Continual improvement is central to the Approved Contractor Scheme: the scheme is underpinned by a progressive quality standard that aims to raise the bar (and so to raise standards) over time. Companies applying to the scheme now must do more than the companies who applied when the scheme was launched - and companies applying in the future will need to do more again. The most recent changes to the Standard focused on section 6 (People) and include
- A requirement to train all employees in protection of the public
- A requirement to test the competence of all new staff employed
- A requirement to start preparation for pensions auto-enrolment
Continual improvement is also the reason why scoring is used as part of the assessment approach: individual contractors can use their score to track and measure progress against the ACS Standard. They can also use their score to compare their overall performance to that of other approved contractors.
The scoring system
Each year every approved contractor - except for those on certain Passport schemes - assesses its performance against 89 individual indicators of achievement. At assessment these scores are verified by an independent assessor.
Performance above the required level results in a +1, +2 or higher score. Performance below the required achievement level results in a -1, -2 or lower score.
The minimum overall score that a company can achieve and still be approved is zero. Zero is a satisfactory score, as it demonstrates that the company is meeting the ACS standard and following recognised industry effective practice. The maximum overall score that can be achieved is currently 174.
Are ACS scores useful for security buyers?
The ACS scoring system was not designed to be a differentiation tool. However, it can assist when gauging overall quality, provided that its limitations are understood. A high score may not mean that an approved contractor performs well in all areas; equally, some approved contractors may achieve a lower overall score but may perform exceptionally well in a particular aspect.
If a company's score is being used in this way, it is important that the score is looked at alongside other differentiators (such as the contractor's reputation in the marketplace or the quality of its tender response) and not in isolation.
Reading an approved contractor's assessment report as part of the tendering process will be more informative than considering its score as a stand-alone figure. We can provide this report if the approved contractor authorises us to do so.