Umbrella Scheme Guidance
At the end of 2021, MCS published high level findings from a consultation which aimed to establish how umbrella schemes operate, the forms they take and how they comply with current MCS Standards. MCS received over 100 consultation responses, including from already established umbrella schemes within the industry.
“MCS recognises that umbrella schemes have an important role to play in supporting the growth of the sector. Umbrella schemes can provide a critical framework through which a broad range of contractors can participate in the delivery of small-scale renewable installations. An effective umbrella scheme can help upskill current fossil fuel engineers, enabling their transition into the low carbon heating and hot water market. “
Ian Rippin, CEO
WHAT IS AN UMBRELLA SCHEME?
In this context, ‘umbrella schemes’ are operated by MCS certified contractors who typically complete the design and commissioning of a new system but subcontract all, or elements of, the installation of the system. Any umbrella schemes operated by an MCS certified contractor will be required to comply with MCS Standards and Scheme Requirements.
LOOKING TO WORK THROUGH AN UMBRELLA SCHEME?
Working as a subcontractor to an MCS certified contractor will enable you to assess demand within the sector, gain valuable experience and work towards achieving MCS certification for your own business.
If you are new to the sector and looking for an umbrella scheme to work with/have already made your decision, you will need to maintain a close relationship with your chosen contractor.
You should consider the below factors when choosing an umbrella scheme operator to work with:
- Check that the operator is an MCS certified contractor via the MCS find a contractor search
- The technology types that they offer are relevant to you.
- Where they are based in relation to your location, and what areas they operate in
- Pricing structures and fees of working with the umbrella scheme operator
- What training, guidance and technical support they can offer you for your chosen technology
ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA SCHEME OPERATOR?
As one of the outcomes from the consultation, MCS is publishing the following umbrella scheme best practice guidance, acting as a benchmark to aspire to. As well as complying with the MCS Standards, this guidance aims to outline best practice for umbrella scheme operators, to help raise the bar with respect to their operations in support of a growing industry sector.
Umbrella scheme best practice criteria
The consultation identified clear areas of best practice, which in summary, amounts to umbrella scheme operators who take full responsibility for systems from beginning to end, offer ongoing support to their sub-contractors and maintain a relationship with the customer/end-user throughout their installation journey.
In the sections below, we have broken down what we believe umbrella scheme best practice looks like, in all areas of umbrella scheme operations.
With respect to customer contact and relations, the best umbrella scheme operators…
- Have a form of contractual relationship with the customer that underwrites the scheme operator’s commitment to providing an accurately specified and installed system.
- Ensure the customer is supported throughout the whole process including providing compliant pre-sale information, appropriate system design specification and a thorough system hand over.
- Provide a maintenance/after care package to the customer, defining what activity will be covered under the maintenance of the system and the schedule of maintenance checks. Although out of scope for MCS Installation Standards, customers do approach MCS looking for maintenance support for their installed systems. Umbrella scheme operators that incorporate this as an option, represent best practice.
- Provide ongoing guidance to customers during and post installation, with dedicated phone lines for homeowners to call if they have any technical issues or queries. Best practice scheme operators provide customers with access to adequately skilled engineers, available to offer support with maintenance and technical faults.
- Seek customer feedback as to their satisfaction with their installed system, resolving any snags, issues or concerns the customer has about the system in a timely fashion.
With respect to engagement and relations with sub-contractors, the best umbrella scheme operators…
- Have a contractual relationship with appointed subcontractors, to ensure accountability and detail areas of responsibility.
- Ensure and maintain records that show that the sub-contractor completing the installation has received appropriate training and has the competency to install high quality systems.
- Maintain a relationship with sub-contractors that goes beyond a single installation (long term partnership), that includes monitoring of performance and providing ongoing training and support to their sub-contractors via an in-house training scheme that complies with the MCS Standards. The best umbrella scheme operators nurture their network of sub-contractors, offering training, onsite support, and technical guidance.
- Help sub-contractors work towards MCS certification if it is appropriate and feasible for their business. Umbrella scheme operators that promote the aim of achieving MCS certification for their sub-contractors offer the clearest evidence of pursuit of quality installations for customers, delivered by qualified and certified sub-contractors.
Design, installation & commissioning process
Throughout the design and installation of a system, the best umbrella scheme operators…
- Procure high quality products and materials to be installed that are in accordance with the system’s design. Best practice involves sharing with the customer the appropriateness of a system’s components to best meet the design.
- Project manage the entirety of the system’s delivery from end to end and take an active role in the oversight of the installation. Best practice involves a scheme operator’s attendance at site at critical stages throughout the installation to monitor quality and commensurate with the proven skill and proficiency of a sub-contractor. Umbrella scheme operators are expected to implement appropriate supervision of their sub-contractors.
- Be present for the commissioning of the system, to ensure an MCS compliant installation is handed over to the customer, that aligns with the design of the system.
- Ensure sub-contractors are available at the point of commissioning to rectify any issues/faults with the installed system.
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