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Making it Real – an overview of the Merlin Standard. Dave Allan & Ian Knibbs – emqc Ltd. A reminder of the Merlin Standard – what it is, what it is not An introduction to emqc Ltd & our role Implementation - challenges and changes Registered Merlin Assessors

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Making it Real – an overview of the Merlin Standard

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Making it Real – an overview of the Merlin Standard

Dave Allan & Ian Knibbs – emqc Ltd

A reminder of the Merlin Standard – what it is, what it is not

An introduction to emqc Ltd & our role

Implementation - challenges and changes

Registered Merlin Assessors

The journey so far - our initial findings:



Strengths & areas for improvement

What next?

Questions & Discussion


‘The Merlin Standard will protect and give reassurance to the Voluntary and Community Sector so they can continue to flourish and develop the grass routes delivery of our back to work programme. It is our flagship code of excellence that will underpin our ambitious programme to revolutionalize procurement ’

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society

‘The Standard not only gives subcontractors reassurance of fair and equal treatment, it also ensures they can hold bigger national contractors to account. We want to drive continuous improvement, encourage excellence, and generate healthy, high performing supply chains. We will monitor providers through Merlin Standard assessments… and there be sanctions for non-compliance’

Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment

‘The Standard cannot prevent organisations signing up to terms they later regret – it is up to subcontractors to negotiate acceptable terms… is crucially not a defence against under-performance; poorly performing subcontractors can and should be replaced by better performers’.

Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment

A reminder of the Merlin Standard – what it is, what it is not

An introduction to emqc Limited

  • emqc is a leading international organisational improvement and assessment company and works in partnership with Government, other agencies and private businesses to help deliver performance-enhancing, national quality standards.

  • emqc has contracts to deliver a wide range of prestigious quality standards, including: The Merlin Standard, the matrix Standard, Customer Service Excellence, Lexcel, and SFEDI.

  • emqc became the Accreditation Body for Merlin on 16/12/11 following a rigorous tendering process.

  • Strongly reflected in the Merlin bid were:

    • Delivery model building on good practice developed during the pilot

    • Delivery in partnership with DWP and Welfare industry representatives via the Merlin Advisory Board

    • Website development

    • Aspiration to grow the Standard

    • Quality and Value for Money for our customers

emqc’s Role

  • Merlin Assessment & Accreditation Service

  • Provision of Guidance for the Standard and services provided

  • Provision of website services via the Merlin Website

  • Access to information relating to the Mediation Service via the Merlin website

  • Provision of services to enable people to raise comments, compliments or complaints about the assessment services, the Standard, the website or an organisation that is accredited to the Standard (in relation to the Standard)

  • Support ongoing promotion/communication of the Standard

Implementation - challenges and changes

Developing a generic Standard – some revised terminology

Guidance adaptations to emqc delivery model

Start of website development

Nationwide briefing events, and in response to your feedback:

Explained scoring criteria

Demonstrated requirements by criteria

Removed 60% limiter on SCP interviews

Clarified scope of assessment as organisation-wide

Developed routes for complaint

Made available Common Expression of Interest

Selected and trained Assessors

Delivered 18 Work Programme assessments

Merlin Assessment Outcomes


The Organisation has exhibited behaviours that demonstrate significant strengths and areas of best practice in relation to the requirements of the Merlin Standard


The Organisation has exhibited behaviours that fully meet the requirements of the Merlin Standard and some areas of good practice are demonstrated


The Organisation fully meets the behaviours that are required to meet the requirements of the Merlin Standard with areas for improvement being identified


The Organisation has areas that are not currently meeting the requirements of the Merlin Standard and there are areas that require improving in order to meet the Merlin Standard

Complaints and Comments

For individual complaint:

Primes own dispute handling procedures

If unsuccessful, mediation (providing not subject to legal action)

emqc notified of the outcome of mediation to take into account regarding accreditation status and future assessments

Publication of assessment schedule with opportunity to contact emqc requesting interview as part of the assessment

Facility for e-contacting emqc for informal discussion & advice on options

For generic comments:

Facility for forwarding Comments, Complaints & Compliments to emqc for analysis/reporting to DWP & MAB

Common Expression of interest

Developed by ERSA, NCVO & ACEVO and Primes

Detailed information anticipating what all Primes may require

Enhanced search facility will be in place in 3 months

Interim arrangement – existing search facility (name, service, customer group & vocational sectors) based on information already held; new form available to complete on line & accessible by Primes on request

Registered Merlin Assessors

The Teams

  • A total of 6 Lead Assessors, each leading a team of two further Team Assessors (30 in total)


  • High calibre individuals selected by emqc based on skills, knowledge, ability, competencies, attitude and behaviour

  • Significant background and experience in auditing, assessing, advising and business consultancy

  • Quality Assured

    Assessor feedback

    “The assessments went well, all the Organisations have been supportive, co-operative and fed back that they have benefited from the assessment process”

    Lorna Bainbridge, Merlin Lead Assessor

    “The input from the Sub-Contractors has been so important in the assessments, it has made a real contribution to the process”

    Hayley Allen, Merlin Assessor

The Journey So Far - Assessments

  • All 18 Organisations that are Work Programme Prime Providers have now undertaken an assessment against the Merlin Standard

  • 6 reports have been published – the rest will be on line by end of July; the first certificate has been awarded to SERCO

  • The 4 organisations that are ESF (but not Work Programme) Primes will be assessed by December 2012; the process has started with organisations registered and Lead Assessors appointed

  • One formal complaint has been received and is under offer of Mediation

Assessments continued

There is evidence of the introduction of Merlin driving improvements in supply Chain Management from the pilots

Of the published reports none has failed to demonstrate compliance with the Merlin Standard

Published reports have scored in the range of 2 (Satisfactory) and 4 (Good)

So far so good! However, no organisations have scored 100% or close, no organisations have been assessed as Excellent

All have reported Good Practice – that we will publish – and Areas for Improvement

Merlin thereby provides a driver for Continuous Improvement

The Journey So Far - Feedback

Overall satisfaction feedback from Prime contractors: 

  • emqc 91.5%

  • The assessors – 96.3%

  • Benefits of using the Standard – 91.5%

  • Overall Satisfaction with the assessment process – 100% (not an average of the above but a separate question)

  • Overall satisfaction with the content of the Standard as a tool to improve Organisation performance – 74.5%

The Journey So Far - Quotes

“it has focused us on areas of performance that we might not have taken the time to look at”

“the Assessment Team were supportive, accommodating and flexible whilst being challenging and rigorous. They made the assessment as painless as possible”

“the suggestions the Assessment Team made will really help us build on what we have done so far and we have already discussed bringing our next assessment forward, so we could demonstrate how much further we will have improved”

The Journey So Far - Some Strengths (Not Key Themes)

Effective Relationships

that enable the Organisation to undertake detailed research into the needs of the customer groups, through consultation and analysis of existing data, into the range of provision already in place, prior to procurement

Effective Management

through the use of a dedicated resource and an open approach of the TUPE process enabled the Organisation to facilitate a smooth transition for affected staff and gave the most appropriate support to the supply chain network allowing them to make informed and considered decisions

Transferring Funds

The management of transferring funds within the network was effective; payments had been made accurately and within the agreed timescale, which had been reduced to 15 days at the request of SCP’s

Clear Values

Which underpin all activities within the Organisation prime and the way in which they work with their Supply Chain Partners to ensure that customer expectations are realised

Quality Assurance

Policies and activities that are undertaken by the Organisation are robust and there were a number of examples where findings had been used to inform and improve service delivery across the network

The Journey So Far - Some Areas for Improvement (Not Key Themes)


Whilst there was some evidence of the Organisation supporting SCP’s to access additional funding and support services , a more active role is required, from sourcing, communicating through to supporting the SCPs with their applications, for example, local funding to support IT upgrades and security. This may also help to reinforce the Organisations position as a catalyst for change and may also help the supply chain to develop cost-effectively, innovatively as well as building capacity.

Collaborative Working

The Organisation may wish to consider ways of further developing the collaborative working between Supply Chain Partners allowing all members of the supply chain network to have discussions, exchange idea’s and become more self sufficient as a network and less reliant on the Organisation.


The Organisation should move more towards a proactive rather than reactive model. An example given by Supply Chain Partners included the Organisations repeated requests for the immediate supply of information and calling meetings at very short notice

Environmental Sustainability

Needs to become more embedded and all tiers of the supply chain need to understand the implications and required actions in line with the policies in place. This will provide for improved consistency and enable the Organisation to define measurable objectives for the supply chain related to basic sustainability concepts, thereby being able to demonstrate a positive impact moving forward. It should also support in demonstrating value for money

What next?

  • Every report for Organisations that are Work Programme Providers will have been published on the Merlin website by the end of July 2012

  • A report of the outcome and themes of assessments so far will be published in October 2012

  • Regular communications from DWP/emqc to stakeholders

    • Enhanced Website including searchable EoI

    • Newsletters

    • Case Studies

    • Events/ Presentations

    • Press Releases

  • Vision for the future

    • Other DWP contracts/sectors – IT, Personal Independence Payment

    • OGDs – Youth Contract (YPLA/DfE)

    • Private & Voluntary Sector??


For further information:

Dave Allan, Managing Director

Ian Knibbs, Commercial Director

Or join us at the emqc stand, No 14 in the exhibition hall

Questions & Discussion

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