advice and support to professionals in all aspects of housing. To receive such positive comments from the external assessor is a testament to their commitment and hard work.

We often receive lovely feedback from our clients. This is another way to show recognition for our excellent service. Hats off to the team and thanks to everyone who was part of the assessment process, especially Becky Chambers for her unwavering support.

Judith Banjoko, Shelter's Director for Services, said:

What fantastic news, a big well done to you all for achieving the AQS Accreditation, the award and feedback demonstrate the hard work you all put in daily and also the incredible culture of your team.

Find out more about Shelter's Services for Professionals.

Find out more about the Advice Quality Standard

The Advice Quality Standard is awarded by the Advice Services Alliance and provides assurance that the service meets certain criteria that demonstrate a commitment to quality.

Find out more about the Advice Quality Standard.

We hold the Advice Quality Standard, which provides you with assurance that the we have met certain criteria that demonstrate a commitment to quality.

About the contributors

Andy Nutley is the operations manager for Shelter's Expert Housing Advice and Specialist Debt Advice Services.

As told to Alexa Jensen, senior legal editor at Shelter.