2010 in review – ACS – Continued Growth, Continuous Improvement

The Approved Contractors Scheme Assistant Director Andrew Shephard looks back at 2010 in the third of the 2010 in review series. Andrew Shephard writes;

“Despite the economic climate, the Approved Contractor Scheme continues to grow with 682 UK companies being recognised as such – around 123,000 SIA-licensed operatives work for an approved contractor.

“Over 93% of our approved contractors have successfully re-registered since March 2010 and 133 new applications were made for approval this year including many from new businesses.

Forums, feedback and re-tenders

“Since our first ACS forum in November 2006, we have now held more than 50 events across the UK. They continue to provide an excellent opportunity to share good practice, review topical matters, and receive licensing and other updates. We provide regular ACS e-updates highlighting new developments at the SIA and the wider industry. We have also had a presence at conferences and exhibitions.

“Following trials this summer, we launched our new e-learning training package for licence dispensation, which helps to ensure compliance with SIA requirements.

“We request feedback from approved contractors who have experienced the process of gaining accreditation, which lets us know what we are doing right, or wrong. We ask companies to consider the approval process, the quality of the assessment, verification visits and the perceived benefits of the scheme. We ask a series of questions to gain comments on, for example, experiences of contact with the ACS team, the assessing bodies, verification visits and our e-update. Customer satisfaction from the monthly survey was consistently between 85% and 90%.

“New contracts were put in place with five assessing bodies to perform ACS assessments on our behalf following a re-tender project. The successful bidders were:

  • British Standards Institution
  • Chamber Certification and Assessment Services Ltd
  • Insight Certification Ltd t/a National Security Inspectorate
  • ISOQAR Ltd
  • Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board

 ACS Champion of the Year

“Lancaster-based FGH Security Ltd was announced as the ACS Champion of the Year 2010 at the Security Excellence Awards. The judges praised the firm for their engagement with us, their partnership approach and promotion of the ACS. A special commendation was also given to Tony Clarke of Watford-based UK Security Facilities for his continued support of the ACS.

ACS scoring and continuous improvement

“Continual improvement is central to the ACS. Companies applying to the scheme now must do more than the companies who applied when the scheme was launched. Some examples of how we have raised the bar are: 

  • a requirement to test the effectiveness of the security service delivered
  • a requirement to ensure that staff appraisals use more than just a tick-box approach
  • a requirement to comply with TUPE requests from other approved contractors
  • a requirement to implement processes that recognise individual and team efforts

“New figures showed that on average, there was significant improvement by approved contractors over the last 12 months. The median score for an ACS assessment during 2008-2009 was 18 whilst the median score for an ACS assessment during 2009-2010 was 30, an increase of 12 points.

Maintaining integrity

“We take a robust approach when it comes to dealing with non-conformance with the scheme and our actions can include the withdrawal of approval, placing conditions on approval, and suspending or revoking a company’s entitlement to issues Licence Dispensation Notices.

“Between April 2010 and November 2010, 16 companies had their LDN entitlement restricted or withdrawn. We received 177 malpractice allegations, which resulted in 13 companies having their approval withdrawn for one of the following reasons:

  • no assessment undertaken
  • non-conformance with the ACS Standard
  • non-compliance with the Private Security Industry Act 2001
  • fit & proper requirements not met
  • other breach of ACS terms and conditions

 With this type of approach, we have seen more contracts go to approved contractors. The Scottish government detailed how it was clamping down on rogue security suppliers as part of an assault on serious and organised crime. Suppliers of security services to central government must be approved contractors – this requirement is now spreading rapidly throughout the public sector in Scotland.

Future of regulation

“With the announcement that there is to be a new regulatory regime, it is business as usual for the ACS; no significant change is expected until after the London Olympics 2012. The industry has invested a great deal of time and effort in the ACS, and buyers (including many government organisations) specify ACS approval and there is an expectation that an approval scheme will continue – approved contractors will be well placed to participate in this.

“We intend that those who have invested in the creation and development of the ACS will have a voice in its future. We will use our e-updates and our ACS forums to help keep approved contractors informed.” Concludes Andrew Shephard.

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