This article was originally published in the April 2011 edition of the EQUASS Newsflash
The EQUASS system has experienced a tremendous surge of scope in the last couple of years, and is now well implemented in several European countries. This growth means that EQUASS is now relying on an ever-increasing pool of qualified auditors, from all over Europe. They have a very special insight into the EQUASS system, and Isabel Silva, a Portuguese auditor for EQUASS Assurance and Excellence, accepted to answer a few of our questions. Isabel has been a certified EQUASS auditor since 2009, and has successfully carried out several audits in Portugal.
Since when have you been auditing for EQUASS?
Since 2009. First, in June, I attended the Excellence Auditor training and then, in November, I had the chance to be involved in an Excellence audit team, as co-auditor. Since then, I have been involved in more Excellence audits, as co-auditor as well as lead-auditor.
Since 2010, and after the Assurance Auditor training, I have been doing regular audits in the Assurance level, in Portugal.
What do you like about it?
Having the opportunity to audit the EQUASS system in different organisations is always a valuable experience. In every audit we can know and learn the good practices that Social Services are doing.
Personally, during the audit process I like to get in contact with clients and staff and trying to understand how the organisation is managed, how the organisation is satisfying the needs of all stakeholders and how is it complying with the Equass principles.
What made you decide to get familiar with the EQUASS system?
In 2009, the Portuguese government has promoted the "Arquimedes Project" with the aim to finance consultancy projects in the Rehabilitation sector and help social rehabilitation organisations to implement a Quality Management System. The EQUASS system, as also the ISO system, was one of the QMS recommended and accepted. It was my first contact with EQUASS.
After that I looked for further information about EQUASS in the web and found the EPR site. The information available about the principles and criteria raised in me the interest to get a deeper understanding of the system.
In addition, I always had the interest in working with the quality systems in Social Services and in my professional activity as a consultant I was already having contact with social organisations. So I have found in EQUASS what I consider what Quality should be in all the social organisations that work to provide the best service to people with special needs. EQUASS has been the opportunity to further develop myself in a professional and personal way.
What are some the challenges that you faced?
I must confess that the official language of EQUASS, the English, was my first challenge. But it was also an opportunity to improve my English languages skills particularly the spoken language.
One other challenge that I can mention has to do with role of the auditor. We need to have the capacity to understand the context, the identity and the reality of each organisation. This is very important because it will help us to understand how the management system is implemented and therefore assess better the EQUASS criteria.
Why would you recommend this system to social services providers?
I am sure that all social services, in all social sectors, have the purpose to provide the best service to their clients. And they have in EQUASS the tool to help them to achieve that purpose and to develop further their mission.
By implementing the EQUASS system and principles, the social services providers will have the opportunity to improve and systematize the management of the organisations and its services and focus, even more, in satisfying clients' needs and expectations. The EQUASS system will help them to achieve the continuous improvement and to implement the good governance practices, essential to their future sustainability.