What are our accreditation standards?

Advantage is an independent accreditation body. This means that our Awards and the courses of our centres are accredited against national frameworks and standards. Here is a brief overview of what we map all courses, lesson plans, syllabi, assessment materials and other resources against to robustly test quality:

Legislation and Regulation

Most training in the health and social care sector is linked in some way to government legislation or regulation. The starting point for the review of any Award or course is ensuring that the relevant legislation and regulations are discussed, as well as any relevant regulatory bodies. It is important that the impact of the legislation and regulation on individual job roles is highlighted in the course materials so that learners are clear as to how it links to them personally.

Often, the list of any legislation and regulations relevant to any Award or course can be extensive. However, there will typically be two or three specific pieces of legislation or regulation that will be particularly pertinent. Our Curriculum Team checks that these items are emphasised. For example, there are more than twenty pieces of legislation and regulation that effects safeguarding adults in some way, but not all them will be relevant to the target audience of a particular Award or course. On the other hand, there are ten separate pieces of legislation and regulation relevant to the Safe Handling of Medicines that are all important.

National Occupational Standards

The National Occupational Standards are sector-specific standards of the knowledge and skills that workers should have to perform effectively. They are developed by the relevant Sector Skills Council and approved by sector regulators, giving them an official weight.

Advantage uses the Standards to ensure that our Awards and centre courses are meeting the skills requirements for the care sector. With any course submitted for approval, pertinent standards are highlighted and mapped to the course content.


Skills for Care has developed qualification specifications that training should be linked to so that learners can demonstrate career development. We map Awards and courses against these qualification specifications so that learners get the best possible outcomes and so that all necessary knowledge is incorporated.

Skills for Care and Skills for Health also develop additional frameworks to help standardise training and career development in the sector. Examples include the Care Certificate and the Core Skills Training Framework. We map Awards and courses against these frameworks too where relevant.

Expert Bodies

Different sectors and even areas of specific knowledge have expert bodies that produce guidance. Examples include the Resuscitation Council for CPR and first aid, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The interaction between these bodies and organisations such as Skills for Care often means that their guidelines, advice and publications on best practice are incorporated into National Occupational Standards or RQF qualifications, but it is nevertheless important that learning materials are mapped accordingly. This helps ensure that Advantage Awards and centre courses are at the cutting edge and include the latest best practice.

Are you ready to get your own courses accredited or to use our Advantage Awards? Complete our simple, online application form.

How our accreditation works

Advantage accredits your internal training, trainers and training system. But what does that actually mean in practice? What process do we go through?


Your courses or ours?

Advantage’s accreditation takes two forms: we can either accredit your courses, or accredit your trainers to deliver our Advantage Awards.

Our Awards are suitable if you do not have your own courses to deliver, if you wish to replace your current courses, or if you want to supplement your own portfolio. They are developed by our curriculum team, which consists of our in-house curriculum team but also our external, expert curriculum specialists. If you choose to deliver our Awards, we will need to check your internal trainers’ experience and qualifications to ensure they are fit to do so (see below for more on internal trainers).

Many of our centres choose for us to accredit their own courses, including training providers. In these cases, we need to make sure the content is accurate and fit for purpose. We do this by mapping the courses against external standards, such as:

  • Resuscitation Council
  • National Occupational Standards
  • CQC Fundamental Standards
  • Legislation such as the Care Act 2014 or Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The mapping process is carried out by our internal curriculum team or, if it is a particularly high-level or specialist course, one of our curriculum specialists. Of course, many organisations providing their own training do so because they want to include their own practices and policies in their courses. We can help with that too, advising on the most effective way to do so.


Internal trainers

If you are an organisation looking to provide training to your own staff, then you will need to tell us who is going to deliver that training. Of course, if you are a training provider, then you will probably already have a bank of trainers.

Whether it is an experienced trainer or just an in-house subject expert, then the process is the same: we look at the individual’s work experience, qualifications and skills to ensure they are appropriate to deliver the course. Our Train the Trainer courses can help familiarise trainers with new course content, help inexperienced trainers learn how to pass their expert knowledge onto others, or just make sure their training skills are as good as they can be.


Policies and processes

An often overlooked piece of the jigsaw is the policies and processes that underlie your training: your training records, how you decide who to train and when, and how you keep your courses up to date. We will provide an outside overview on your training systems to make they’re optimised. Centres also get access to our online client portal. This can serve as a digital repository for all of your records of who attended a course, when, and how they performed. It can also help you schedule your courses.


Helping you keep on track

Once we’ve looked at your courses, training qualifications and experience and your processes, and if you meet our standards, then we can accredit you. If you fall short in some areas, we can help you put it right.

For us, however, the accreditation journey does not end when we let you lose our quality mark. Our office support and curriculum teams are available to help with any queries or problems. We also carry out audits. This sounds intimidating, but it is vital for two purposes:

  • To show you and your stakeholders that we are serious about upholding our standards
  • To help you use Advantage’s services as effectively and as fully as you can


How to start along the journey?

Get in touch with us for a no-commitment chat. We won’t pressure you, just talk about your requirements and how we might be able to help.

Give us a call on 020 7405 9999, or email us at [email protected]


Why get your first aid training accredited?

Ever since the HSE deregulated (in a manner of speaking) the first aid training market, the number of providers has increased, and differentiation has become more difficult. Awarding bodies and accreditation bodies often pitch themselves to first aid training providers as being to help them overcome the competition. But what’s really the case for accreditation?


The story so far

In the past, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approved first aid training providers. Although the title of the course changed over the years (from Appointed Persons First Aid to First Aid at Work, for example), the importance of the HSE’s stamp of approval was a constant and ensured a quality standard in the market.

After 1 October 2013, however, the HSE ceased approving first aid training providers. The argument from the HSE and the government at the time was to allow organisations more flexibility, but it was also part of a wider shift in regulatory practice of moving the onus on to the organisation itself. It is now the responsibility of organisations to ensure that the training they have received is sufficient and proportionate according to their own risk assessment.


The situation now

The HSE no longer approves first aid training providers. Instead, it has criteria that it recommends organisations look for when choosing a provider. The criteria includes:

• That the trainer has an appropriate qualification
• An organisational quality assurance scheme to monitor training delivery
• Able to produce accurate certificates
• Appropriate course content

Technically, there is nothing that forces organisations to adopt this guidance. The issue only emerges when there is an inspection by either local enforcement agencies or the HSE itself and the organisation must demonstrate that the training is appropriate. However, the number of proactive visits carried out by such bodies has plunged by nearly 70% since 2010, meaning most inspections only occur after an accident or complaint. There are a good number of organisations who are happy to play the percentages.

So, in that context, why should first aid training providers seek to deliver a regulated qualification or seek accreditation?


Rising above the competition

Deregulation meant that the number of smaller training providers increased. Plimsoll has consistently said that the market is either stagnant or growing by very small amounts, but this is only half the story. Plimsoll only looks at the sales revenue of registered companies. The reason that the sales of those companies is falling or flat, however, is because of the large number of sole traders and unregistered providers who have begun to offer their services. This may explain why, in the detail of their report, you will see that the very small – insurgents with little overhead – and very big providers – with recognised brands and marketing power – are growing, whilst the middle-ranking providers are being squeezed.

In other words, first aid training has effectively become commoditised, meaning differentiation has become more and more important. Demonstrating that your courses are of a high standard that you are a reputable provider could be the difference between sales growth or slow decline.


Making clients’ lives easier

Although some organisations will seek shortcuts, many will want to ensure that their staff are trained to suitable standards. A small business owner reading the HSE’s criteria may therefore panic about checking that their chosen providers meets all of the best practice checklist.

An accreditation scheme helps make their life easier. If your training is accredited, it gives comfort to prospective clients and makes choosing you as their provider just that little bit easier.


The HSE criteria

Unfortunately, incidents do occur and the HSE or other bodies do have to investigate. In those scenarios, the business will need to demonstrate that it chose its first aid training provider in good faith, and the provider will need to show that its product is fit for purpose.

The easiest way to do this is to meet the HSE’s own criteria, which recognises that some providers “operate under voluntary accreditation schemes (including trade/industry bodies)”. Accreditation of your first aid training will help with all the HSE’s criteria, but there are two elements of their checklist that it can particularly help with.

  1. Is there a quality assurance system in place to monitor the quality of training? Many organisations will be too small and too busy to spend vast amounts of time preparing quality policies and carrying out quality visits. An accreditation scheme will either provide that system for you, or help you to put yours in place.
  2. Is first aid taught in accordance with currently accepted first-aid practice? Staying up to date with the guidance issued by bodies such as the HSE and Resuscitation Council UK can be difficult, particularly if you’re working in a market this competitive. Accreditation schemes such as Advantage typically offer some form of curriculum update service where they update you on the latest changes in best practice or regulation.


In-house training

The HSE criteria has a specific section for organisations carrying out in-house training, although in reality the requirements are similar to those expected of external providers. The challenge is record-keeping. Accreditation schemes may help you with keeping those records. Advantage, for example, offers an online training portal to manage training and qualification records. We also help centres to put internal record systems in place, including checking their in-house trainers’ qualifications.



Getting your training accredited does not make you a great first aid training provider, nor does it prevent you from serious reputation damage if it is found that you cannot back up what you say. It may, however, help steer you in the right direction and show that you take training standards seriously an increasingly difficult marketplace.

Benefits of accreditation

Regardless of your sector, there are many different accreditation schemes available. Some people automatically reach for accreditation services, whereas others seek to go it alone. But what are the actual benefits of getting yourself accredited?

1. Confidence to regulators and external bodies

Every sector has regulators, although some are more involved and prescriptive than others. As much as you want to work with those regulators, you want to give them as much confidence as possible in what you do so that you can get on with delivering your products and services. In the health and social care sector, that means giving the Care Quality Commission (CQC) confidence in your ability to provide adequate care and to train your staff with the skills they need.


2. Confidence to customers and service users

Social media and review websites have made the public more mistrustful and cynical about the claims made by organisations. Accreditations protects against this by showing that, unlike others, you take your obligations to them seriously. For supermarkets, using accreditations such as the Red Tractor on their products shows that they take their advertised commitments to British farmers and British produce seriously. For training organisations, getting your courses accredited is testament to the fact that you place great stock in accuracy and training quality.


3. Confidence to employees

Employees, particularly Millennials and those of Generation Z, are becoming much more discriminating when choosing for whom they work. Talented employees now want employers who have a core purpose, have ethical practices, and offer good working conditions. Gaining accreditation proves to them that you are out to swindle anyone but provide a substantial service or product. There are accreditation schemes specifically designed to prove to prospective employees that you care for the people who work for you, such as Investors in People.


4. Help and support

Many accreditation or awarding bodies also offer support and guidance. The Federation of Master Builders offers members a suite of legal forms and a free helpline. Others may offer knowledge updates or seminars.


Above all, accreditation is about reassurance for yourself and for others.

What you need to complete the Care Certificate

The Care Certificate was launched in April 2015. At the time and since, it has been subject to many myths and misconceptions. What is the Care Certificate? What do your staff need to do to be able to complete it?

What is the Care Certificate?

The Care Certificate is a set of 15 standards that care workers should follow in order to do their job successfully and provide a good level of care. It was developed together by Health Education England, Skills for Care and Skills for Health and based on the requirements of the Cavendish Review. It replaced the Common Induction Standards and National Minimum Training Standards, its direct precursors.

The Care Certificate is fairly similar to the Common Induction Standards in a number of ways, but included new standards that recognised the modern challenges in the health and social care sector, such as mental health issues and dementia (Standard 9), safeguarding (Standards 10 and 11) and information privacy and governance (Standard 14).

Who need to do the Care Certificate?

Any new health and social care workers from April 2015 were required to ‘do’ the Care Certificate. If you use agency, bank or temporary staff, it is up to you to determine whether they have training suitable to perform their role.

If you have hired someone who claims they have undertaken training in the standards with a previous employer, then you should still take steps to verify their claims and assess their competence in the workplace.

Is it mandatory?

Technically, the Care Certificate is not mandatory. Although it was widely expected pre-April 2015 that this would be the case, Skills for Care confirmed in 2015 that the Care Certificate had no statutory power behind it.

In their own words, however, “the Care Quality Commission will expect that appropriate staff who are new to services which they regulate will achieve the competences required by the Care Certificate as part of their induction”.

In practice, this means that the Care Certificate is effectively mandatory, or at the very least expected best practice for care providers. The CQC actively look for evidence that:

  • The Care Certificate forms part of the staff induction process, or if not, a suitable alternative is used;
  • Staff know the standards and that they have been trained in them and assessment against them;
  • The provider is actively assessing against the competencies in the Care Certificate.

The CQC use the Care Certificate as a baseline because that is precisely what it was intended to be, to apply to both regulated and non-regulated workforces. Assessing against the Care Certificate help ensure a minimum standard of care for everyone.

Is there a time limit?

Another myth perpetuated at the time of launch was that Certificate had to be completed within 12 weeks of induction. This belief actually originated from Skills for Care’s own pilot project that showed that 12 weeks was the approximate time it would take someone to demonstrate the competencies and knowledge. Again, technically, there is no time-limit. All the CQC need to see is that it forms part of the “induction process”.

What do staff need to do to complete the Care Certificate?

‘Completing’ the Care Certificate is not as easy as sending staff on a training course. That is because it requires a joint-effort on behalf of both the care worker and the employer. Care workers must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Care Certificate, but the employer must assess this is their everyday work.

Many providers use a combination of methods to help new staff understand the Care Certificate. Classroom-based training, distance learning or e-learning can help with many of the more theory-based standards, although distance learning or e-learning alone is likely to be insufficient for Standard 12: Basic Life Support. The assessor should then look for examples in their everyday work that they are actively applying the standards, or, if such situations do not present themselves, create scenarios to help them demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

What resources are there to help?

Skills for Care and Skills for Health have produced a number of free resources, including guidance on all standard, a self-assessment tool, and free e-learning.

Advantage have also developed a distance learning package designed to meet the needs of both staff and employers, including assessment sheets and easy-to-follow knowledge guides. Click here to find out more.

What does accreditation mean?

We hear and read a lot about accreditation (especially us), but what does it actually mean, both in theory and in practice? We attempt to summarise.

A definition of accreditation

Accreditation is the external recognition of your adherence to a set of standards to perform an activity or hold a certain status. Typically, accreditation is held by education institutions or organisations. However, schemes exist in a variety of industries. It can show that an organisation subscribes to certain quality standards or adheres to a voluntary self-regulatory code.

Well-known accreditation schemes include the Red Tractor Scheme, the National Landlords Association, CHAS, and Law Society Accreditation. Sometimes, such schemes may not be called as such, or may be a part of a larger scheme. For example, the Federation of Master Builders is effectively an accreditation scheme, even though it calls itself a ‘trade association’.


Benefits of accreditation

There are numerous benefits to accreditation, depending on the scheme. In general, it shows that the organisation takes their responsibilities seriously. This gives confidence to external regulators and customers. It can lead to more business or more engagement, and can give customers or service users confidence in your standards and your ability to comply with regulations and laws.

It can give an organisations confidence in itself, too. Many schemes give you advice on best practice or advice on common problems. The National Landlords Association, for example, offers commonly used forms that members can use and offers advice on common disputes between landlords and tenants. CHAS provides model procedures and documents that members can use to help become health and safety compliant. At Advantage, we offer curriculum updates so that centres can be sure they’re using up to date and compliant course materials.


Who decides what accreditation is valid or not?

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the body recognised by the Government to assess against “internationally agreed standards”. In their own words, UKAS “check the checkers”.

UKAS aren’t the only body with a role in the accreditation ‘market’, however. Sector skills bodies such as Skills for Care and Energy and Utility Skills have an input, even if indirectly, into accreditation and quality standards and sometimes have their own accreditation or assurance schemes. Voluntary industry bodies or professional associations such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) also have a big role to play. The Federation of Awarding Bodies in one such organisation.


How do I find the right accreditation scheme?

To identify the right accreditation, assurance or association body for you, you should ask the following questions:

  • Is this scheme right for my sector or niche? ISO standards are often the go-to certifications, but they may not actually say anything about your technical competence.
  • Do they have evidence of their expertise? What are their quality processes? Do they have in-house experts that provide advice to their staff and to you and make sure that the body is up to date with the latest knowledge and best practice? Can they help you with technical queries?
  • Do their values match yours? Do they actually do anything for their money? Some bodies want your membership fee, but then do not offer any real help.
  • Do they conduct audits? It may not seem to be in your interest to welcome audits, but a body that audits their members takes their standards and responsibilities seriously.

And of course, make sure they’re responsive to your needs.

New research on vascular dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society has produced a spotlight on ongoing research into vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia.

The spotlight highlights a number of ongoing projects working to understand how to prevent the disease taking hold. One such project, led by the University of Oxford, is testing to see whether surgical procedures undertaken to prevent the risk of a stroke has had a noticeable impact on the cases of vascular dementia in the test group.

Other research is delving deeper into causes of vascular dementia. One particularly interesting piece of work by Professor Roxana Carare of Southampton University is investigating as to whether conditions that drain fluid from the brain make vascular dementia more likely.

You can read up on all of these projects by clicking here.

Not long left for Skills for Care managers’ survey

Skills for Care’s Managers and Nominated Persons survey ends tomorrow. The objective is to find out what the daily life and tasks of a care manager or nominated person consists of, so that Skills for Care can make recommendations for improvements.

The survey is in part triggered by a lack of knowledge, but also by a growing awareness of the high staff turnover among this class of care employees:

For registered managers the turnover and vacancy rates associated with the role are 23% and 11% respectively, and we expect that as many as 10,000 registered managers may retire in the next 15 years. For nominated individuals, the CQCs plans to look more closely at strategic leadership as part of inspection may have an impact on that role.

You can find a link to the survey by clicking here.


Care home opens its doors to toddlers

A care home in London has become the first intergenerational facility in Britain by opening a nursery in its building. The move is expected to lead to both economic benefits for the care facility, and welfare benefits for the elderly residents.

The facility is an example of an innovative, intergenerational solution to Britain’s care ghettoisation that we described in our Future of Care Report. On a similar theme, the first mixed student and elderly residential development is expected soon.

Read more about it by clicking here.

Your work experience checklist

If you’re a residential or domiciliary care organisation taking someone in on work experience, there’s a big benefit to yourself and the sector as a whole. Hopefully, you’re getting someone who’s enthusiastic who may even end up working for you someday and making a real difference. However, it’s easy to forget the basics when it comes to work experience, so here’s your checklist to make sure you and the person get the most out of their work experience.


1. Get the right person

Normally, if someone is applying for work experience in your care setting then it’s because they want to be there, but not always. Find some way of vetting the person beforehand to make sure you’re getting someone who will put the effort in. There’s nothing worse in any work environment than someone who doesn’t want to be there.


2. Basic housekeeping

Make sure you give the work experience person everything they need to know on the first day. That means all the things you take for granted, such as expected working hours, where the toilets are, who to ask for help, how long the lunch break is, and where the first aid kit is located.


3. Don’t mistake anxiety for laziness

Most of the people you get on work experience will be young, and teenagers are complex creatures! Sometimes they may be giving off an attitude that can easily come across as sulkiness or laziness. Make sure, however, you prod a little deeper, because it could just be anxiety. Remember, it is likely to be there first experience of working life and outside of the comfort zone of the controlled classroom environment.


4. Ease them in

As stated above, this may be their first experience of working life, so don’t throw them in at the deep end. Make sure they get a full induction and tour, and maybe try them out on a few easier tasks before moving them on to more intense activities.


5. Give them a rounded experience

We all know that a care organisation is not just the front-line. There’s also the business management, finance and coordination sides, as well as others. Give the work experience person a full picture of your organisation and all of its aspects. If the person isn’t quite enjoying one aspect of the organisation, you can move them to another where they might thrive.


6. Give them a supervisor who will make time for them

The front-line of care can be hectic. It’s hard enough for your supervisors and managers to give time to full-time staff, let alone work experience people. Of course, we know that it is important that they do. Choosing the right supervisor for the work experience person can be crucial, so have a think about someone with the right personality traits and who has the time to dedicate to helping someone through the whole experience. You may even want to consider lightening their other duties for a period to ensure they have enough time for the person.


Do you have any other tips? Leave your comments below!