As previously communicated by the Legal Aid Agency, the SQM Standard has recently been reviewed and subsequently revised. These new requirements will come into effect on 1st October 2022 and will apply to all audit activity taking place after this date (including Desktop applications, Pre and Post Quality Mark audits). Note: Applicants who underwent a desktop audit earlier this year against the 2017 Standard will be subject to the new requirements at Pre-Audit stage, if the pre-audit takes place after 1st October 2022.
Full details of the new requirements and supporting guidance can be found on the LAA website via Legal Aid Agency quality standards – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and also on the Recognising Excellence website recognisingexcellence.co.uk/sqm/
A summary of the changes that have been introduced are detailed below:
|A1.1 Your business plan||A new requirement has been added to make sure organisations have internal procedures in place to ensure clear lines of communication. This must as a minimum include the following: • An internal communications plan • A regular cycle of team meetings.|
|A4.1 Safeguarding policy||A new requirement has been added requiring organisations to have a written safeguarding policy is in place setting out the procedures that are in place to keep children, young people and vulnerable adults safe and respond to any safeguarding concerns|
|C1.4 Modern Slavery Legislation||A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisation take steps to identify whether there is any action they need to take to comply with modern slavery legislation.|
|C2.1 Financial responsibilities||A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations covered by Part 3 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 have procedures in place to prevent enabling of criminal tax evasion by associated persons.|
|C2.5 Anti-Money Laundering Policy||A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations that are required to comply with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 have an appropriate Anti-Money Laundering Policy in place.|
|F6.1 Information handling||A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations have in place procedures to ensure client data is kept secure at all times and to protect the personal data from unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction or damage and to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information|
In addition to the above, there are some more subtle changes to note:
|C2.3 Independent Financial Review||Existing requirement for an independent financial review to be available for each accounting period. Accounts presented for audit must be no older than 21 months, previously 18 months.|
|D2.4 Training Records||The SQM requires detailed records of training undertaken which must include; Date(s), course titles; names of course providers (internal/external); duration (hours of training undertaken); and CPD points achieved. From 1st October 2022, there will no longer be a requirement to record CPD hours|
|E1.2 – File Management Procedure(s)||New requirement (g) included: Documented procedures are effective in: Ensuring technical and organisational measures in place to protect information in compliance with relevant data protection legislation|
|F1.1 Recording and offering confirmation of basic information||New requirement (e) added: Information on the processes that the organisation has in place for allowing data subjects to exercise their rights under data protection legislation, including subject access requests|
We trust that the guidance documents available via the websites identified above will enable you to fully prepare for audit against these additional requirements, however, please do contact the Recognising Excellence team should further guidance be required.