The Security Benchmark

The SIA ACS Overview

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires the SIA to establish a

“system of inspection for providers of security services, under which those organisations who satisfactorily meet the agreed standards may be registered as approved, and may advertise themselves as such”.

The objective of the SIA’s ACS (Approved Contractor scheme) is to raise performance standards and to assist the private security industry in developing new opportunities. The scheme is voluntary and was developed in consultation with representatives from across the industry; it only covers those parts of the industry that are regulated by the SIA and the Private Security Industry Act 2001. It is a single scheme, with sector-specific approval based on a relevant set of qualifying criteria.

The Benefits

Benefits of Using an Approved Contractor are;

Approved contractors are demonstrably committed to customer service and the compulsory licensing of their staff. This means their customers can rest assured that every private security operative deployed on their premises will be working within the law (unless the SIA has withdrawn the company’s authority to deploy staff whose licence applications are pending, which can be checked via the public Register of Approved Contractors).

The benefits of using an Approved Contractor are wide-ranging and are briefly summarised below.

Continuity of Service

Suppliers of security services who are not Approved Contractors are only able to deploy staff that physically hold a valid SIA licence; to do otherwise is a criminal offence. Approved Contractors could be given special dispensation to deploy staff who have completed their training and are waiting for their SIA licence application to be processed. Approved Contractors will therefore be able to offer greater flexibility and operational effectiveness when supplying security services.

Best Practice and Continuity of Quality

You can be confident that the employment practices of the supplier have been extensively assessed in respect of quality and best practice. Should the Approved Contractor sub-contract, you can be assured that they will only do so to other SIA Approved Contractors, thereby maintaining the integrity of your security supply.

Clear Customer Focus and Increased Flexibility

You can expect effective customer-focused procedures in place to overcome any issues that arise in service delivery. The ACS Standard encourages service customisation, rather than ‘off-the-shelf’ packages. This will help ensure that the services delivered more closely reflect your precise requirements.

Leadership and Innovation

The ACS is a progressive quality initiative. It’s also a voluntary scheme. You can expect accredited providers to be highly responsive to change and swift to adopt new methods and best practices.

The Extended Police Family

The status of the ACS is recognised by the police and offers the potential for enhanced working relationships. The aim is to provide practical benefits through ‘joined-up’ police, business and community initiatives.

British Standards

Approved contractors are required to conform with the British standards relevant to the security sector. The standards are prepared by industry experts and represent good practice in each field. If you do not have the latest versions of these standards you can purchase these from the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Approved Contractor Scoring

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.

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 175.

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 as an overall score in isolation.

The standard is broken down into 9 criteria and 87 indicators;

1 Strategy

2 Processes

3 Commercial Relationship Management

4 Financial Management

5 Resources

6 People

7 Leadership

8 Corporate Social Responsibility

9 Results

Those companies who have subscribed since inception in 2006,  have benefited from a structured scheme which promotes a quality led business model. This has helped hundreds of  businesses to develop a quality management system thus complying with; legislation, key industry standards and codes of practice. Approved contractors and interested parties may access general scoring information on the SIA website to understand how a contractors performance and overall score compares to that of other approved contractors. However this information is rarely up to date and does not accurately differentiate between companies or exact indicator scores.  View contractor scores here .