Peer review was introduced into the accreditation process following consultation with the advice sector.  Peer review of case-files takes place before the audit of agencies against the Organisational Standards.  An agency must successfully complete peer review before they can proceed to audit and accreditation. If an agency doesn’t get through peer review in all the topics it applied for it can re-apply for peer review in the unsuccessful topic(s) at a later date.

The SNSIAP require an agency to show that its advisers have the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver advice to the public.  Standard 5.5 requires that all advice agencies must ensure that all their cases are dealt with by an adviser who is competent in a topic (housing, benefits or money/debt).

To a certain extent, an agency can do this through written evidence, such as adviser training records, which can be assessed at the audit stage by the SNSIAP auditor.  But the auditor is not in a position to check the accuracy of the advice that has been given to the public – so this is done by peer review.

The information in the peer review report and any action taken in response to recommendations in the reports forms part of the evidence that an agency can include in its Self Assessment and Application Form to show that its advisers are competent to give advice in housing, benefits or money/debt and effective case-checking processes are in place, as required for Organisational Standard 4.6, 5.5 and 5.6.

Agencies will receive a decision letter from the Moderation Committee setting out;

  • The decision of the Moderation Committee.
  • Any specific Committee comments .
  • The next steps.

Agencies must submit the decision letter from the Moderation Committee with their application for accreditation.

  • Who does the peer review?

    Peer review is carried out by a team of trained peer reviewers with current specialist knowledge, skills and experience appropriate to the topic area they are assessing.  Peer reviewers examine the quality of advice given in a sample of your agency’s casefiles. They then write a report about the quality of the advice that is evidenced in those case-files.  This report is then submitted to the Moderation Committee. The compliance mark for peer review in each topic is 75%. If you do not achieve a mark of at least 75% in an advice topic your case files will be double-marked by another peer reviewer. The double-marked report will be submitted to the Moderation Committee with the original peer review report.

    The Moderation Committee is made up of three lay members working in the advice sector, one lay member with expertise in quality assurance, with our staff chairing the Committee, providing quality assurance input and secretariat. The Moderation Committee meet once a quarter and make the final decision on the outcome of an agency’s peer review

  • How is peer review carried out?

    Peer review is carried out remotely and peer reviewers will need access to client case-files either using a cloud-based file-sharing process managed by us or by direct access to your agency’s case management systems. This will be agreed with you before the peer review takes place.

  • What happens next?

    Once you have successfully completed peer review you can then apply for accreditation and audit.

    For more information about the peer review process and how peer review forms part of the wider SNSIAP accreditation model read our Peer Review guidance for Advice Providers.

    The process for agencies offering Type II advice only and those offering Type II and Type III advice is the same.

  • Will the auditors see a copy of the agency’s peer review report?

    No, the report will be sent directly to the advice provider. However, the advice provider will be expected to submit a copy of the decision letter from the Moderation Committee with their application for audit.

  • What happens if your agency applies for peer review and doesn’t pass?

    If your agency isn’t deemed to be compliant at peer review then the peer review report and letter from the Moderation Committee will highlight any areas that require improvement. Once you are confident your agency has had the opportunity to embed these changes you can re-apply for peer review.

    The Moderation Committee will look at all the peer review reports written about your casework. You have to achieve at least 75% in every topic that you wish to be accredited in before you can apply for accreditation and audit. If the Moderation Committee decides that you have not achieved this mark they will highlight any areas that require improvement in their decision letter to you. The peer review report(s) will also identify areas of improvement. Once you are confident that your agency has had the opportunity to embed this changes you can re-apply for peer review in the topics that did not reach the 75% mark.

  • Are you ready for peer review?

    1. Do you regularly check your advisers’ case files?
    Case-checking and supervising your advice workers regularly is a fundamental part of providing good quality advice and it’s essential you have robust, reliable case-checking and supervision processes in place. If you do not have these processes in place, there is a risk that any wrong advice is not picked up by your agency and your case-files will not be compliant at peer review.

    • Organisational Standard 4.6 requires that all Type II and/or Type III advice services must ensure that the casework files of individual advisers are subject to suitably qualified, independent review.
    • Organisational Standard 5.5 requires all service providers must ensure that all cases are dealt with by an adviser competent in that topic
    • Organisational Standard 5.6 requires that all service providers must ensure that all information and advice work is supervised by a suitably qualified individual either from within or outwith the service.

    The auditor will expect to see evidence of case-checking and supervision processes in your audit evidence.

    2. Does your Client Consent Form allow you to share information with a third party for quality assurance purposes?

    • Peer review is a remote process and agencies share their case-files with us and the peer reviewers either by uploading them onto Nextcloud (an electronic file-sharing system) or by giving the peer reviewers direct access to their case management system
    • You cannot share your files in this way with us or the peer reviewers unless your clients have given their consent to this, otherwise you risk being in breach of data protection laws.
    Key Message - When you apply for peer review we will ask you to send us a list of all your cases that have third party consent from the past 12 months (in housing and/or benefits and/or money/debt) and we will select a random sample of those cases for peer review.

    Organisations wishing to have their agency's work peer reviewed will be asked to submit a selection of client case files to us for this purpose. Peer review under the SNSIAP will be carried out remotely. Peer reviewers will be given access to client case files either via an electronic file-sharing process facilitated by us or (with the advice agency’s permission) by direct access to case management systems.

    To collect, process, store or share personal information for the purpose of applying for SNSIAP accreditation you must obtain consent from your client. We can only peer review cases that have client consent to be shared with third parties for the purposes of quality assurance. If you do not already obtain your clients’ consent to sharing their files with third parties for the purposes of quality assurance please read this guidance note (available as a Word document).

    3. Have you carried out a SNSIAP self assessment? 

    Peer Review checks the accuracy of the advice an agency gives to the public by checking case-files. The SNSIAP Audit checks that your agency has the right processes and procedures in place to run an effective advice agency. The auditor does this by assessing the evidence provided by your agency in the Self Assessment and Application Form for each Organisational Standard.

    The self assessment process will help you to identify whether you can demonstrate that you meet each Standard and it must be carried out before you complete peer review.

    Checklist

    • Have you sought approval from within your organisation to apply for accreditation and agreed who will sign key documents?
    • Do you regularly check your case-files for accuracy?
    • Are you collecting third party consent from your clients?
    • Have you self assessed against the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers: A Quality Assurance Framework 2009? Make sure you use the updated Section 2 containing up-to-date agency and adviser competences.
    • Have you read the data protection guidance?

    If you have completed all five of these tasks you are ready for peer review.

    Key messages - Complete your Self Assessment and Application Form before peer review. You do not have to submit this to us at this stage.