A DFI brief guide to understanding “PQASSO

PQASSO is an off-the-shelf quality management system developed by the Charities Evaluation Services (CES) in the UK for the community and voluntary sector.



Charities Evaluation Services (CES) UK and DFI 

What is quality?

Quality is about trying to do better – better both in the services an organisation offers its users and in the way the organisation is run.  A quality assurance system is a systematic and consistent way of implementing quality in an organisation.

What is PQASSO?

PQASSO is a straight forward, user-friendly quality assurance system intended to help run organisations more effectively and efficiently.  It offers a flexible approach to quality which allows organisations to work at their own pace.  It helps organisations take a systematic look at what they do, identify areas where they are doing well and not so well, and decide exactly where improvements are needed.  It helps organisations plan, budget and allocate the resources for making these improvements over a realistic time period.

What are the benefits of using PQASSO?

Research has shown that organisations using PQASSO can gain the following benefits:

  • more effective and more efficient organisational systems and procedures
  • better quality of services for users
  • better communication among staff, Board members and volunteers
  • greater credibility and legitimacy with funders
  • more creative thinking, enabling new perspectives and ways of working
  • organisational learning
  • continuous improvement over time.

Who can use PQASSO?

PQASSO is suitable for small, medium and large community and voluntary organisations, or for project teams in very large organisations. Organisations working in all areas – for example, health, social care, the environment – can use PQASSO. It can also be used by self-help organisations and campaigning and research organisations.

How PQASSO Works – an overview

PQASSO is a self assessment tool. This means that each organisation controls the process and the pace at which it implements PQASSO.  An organisation can build upon on its self-assessment by having an external assessment against the PQASSO standards, i.e. the PQASSO Quality Mark.

PQASSO is built on 12 topics or quality areas. These cover the main things organisations need to work on in order to run itself well and assess the results of its work. PQASSO offers a staged approach to implementing quality through three levels of achievement. All organisations should cover the requirements of level 1.  More established or complex organisations may then decide to move on to level 2 and then level 3.

In each quality area, the standard itself is clearly defined and applies to all organisations.  To work through the quality area, each organisation needs to ask itself if it meets the indicators at the level at which it is working and set out plans to make any necessary improvements.

PQASSO Quality Areas

Quality area 1                       Planning

Quality area 2                       Governance

Quality area 3                       Leadership and Management

Quality area 4                       User-centred service

Quality area 5                       Managing people

Quality area 6                       Learning and development

Quality area 7                       Managing money

Quality area 8                       Managing resources

Quality area 9                       Communications and promotion

Quality area 10                     Working with others

Quality area 11                     Monitoring and evaluation

Quality area 12                     Results

Why choose PQASSO?

  • designed specifically for the community and voluntary sector
  • most commonly used quality system in the UK community and voluntary sector
  • introduced in 1997 and now in its third edition
  • increasingly being used by community and voluntary organisations internationally
  • off-the-shelf system with easy availability of resource material
  • well structured training and supports for tutors and mentors
  • Support and endorsement of the UK Charity Commission


“An initiative like PQASSO makes the regulator’s job easier because it gives a framework for good governance. We are pleased to give our support to this revised edition of PQASSO and believe it will help to raise standards of governance and service for charities.

We know how popular PQASSO is for charities, especially small to medium organisations, as a tool for continuous quality improvement. And it is easy to see why. It is written in straightforward language and is easy to understand. It allows the reader to quickly identify where improvements are needed and to plan to make the changes necessary to achieve the standards.

For funders and other stakeholders there is confidence that the charity they are working with is not only outward looking but is inward looking as well. Too often charities build standards around the needs of their users without ensuring the organisation has processes in place to ensure its own governance and management are complete and up to the task.

PQASSO has built that link into the framework and points to best practice in the governance and management of an organisation, so ensuring users get the best possible service.”

Rosie Chapman

Executive Director of Policy and Effectiveness

Charity Commission (UK)


If you are interested in learning more about the PQASSO Quality Management system and for advice on implementing it in your organisation, please contact Dermot O’Donnell on: dermotodonnell@disability-federation.ie or by telephone on 086-780 8639.

Dermot is an experienced and licensed PQASSO Mentor and Peer-Reviewer.

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