There was concern amongst participants that the requirement for Level 1 was inadequate and needed to be redefined in order to emphasise the value of continuing professional development. A more appropriate requirement was deemed to be that the training needs of each member of staff were clearly expressed in a structured way. It was reasoned that this could be evidenced through Personal Development Plans, enrolment on ARA’s Registration Scheme and involvement in the new CPD framework. Other participants felt the training opportunities expressed in requirement 1 did not necessarily have to be ‘professional’ or ‘external’ and should be appropriate to the role and development of the staff and service. There was also concern that the word ‘professional’ may become a barrier for ‘non-professional’ staff and volunteers wanting to access continuing work-related development.
Some participants also felt that the requirements of the standard were too prescriptive and may not be suitable for the needs of some services. It was argued that the requirements needed to be achievable by a broad range of differently sized services. One participant also suggested that the term ‘appropriate’ should be removed from requirement as it gave an erroneous impression that a formula could be used to calculate staffing requirements.
Concern was also expressed about the Level 2 requirement related to volunteers. It was argued that the requirement should be about managing and meeting the needs of volunteers, rather than being prescriptive about the work they undertake. Some participants also felt that allowing volunteers ‘to work with users’ was a debatable practice, particularly in customer service environments, and should not be encouraged by Accreditation. It was argued that relying upon volunteers to work in searchrooms could cause service delivery problems if volunteers failed to attend and was ultimately a lesser alternative to having adequate staffing levels. However, there was a suggestion that there were other opportunities for volunteers to support work with users that did not involve frontline service delivery, such as taking part in external outreach events.
One participant felt that there was confusion in the discussion related to volunteers. They pointed that there were two main situations in which volunteers work: some volunteered in services managed by professionally qualified staff, whilst other managed their own services with access to professional advice. In each situation the interests of the service, and the way in which volunteers were utilised, were markedly different. By assigning appropriate requirements to each situation, it was argued that the confusion could be resolved.
There was proposal that if the requirement were to be retained, then the wording should be modified to take into account the range of contributions volunteers can make. It was suggested that a more general Level 2 requirement could be that ‘the service offers a range of volunteering opportunities commensurate with its capacity and user base needs’.