Understanding The Importance Of The ACS Scheme

Whether you’re intimately involved in the security sector or you’re just a keen onlooker, the chances are you’ll be familiar with the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS).

If you aren’t in at the ground level with our much-loved industry, though, or you’re relatively new to the sector, you may not be as familiar with why the ACS holds such a high standing in the security industry. Suffice it to say that, when the week-long auditing process rolls around each year, it’s a tense yet necessary time of the calendar.

With our latest exploration of the security sector and its extensive reach, we’re looking more closely at the ACS process, why it’s integral to preserving the ongoing quality of our industry, and how it’s shaping both the present and the future of security for the better.

We know this firsthand, and for both industry newcomers and veterans, it’s crucial we pass across what we’ve learned. Not only is it a bastion of the transparency and integrity by which we conduct ourselves, but it serves to offer illumination and clarity for the way forward. We are all on this journey together, and supporting security professionals is a pivotal element of that.


What Is The ACS Scheme?

In simple terms, the Approved Contractor Scheme (often referred to as the ACS Scheme, or ACS) is an arm of the Security Industry Authority (SIA). It’s an optional initiative that security companies voluntarily join, to be assessed independently against a number of criteria which determine the quality of service a company is able to provide.

The scope of the ACS encompasses various factors, but per their official guidance, these revolve centrally around 3 core tenets:

  • Quality Assurance – The ACS is universally viewed as a mark of quality, conscientiousness and commitment to delivering the utmost in service for all involved with the business.
  • Continual Improvement – Stagnation is the enemy of progress, and the ACS seeks to ensure that a company is continually looking to improve their processes, propel change in the sector, and enhance the overall quality of what they offer.
  • Accountability & Openness – By becoming a part of the ACS, there’s an intrinsic element of accountability and acceptance of things that need to change to progress, both company-focused and on the wider scale of the security industry.

There are naturally more detailed guidelines that drive the mechanisms of the Approved Contractor Scheme, but in essence, it’s all about owning who and where you are in the security industry, and acknowledging what you can do to grow, evolve and build upon the foundations you’ve laid.

Each year sees every member of the ACS (now numbering over 830 different security companies) audited rigorously over the course of a week. That extends outside of the company’s offices to include sites, external services, and those who face clients and customers on a regular basis.

It’s all well and good committing to those principles in the initial instance, but the ACS goes beyond that, ensuring that – year-on-year – those principles are continually upheld, built upon and disseminated to the entire business.

Of course, the three principles we discussed earlier only scratch the surface of what is an in-depth, meticulous process by which all members are assessed. Let’s break down in more detail exactly why the scheme holds the gravitas it does, and what it means for those who choose to join up with it.


3 Key Reasons Behind The Importance Of The ACS

In truth, it’s difficult to fully distil down the cruciality of the ACS initiative. Since its inception all the way back in 2006, it’s been a fundamental part of becoming a trustworthy supplier of security measures. However, these 3 reasons offer a microcosmic view of the imperative nature of the ACS, and what it means for companies, clients and consumers alike.


1. It’s An Indisputable Stamp Of Quality

As is the case with so many industries, having the right approval from the relevant authorities is absolutely essential. From the hygiene ratings we see at restaurants and cafés, right through to the extensive safety protocols in the manufacturing sector, correct approvals from the right accreditation bodies is a huge stamp of quality, and a massive reassurance for your customers.

For security, that is of course the SIA. Without their approval, you’re not able to legally operate in the security sector. That’s a universal truth and one that, for the vast majority, the security sector abides by.

The Approved Contractor Scheme is a cut above that. It’s an indelible mark of the quality, the efforts and the determination by which a business in the security industry is run, and their services delivered, on a consistent basis.

We’d compare it again to the food standards ratings that we see time and again at restaurants. While accreditation from the SIA is a minimum, having approval from the ACS is akin to having one of those higher ratings – it’s a reassurance above all else, and showcases your quality far before a client ever commits to using your services.

We’ll touch on this in much more depth in our next section, but here at Churchill Support Services, we’ve always been vocal advocates for being part of the ACS. We’re consumers ourselves, and we know the importance that a badge of quality holds for customers from a wide spectrum of sectors.


2. It Holds The Right Areas Accountable

Accountability, as we’ve already discussed, is a key pillar that upholds all that the ACS stands for. It ensures that, wherever there may be any shortcomings across the wide range of areas that a security business can (and often does) cover, actions are issued, and the correct protocols are followed.

This holds sway on multiple fronts. For a security company, it’s an opportunity to learn where their investment and training needs to go, where the lens needs to focus on for continued improvement, and what needs to change to better serve the clientele.

It’s also the ideal way to offer praise and plaudits where it’s due. With such diverse company structures, it can be all too easy to overlook those who contribute towards the successes we experience, and an ACS audit (and the process that surrounds that) pinpoints exactly what makes us tick.

For the client, it’s a notable indicator that their voice is being heard. As consumers, we’re always looking for the very best, and audits like those conducted by the ACS offer a way to provide consistent, measured and easily digestible metrics by which we can see just how much effort a company is putting in to serving their customers.

And for the wider industry, it’s a flagship declaration of where the sector is headed. We learn from others – whether that’s from their mistakes or from their successes – and the whole ACS process offers a sense of what’s next for security.


3. It Illuminates The Path Forward

While much has been said about the Approved Contractor Scheme, with all of it surrounding the positive impacts it has across the board, one of the key aspects we see go underappreciated is how it can offer new avenues of progression for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Ultimately, with an audit of any kind, in any industry, there’s naturally going to be points to consider. Our most recent audit in May of 2024 taught us just that, despite an exceptional score which we’ll discuss more soon.

These aren’t inherently negative. In fact, we see them as glimmering beacons for opportunity and progressive thinking. Those pointers from experienced auditors and inspectors – whose job it is to scrutinise and hold a microscope up to each strand of our company DNA – are invaluable pearls of wisdom.

We’ve always done everything in our power to take on board constructive feedback, no matter its source, and that’s especially true for that which comes from a source that’s only seeking to better the industry as a whole.

Plus, as we’ll explore in our next few sections, tailored and detailed feedback of this nature can only prompt a more inclusive, robust and better future for everyone involved with the security industry, from customers to CEOs.


What It Means For Us & Other Security Leaders

The Approved Contractor Scheme, and its associated auditing processes, is – as you’ll no doubt have gleaned from what we’ve just discussed – an integral and much-needed aspect of the security industry.

It’s not just reserved for the sector’s upper echelons, either. Whether you’ve got 3 employees or 3,000, simply by being part of the ACS you’re flying the flag for one of the world’s most ancient sectors, and ultimately contribute towards the direction it’s set to move in the future.

In terms of those who lead the industry, there’s much to consider. We consider ourselves to be in that illustrious crowd, give our position as long-standing members of the ACS’s Pacesetters scheme (only awarded to the Top 15% of all ACS-approved companies), and we’ve thought at length just how we progress from here.

Ultimately, as the security sector advances, so too must our processes. From the way we deliver our services on a day-to-day basis, to the processes and protocols that surround our administrative and financial machinations, we need to match the blistering pace with which the wider world shifts upon its sands.

We’ve always been aware of this, of course. We like to use the analogy of a journey, and that’s no more true than when we look at the Approved Contractor Scheme – each step is one that’s in the right direction, and one that, in the end, is contributing towards meaningful, impactful, and intelligent changes for the better.

Tech will naturally play its role in this, but it will all boil down to the quality of the service we deliver, how we deliver it, and how we bring those refinements and adjustments to the customer base.

This forward-thinking mindset isn’t new to us, though. Here’s just a brief overview of our history with the ACS scheme, charting our progress from humble roots to one of the UK’s most influential, leading security companies.


Churchill’s Distinguished History With The ACS Audit

We were an early adopted of the Approved Contractor Scheme, becoming a vocal supporter of the initiative shortly after its inception back in 2006. Since then, we’ve continually advocated for security firms – both big and small – to consider becoming a member of the ACS.

That’s usually for all the reasons we’ve outlined above, but also because it promotes a much more even playing field for our highly valued clients. By standardising the level of quality a customer can expect, it allows them to make more of an informed choice, and better understand what they’re getting for their budget.

In those 18 years since the Approved Contractor Scheme began, we’ve rolled with the punches. Changes in our company name, adjustments to our management structure, even major global events – we’ve remained a major proponent of the ACS regardless of what’s happening.

When the ACS first introduced their now-infamous auditing process, we were of course keen to become involved as soon as possible. And with our first audit, we learned just how intensive the process can be, finishing with an admirable 76.4%, or 133 out of the then-total 174.  That sparked something within us, and since then, the improvement has been continual.

As you’ll see from our table below, we’ve constantly improved upon the previous years’ scores, even as the ACS changed their scoring system in 2019. The change saw the maximum points drop to 145, with several criteria become much more stringent, and auditors adapt to become more aware of what’s acceptable as part of the guidelines.

Company ACS Score

What we feel this table demonstrates isn’t just our ongoing commitment to the betterment of security and our wider industry – it’s our consistency. For the last 4 years (inclusive of this year’s latest audit) we’ve scored an incredible 144 out of a possible 145. It’s a feat rarely seen in our sector, and it’s a continual source of pride and accomplishment.

That’s all with different auditors, too. While the temptation is to look for flaw or unconscious bias, the fact of the matter is that every single one of those 99.3% scores has been attributed to a separate yet equally thorough auditor.

As this article no doubt puts across, we could not be prouder of what this means for us as a company. We take immense pride in the approach we take to compliance, quality and due diligence in every action – it’s part and parcel of what’s seen us enjoy the continued successes you’ll see proudly emblazoned across our site.

As 2024 rolls by, and we begin the arduous yet incredibly necessary planning process for the coming 2025, we’re reminded just how important every single person has been to this journey. And it has been just that – we don’t get to the place where we are without concerted and Herculean efforts from everyone.

Even if you don’t feel as though you’ve contributed, you have. Whether you’ve been here 10 minutes or 10 years, you are here for a reason, and you’ve been instrumental in all that we’ve achieved. Every single member of every single team is key in sustaining the victories we’ve experienced, and pursuing those elusive future achievements.

That’s where we’d close out this article, then – with a heartfelt, sincere thank you. When we write these words, we’re reminded of just how much everyone in this company contributes towards our place at the pinnacle of the Approved Contractor Scheme pyramid, and how we wouldn’t be able to celebrate half as much without everyone’s efforts.

Here’s to a bright, prosperous future in security with Churchill Support Services!

John Melling

Group Chief Executive Officer

John has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.