National Accreditation Scheme

The National Accreditation Scheme (NAS) is an industry based certification process for community legal centres (CLCs) that supports and recognises good practice in the delivery of community legal services.

The NAS provides a quality assurance process that gives CLCs, funding bodies and clients confidence that CLCs are operating according to good practice and industry standards. The NAS promotes a culture of on-going continuous quality improvement.

Phase 1 of the NAS 2011 – 2015

The NAS was launched in 2010 as a joint initiative between CLCs Australia and state and territory CLC associations, with the first CLCs being accredited in 2013. The first ‘phase’ of the NAS was completed in 2015 with all CLCs going through the accreditation process. 

Towards the end of 2014, CLCs Australia engaged Hecate Consulting to undertake a review of the NAS. The Report of the Review of the National Accreditation Scheme (the NAS Review Report) found that the CLC sector, and government funding bodies, were broadly supportive of the NAS. The NAS Review Report made recommendations to improve the NAS in relation to accessibility standards, governance, national consistency, and streamlining or simplifying the process and assessment tools. In 2015 a NAS Steering Committee was established, consisting of representatives from CLCs Australia and each state and territory CLC association. The NAS Steering Committee oversaw extensive consultation on changes to the NAS for Phase 2. Revised Standards and new NAS Guidelines were finalised in February 2016.

Phase 2 of the NAS 2016 – 2019

  • the NAS Standards

The NAS Standards are available to CLCs on the Member's Portal the CLCs Australia website. The NAS Standards incorporate the old Community Legal Services Program Service (CLSP) Standards, the requirements of the CLCs Australia Risk Management Guide (RMG), and new accessibility requirements developed during consultations in 2015.

  • the NAS Guidelines

The NAS Guidelines are the internal guidelines which govern the operation of the NAS.  The NAS Guidelines are confidential to CLCs and State/Territory CLC Associations. They are available to CLCs on the Member's Portal the CLCs Australia website.

  • the accreditation process

CLCs which are full members of their State and Territory CLC Association are required to participate in the NAS.  Any new full member CLC will be referred to either CLCs Australia (for CLCs in South Australia, NT, Tasmania or the ACT) or their State CLC Association for assessment for Certification and Accreditation.

The accreditation process involves the following steps:

  1. Online self-assessment: 
    CLCs have access to an online self-assessment system, through which CLCs can assess their organisation against the NAS Standards.
  2. Site visit by accreditation reviewer:
    CLCs Australia and some State CLC Associations employ Accreditation Coordinators, specialist reviewers who work with each Centre to review the results of their self-assessment and subsequently conduct a site visit.  The Accreditation Coordinator considers other relevant documentation, assesses how policies and procedures are applied in practice and meets with CLC governing body members, staff and volunteers.
  3. Report and recommendation: 
    Accreditation Coordinators provide a report on their findings and assist CLCs to develop an Improvement Plan to improve compliance with and performance against the NAS Standards.  The accreditation coordinator provides the report and recommendation for accreditation to the Certifier to decide on certification. 

Certification under the NAS

CLCs which are successful are awarded Certification and a Licence to use the CLCs Australia Certification Trade Mark (CTN) for 3 years. A CLC that has been assessed and certified is entitled and encouraged to prominently display the CLCs Australia CTN (shown here) and can use the CLCs Australia CTN on all their publications and relevant materials.

The CLC is required to provide 6 monthly reports against their Improvement Plan during the certification period.

Continuous Quality Improvement

Phase 2 of the NAS has a greater emphasis on moving from compliance with the NAS Standards, to continuous quality improvement.

The NAS encourages centres to:

  • reflect on practices to identify opportunities for improvement;
  • address specific issues as they arise and consider ways to reduce the likelihood (and/or severity) of recurrence;
  • streamline/strengthen systems to enhance outcomes for clients and the community;
  • establish effective management systems that are routinely reviewed and revised as required;
  • recognise and acknowledge their strengths and achievements;
  • support exploration of new approaches, share experience and examples of good practice with other CLCs; and,
  • build sector credibility, support funding efforts and encourage collaboration.