SIA Approved Contractor Scheme

by SIA Site Admin // February 23

An Introduction

The Legislation

Approval – Accreditation

What we have been doing

Criteria & standards

Outline of the Approved Contractor Scheme strategy:

Security Guarding Licensing and the Approved Contractor Scheme:

What’s still to be done?



An Introduction

A special publication outlining the aims and structure of the Approved Contractor Scheme: click here (downloadable pdf version).

The Legislation

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires the SIA to “establish a voluntary 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”. For more detail on the legislation, click here.

Approval – Accreditation

Accreditation is a well established business concept that has been used to attract markets and provide recognition and endorsement of a person, product, service or organisation.

It provides consumers and industries with an assurance that what is being accredited is competent, committed to quality and adheres to professional standards rather than making their own judgement.

The benefits of effective accreditation schemes are that it promotes professionalism, identifies those who meet standards as well a providing competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The aim of the SIA is to ensure that tangible and realistic business benefits will be available to all organisations in the private security industry seeking accreditation, and that these benefits outweigh the cost of investing in the approved contractor scheme.

What we have been doing

The SIA has been developing its strategy for an “Approved Contractor Scheme” since April 2003. A wide range of options has been considered and the interrelationship between the various choices open to the SIA explored. Preconceived ideas regarding the design and operation of the scheme have been tested, and either rejected or accepted on the basis of rigorous analysis.

We have consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, and have sought their views as well as commissioning a variety of market research. This process involved interviews with managers in security companies, purchasers of security services, providers of accreditation schemes, trade associations and other relevant organisations.

Consultations to date have yielded a variety of views. The SIA have based its decision on analysis of firm evidence.

We have now received ministerial approval and are able to share with you details of the Approved Contractor Strategy.

Criteria & standards

The SIA has been working with representatives from all sectors of the Private Security Industry to develop the standard for the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS).

The main working group, consisting of a cross section of sectors, defined the criteria and indicators that form the basis of the ACS. These were then verified with working groups from different sectors to ensure that the standard was relevant and appropriate to the whole industry. These working groups also identified key items that would be used as evidence of good practice during the assessment process. The SIA made this work available for wider consultation within the industry during January and early February. The deadline for the sending in comments has now passed.

The number of responses received demonstrated an encouraging level of interest in work being undertaken to develop the ACS standard and within the SIA in general. There was a good balance of positive feedback and constructive comment. The SIA now have the task of assessing the comments and making any necessary adjustments to the standard. All feedback, along with the SIA response will be posted on the SIA website once the co-ordination work has been completed.

The SIA would like to thank all of the companies and individuals who took the time to read and comment on the ACS standard.

Outline of the Approved Contractor Scheme strategy

The Role of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS)

  • The principal objective of the scheme is to raise performance standards in the industry as well as assist the industry develop new opportunities

In defining the potential role of the ACS, the following considerations were made :-

  • Evidence of existing schemes in the UK security industry and abroad;
  • Experience of approved contractor schemes (accreditation) in other industries, UK and abroad; The probable impact of licensing on the industry.

The Scope

  • The scheme will cover only those parts of the security industry that are also regulated by licensing i.e. the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

Single scheme

  • Single scheme, with sector specific approval based on relevant sets of criteria.


  • A single level of approval would be more easily and effectively marketed. There is less scope for confusion among customers and in the industry.
  • Companies that operate in more than one sector e.g. door supervision; security guarding and vehicle immobilising will not be disadvantaged. The detailed approval criteria will be determined in consultation with industry during the implementation stage and any particular needs of small businesses and ‘start ups’ will be addressed during this process.


  • The SIA will not seek further legislation to make the scheme mandatory.
  • The SIA aims to transform the Private Security Industry and a voluntary scheme allows us to guide and facilitate rather than a mandatory scheme that would dictate commercial practice. Companies must be free to innovate and pursue their own commercial vision, which is consistent with the philosophy of effective accreditation.
  • A voluntary scheme allows the SIA to set fees more flexibly.

Approval Criteria

  • The approval criteria will be based on a composite approach to standards and assessment, focussing on a combination of internal management processes and elements of service delivery quality.

Standard setting

  • The standards will be developed by the SIA managed by a “technical working group” drawn from a stakeholder pool. Likely to include consumer groups and major customers, industry expert bodies e.g. British Standards Institute, The Security Institute, ACPO, BSIA, British Insurance Association, central and local government, unions etc.

Assessment Framework

  • The criteria/assessment will be ‘robust’ focusing on a combination of internal management processes and elements of service delivery.


The anticipated benefits that could be offered to approved contractors will be wide ranging including, for example:

  • Access to markets – extended police family, Community Safety Wardens schemes, recognition by police, insurers to influence customer behaviour (via policies) etc.
  • Influencing buyer behaviour – central government, local government, NHS, etc.
  • Business Support – The SIA could supply, to Approved Contractors such support as, management support, seminars etc.
  • Insurance – terms and conditions to favour Approved Contractors.
  • Recognition – awards etc.
  • Training/funding – sponsorship, access to funding support for training, recognition of in-house training.
  • Concessions on licensing of individual staff members.

Small/start up companies

  • The Approved Contractor Scheme will not include any exemptions for small companies, however, their needs will be acknowledged in the approval criteria.

Financial Cost

  • No relevant decisions have been reached at this stage. We will develop a scheme and fee structure that operates fairly across the different sizes and types of businesses providing security services.

Security Guarding Licensing and the Approved Contractor Scheme

One of the key business issues for the security guarding sector is the design of the licensing process in conjunction with recruitment and vetting. The SIA is well aware of the concerns and importance of this. In consultation, the approved contractor scheme was identified as a possible mechanism for introducing flexibility in the licensing process. We undertook to explore this option and to see if it was practical to introduce the approved contractor scheme in conjunction with security guarding licensing.

We believe an approved contractor scheme does provide opportunities for introducing flexibilities in the licensing process but it is impractical to achieve the introduction of an approved contractor scheme in the same timescale. Further more, there would be a considerable risk of impeding licensing implementation, which is an unacceptable option.

We are currently working, with industry support, on a variety of security guarding licensing transition options. Considerations include cost implications, operational realities, training provision, timetabling etc.

As previously communicated we are on schedule to introduce security guarding licensing in early 2005 and will provide specific details in the coming months.

What’s still to be done?

The foundation work for the approved contractor scheme is now largely complete. This work is underpinned with the needs of buyers of security services and the needs of suppliers and the benefits they would wish to accrue. The degree of consultation, research and good practice adopted will, we believe, ensure the scheme achieves its objectives.

The final piece of testing prior to finalising the implementation plans involves assessing the implementation implications and timing for suppliers and importantly updating judgements on the service take up and the value, in business terms, of the benefits derived.

The aim of the SIA is to ensure that tangible and realistic business benefits will be available to all organisations in the private security industry seeking accreditation, and that these benefits outweigh the cost of investing in the approved contractor scheme.

It is important that any accreditation provides a framework for developing, promoting, spreading and enforcing high standards and best practice.

We have appointed a market research company, who will be contacting a cross sector of industry to help us fully understand the potential market share for the approved contractor scheme.

This work will assist in finalising the ACS Implementation Plan, which will be announced in late summer 2004. Following on from this we will progress with a work programme, which will include development of the detailed criteria and standards, the assessment framework arrangements and piloting. We must also undertake a regulatory impact assessment during this period.

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After a successful pilot we anticipate roll-out in the 2nd half of 2005.


If you have any questions regarding the ACS please contact us.