WELCOME TO THE NEW ACS PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS SCHEME –STRENGTHENING THE ICT PROFESSION
It’s an exciting step forward for the ICT profession, elevating the stature of CP members and providing a range of benefits. What this means:
- All CP members now have professional recognition from Australian federal, state and territory governments
- ACS has obtained approval for a redesigned Professional Standards Scheme to include all CP members
- CP members now need to demonstrate ongoing compliance with professional standards
BECOME A CP
How the PS Scheme works:
Federal, state and territory governments collectively appoint a statutory body, the Professional Standards Council (PSC), who regulates the ACS, ensuring we establish and uphold professional frameworks and standards for all CP members. The ACS in turn oversees CP members, assessing qualifications and experience, and ensuring all continue to comply with a code of ethics, maintain CPD records, and carry insurances for consumer protection.
The ACS PS Scheme caps liability for ICT professional services performed for clients and customers by practitioners on an independent basis, or on behalf of an employer. For CP members, liability is limited to AUD$2.0 million (although a member may apply for a higher cap should this be problematic). ACS Certified Professionals (CPs) who meet the criteria and hold the requisite insurances are entitled to this protection.
- Professional status:The PS Scheme distinguishes ACS CP members from others in ICT who have not made the commitment to demonstrate professional competence and ongoing commitment to ethical practice. This is timely given the growing need for qualified, trusted professionals to manage public risks in the technology space.
- Personal protection:The PS Scheme can cap civil liability for ICT professional services performed for clients and customers by practitioners on an independent basis, or on behalf of an employer. For applicable ACS members, liability can be limited to AUD$2.0 million.
- Market advantage:Clients and employers can be confident that CP members are suitably qualified, uphold professional and ethical standards, and manage risk. A statutory authority watches over ACS to ensure this.
- Insurability:Improving the collective risk profile may help all CP members to remain insurable should there be a future insurance crisis arising from heightened risk in ICT professional responsibilities.
- Flexibility:CP members not in public practice will still be in the PS Scheme, and capped liability will apply immediately should they undertake consulting or contracting. The ACS CP member insurance scheme may also provide immediate cover when needed,subject to conditions.PS Schemes in other professions don’t do this.
- CP members must keep personal details up to date in "My Profile"and click drop-down menus to advise their work and insurance status.
- CP members must comply with CPD requirements and maintain CPD records and may be asked for insurance claims history.
- CP members may be audited by ACS to check CPD records, insurance certificates (if applicable) and work status.
- CP membersin public practice (consulting or contracting) and to whom liability caps applies, are required to inform clients, and ACS has guidance on how to comply.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A Professional Standards Scheme is a legal agreement that obliges the association (ACS) to monitor, enforce and improve the professional standards of members under the Scheme, reducing risk for consumers of professional services. In recognition, the Professional Standards Authority caps the civil liability or damages that professionals under the scheme may incur if a court upholds a claim against them. Professional standards regulated by the ACS PS Scheme are generally pre-existing and include:
- Education and professional experience thresholds
- Continuing occupational education requirements and audit
- Consumer risk management
- Ethical codes
- Complaint and disciplinary systems
- Insurance requirements and standards
The ACS PS Scheme is constituted by a brief legal document known as the Scheme Instrument which sets out the details of the scheme’s scope, jurisdiction, duration and limitation of liability. This document may be considered by a court in the event of a claim. The scheme is monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis by the ACS and Professional Standards Councils. Future changes in claims history and consumer risk will result in adaptation of controls and requirements of members under the scheme, and adjustments to liability caps.
Insurance markets tend to be cyclical and many professional communities have had times of crisis in accessing insurance. Demonstrable professional standards and liability caps help to ensure that a professional community remains attractive to insurers despite insurance market cycles, and scheme compliance systems ensure individuals carry suitable PI cover. This is good for professionals and good for consumers.
A key benefit of the PS Scheme is that it recognises ACS Certified Professional (CP) members as professionals with a commitment to an ethical code and maintaining technical competence and professional skills. This may be increasingly important with the growing profile of business and consumer risk in the digital environment, and the erosion of public trust in experts.
The Scheme also ensures the safety net of Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance. At present, PI claims against ICT professionals are rare, PI insurance is readily accessible to ICT professionals and there is little reliance on PI insurance as a remedy when things go wrong. The ICT environment is however in rapid evolution and the risk profile of ICT professional services may change.
PI insurance protects both the professional service providers and the recipients of ICT services. The ACS advocates universal PI coverage of ICT professionals in everybody’s interest and sees the Scheme as key to raising awareness and uptake and ensuring ongoing access to PI insurance. Consumers who engage ICT professional services may directly benefit from the public register of individuals who meet requisite professional standards, and from the reassurance of regulatory oversight by the Professional Standards Councils.
A Professional Standards Scheme adds credibility to ACS certifications and professional standards and adds weight to the ACS message of professionalism across the ICT sector. Everybody is an indirect consumer of ICT professional services, and all consumers benefit from ICT professional standards rising over time. The ACS Scheme is subject to ongoing scrutiny by the Professional Standards Councils, and enhances the professional standards of ACS members by:
- Requiring ongoing review of entry requirements and assessment processes
- Ensuring suitable standards of education and professional experience are applied
- Ensuring the ACS audits and enforces continuing occupational education (CPD) obligations
- Ensuring the ACS addresses consumer risk in its education and information
- Ensuring the ACS maintains and promotes its ethical codes
- Ensuring the ACS maintains strong complaint and disciplinary systems
- Ensuring members maintain suitable insurance cover in the public interest
Professional Standards Schemes are designed to ensure ongoing access to PI insurance by an occupational group. Insurance markets are cyclical and there have been times when insurers have actively reduced their exposure to a sector by declining new policies or raising premiums.
A scheme puts a cap on liability, reflecting the actual history of claims. This allows consumers to continue to pursue claims at historic levels, whilst giving insurers greater predictability. Liability caps give insurers the confidence to remain in a particular market without risk of random runaway claims, and a buffer to adjust to any sudden change in risk profile of a professional activity.
Limiting participant liability therefore helps consumers by ensuring that the occupational group in question remain insured, and a PI safety net can always be relied on.
PI insurance access has not been an issue in the ICT sector to date, and there has been no active history of consumer claims for professional negligence against ICT practitioners. The ACS scheme nevertheless provides a plan for the future, and a foundation for the broader ongoing professionalisation of the ICT sector.
No. The ACS Professional Standards Scheme is not a source of PI insurance, however members under the Scheme are required to hold PI insurance that meets certain requirements.
Under a related but separate member service initiative, the ACS provides an umbrella PI insurance policy covering all members with an annual professional fee income within a set limit. A higher level of cover is provided for CP members.
The ACS Management Committee governs the ACS Professional Standards Scheme and receives expert advice from the Profession Advisory Board (PAB) in relation to benchmarks for evolving professional standards and continuous improvement opportunities. The ACS executive and staff administer the Scheme. The Director Professional Standards and Assessment Services has executive and operational responsibility for the ACS PS Scheme.
The government-appointed Professional Standards Councils consider and approve Scheme proposals. The Scheme association (ACS) provides a five-year plan and annual reports demonstrating Scheme implementation and ongoing improvements in professional standards.
ACS has had an accredited Professional Standards Scheme under professional standards legislation since 2010, but with few participants and limited impact. With the existing scheme expiring on 31 December 2018, ACS successfully applied for a new Professional Standards Scheme. This was approved on the basis that the new Scheme includes all CP Members.
The ACS PS Scheme operates in all Australian states and territories. The ACS PS Scheme is constituted under New South Wales legislation and recognized in other Australian states and territories under mutual recognition provisions of respective professional standards legislation.
The ACS PS Scheme will cover all CP members, but PS Schemes are concerned primarily with professional services performed for clients and customers by practitioners on an independent basis, or on behalf of an employer. This is because PS Schemes have a consumer protection purpose.
The liability limited by a scheme is intended to apply to civil liability arising from anything done or omitted by a scheme member in acting in the performance of their occupation. The scheme is not intended for damages arising from death or personal injury to a person, breach of trust, fraud or dishonesty.
The Professional Standards Council does not aim to safeguard internal professional services within an organization, academic practice or education, or services provided by government. The ACS PS Scheme nevertheless includes all CP members; this keeps it simple and recognises that work status can change, and consulting may be an occasional activity.
The new ACS Professional Standards Scheme came into effect on 1 January 2019 in NSW and NT, and on various dates in early 2019 in other states and territories.
ACS Scheme membership and compliance is mandatory for Certified Professional (CP) members of ACS, and available only to CP members. Around 1500 existing CP members were brought into the Scheme on its commencement. Exemptions or extensions of the cap may be considered by the CEO on a case basis if scheme membership creates an unreasonable burden for the individual in some way, and if this will not undermine consumer protection or the impact of the scheme.
CP members in the Scheme will be expected to meet CPD requirements and Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance requirements and may be audited to check compliance. Scheme members may rely on individual or corporate (employer) PI insurance cover or may rely on the ACS member insurance scheme if applicable. Scheme members who do not offer ICT professional services to clients or customers (ie public practice) are not required to hold insurances.
The ACS Scheme will only be available to CP members of the ACS. The Scheme will not be available to other ACS member grades.
The level of limited liability for a Professional Standards Scheme is generally proposed and approved at a level to accommodate the normal range of claims. A cap should be set at a level to encompass historic claims, other than perhaps occasional extreme outlier claims, adjusting for any clear drivers of change to the risk profile. This is generally justified by historic claims data and actuarial analysis. Schemes may be approved for five years, at which time caps are reviewed and adjusted.
At present, PI claims against ICT professionals are rare and modest, and present a benign risk profile for insurers. The claims history does not present data that can be usefully analysed to justify adopting a particular level of liability.
A liability cap of $1.5M applied to the outgoing ACS Scheme, and expired on 31 December 2018. This was low in terms of the range of caps applying to other Professional Standards Schemes. In recognition of an evolving risk profile in ICT, a liability cap of $2.0M has been agreed for the new ACS Scheme.
The ACS is required to maintain a public register of Scheme members and will respond to public enquiries regarding Scheme member status.
The ACS will promote Scheme awareness across its sphere of influence, beyond the ACS membership.
The ACS Professional Standards Scheme has been granted until 31 December 2023.
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