Working for a better future and outcomes for our children
Human Services Quality Framework (HSQF)
- 20 November 2018
You are required to be certified under the Human Services Quality Framework – what happens now?
We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Introduction to the HSQF’ in the August 2018 edition of the QATSICPP newsletter. You can read it here.
In this next part of the series, we will go into a little more details about what it means when your demonstration method is determined to be ‘HSQF Certification’, how you can become ‘certified’, and some tips to help you navigate the process.
Just a reminder that your regional contract management teams, the HSQF team as well as the team at the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) are available to help answer any HSQF-specific questions you may have along the way, so make sure you reach out if you would like further support.
Depending on the amount of funding you receive from the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors and/or the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women (the departments) and the types of services you deliver, you may be required to achieve HSQF Certification.
Your organisation will generally have 18 months from when you first receive funding from the department/s to achieve certification – your regional contract officer can help you with finding information about what those requirements are and to plan out timeframes. QCOSS have a great range of supports available, including policy and procedure templates for your organisation to use, as well as opportunities for face to face support as you get ready to undertake your process.
Certification consists of a number of steps:
- Your organisation engages a certification body and signs a contract/agreement to conduct your HSQF assessments (also known as audits). The contract outlines the roles and responsibilities of the certification body, your organisation and any relevant conditions such as confidentiality and notice of important changes in your organisation.
- Your organisation develops/updates policies and procedures to align with the HSQF requirements for your services (you can find these requirements in the HSQF Certification User Guide).
- Your organisation undertakes and submits a self-assessment to your chosen certification body – this happens prior to any onsite assessment happening and is an opportunity for you and your certification body to identify any gaps or improvement actions that need to be made before the assessors visit your services (you can find the template for the certification self-assessment here).
- The certification body will review your policies and procedures against the six Human Services Quality Standards (referred to as a ‘Stage 1 Audit’) to decide if your organisation is ready for the onsite assessment stage.
- The certification body will then work with your organisation to plan the onsite assessment which involves sending an assessor (or assessment team, if you have lots of sites) to visit your sites (referred to as a ‘Stage 2 Audit’) to review how your policies and procedures work in practice (this includes talking with staff and management and reviewing your organisation systems, relevant documents and records), and talk with people who access your services about the services they receive.
- Assessors use the HSQF Certification User Guide as the guide for what they will talk to your organisation about and what evidence they will look for when on site.
- On the last day of the assessment, the assessors will hold a closing meeting with your organisation to discuss the outcomes of the assessment (including any areas that will require improvement if relevant) – you will not have to wait for your report to know what the outcome is.
- Your organisation will receive a draft report to review – this is your opportunity to check that the assessors has accurately captured the outcome of the assessment, and the assessor hasn’t misunderstood anything. You will have an opportunity to provide feedback before the report is finalised and sent to the HSQF Team.
- If your organisation has met requirements, you will be issued with your certification which is valid for a three year period.
- However if your organisation has not fully met requirements to be issued with certification, your organisation will need to develop an action plan to address the issues raised by the assessor for improvement. The HSQF has a strong focus on continuous improvement – so if you don’t meet all the requirements straight away, there is time to fix issues and your certification body will work with you around all of this.
- Approximately 18 months after your initial assessment, your organisation will have a mid-point ‘maintenance’ assessment, which will visit a sample of your sites and review a sample of the HSQF Standards (four of the six standards). This is a great opportunity to demonstrate how any improvement actions taken since the last assessment are working and to showcase additional improvements made by your organisation as part of the continuous improvement framework.
- If there are any issues identified during your maintenance assessment which means your organisation is not meeting some requirements, there will be the same opportunity to address them as with the initial certification assessment. As long as they are addressed within timeframes worked out with your certification body, your certification will continue.
- 3-4 months prior to your organisation’s certification expiry, your certification body will conduct a recertification assessment. This will be across all six of the HSQF standards, and will visit a sample or all of your sites (depending on your service types). Your certification body will talk to you around what the requirements are ahead of the assessment.
- Once again, if there are any issues identified during your assessment which means your organisation is not meeting some requirements, there will be the opportunity to address these – however as your certification expiry date will be coming up, you will need to make sure that the required improvement actions are taken, evidence provided and accepted by the certification body before your certification expires.
Some tips for getting started on your certification process
- Make sure you have the initial discussion with your regional contract officer around what your timeframes are for gaining certification early on, preferably as part of your contracting discussions.
- You should speak to as many of the certification bodies on the accredited certification bodies list as you would like to, to find whoever is best able to meet your needs – things to consider include your timeframes to achieve certification, your budget, the makeup of the assessment team and what approach the certification body will take.
- As noted in the previous article, our main tip is to get started early as there are a lot of organisations that need certification, so the sooner you start talking with certification bodies, the better chance there will be of them being able to meet your needs including your preferred dates for the assessment.
- Once certification has been issued, it is really important that your organisation continues to operate in the way that was presented and accepted by the assessor as well as continuing to address any outstanding issues. Observations raised by the assessor are an excellent way of further enhancing your services and embedding quality practice within your organisation. They may also help to proactively prevent future issues from arising.
- As well as support from your regional contract management team, QCOSS and the HSQF team, you can also find lots of information on the internet – some good places to start include the HSQF site: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/industry-partners/funding-grants/human-services-quality-framework, the
QCOSS site: https://www.qcoss.org.au/ and Community Door https://communitydoor.org.au/quality-assurance/human-services-quality-framework (which has lots of free templates to use). You can contact QCOSS on 3004 6900 or request support using their Online Referral Form.
Next article – your demonstration method based on your funding and service type is ‘self-assessable’ – what does this mean and what are you required to do?
Article provided by Sophie Tory, Principal Policy and Program Officer, Human Services Quality Framework, community Services Statewide, Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors.