About the Advice Services Alliance
The Advice Services Alliance is the umbrella organisation for the social welfare legal advice sector with membership drawn from networks of advice services. We work towards better partnership and collaboration across the sector and one way in which we do this is through ownership of the Advice Quality Standard (AQS), the principal quality assurance process for the ‘not for profit’ advice sector.
Background to the ‘Peer review on-line platform’ (PROP)
The AQS is awarded through a biannual assessment visit. All services receive a report which identifies areas for corrective actions (CA) as well as areas of good practice. The ASA noticed that an area commonly occurring as a CA was the absence of an independent peer review process. This is particularly true for small community organisations as well as when organisations go through major upheavals (loss of funding, change of key personnel): peer review seems one of the first areas of quality assurance to be lost in a crisis. The ASA believes that peer review is, along with good training and supervision, the most important area of quality assurance for advice organisations; the lack of independent peer review process is a considerable concern.
Further investigation revealed that small organisations lack the capacity to find local peer reviewers with a suitable level of expertise. As a result, the ASA developed the idea of undertaking peer reviews on line and, with funding from the Legal Education Foundation, we have produced an on line platform for peer reviewing. The platform allows organisations to up load a case file which can then be picked up by a peer reviewer remotely. Using a standard template, a peer review is completed and loaded back onto the platform, to be accessed by the organisation. The roll out of the package to small advice services is now dependent on finding the right people willing to become peer reviewers.
In discussion with LawWorks, we have concluded that, with the appropriate training and support, lawyers may be willing to offer pro bono services as a peer reviewer. The benefits for the lawyer include a chance to undertake work around their paid employment, at a time convenient for them and from wherever they have access to the internet. In providing this service, the lawyer will learn themselves about areas of social welfare law and also give feedback which enables the advice service to learn from its own practice.
Pro bono support required
We are now seeking pro bono support to undertake an investigation and scoping exercise to enable the ASA to deliver this from a concept to a fully working pro bono programme.
We are looking for someone who can help to scope out the requirements of the programme - building on the work the ASA has already undertaken to develop the platform, devise the templates etc., and to draft a project plan with timescales and resource requirements for delivering this as a pro bono opportunity for lawyers interested in social welfare law.
The time requirement is difficult to estimate precisely, but 3-5 days (ideally by the end of June, but not essential) would be helpful. This opportunity may be attractive to a small team within a firm or an organisation, as well as to individual lawyers.
This is an exciting opportunity to both provide lawyers with a new pro bono opportunity whilst also providing essential assistance to small advice organisations, struggling to maintain services within the Covid19 lock down. In this way, you will be part of the digital transformation sweeping through the advice sector.
To find out more about this opportunity, please contact Lindsey Poole, Director ASA on 07904 377460 or [email protected]