Heart Searching: Win a starring role: Six valuable prizes of a year's membership of 'the intelligent person's introduction agency' are on offer in this easy-to-enter competition

Sirius has become the first introduction agency to achieve the BS 5750 British Standard assurance of quality, an attainment that adds credibility to its description of itself as 'the intelligent person's introduction agency', writes Rachel Lipman.

Kate Corbett, managing director, says: 'Our members are professional and business persons, graduates and other intelligent people. They expect, and receive, a high standard of professionalism from us and BS 5750 underscores our commitment to providing a quality service.'

Heart Searching readers can test that claim for themselves if they are successful in our latest competition, which offers six people - three men and three women - a year's free membership. Total value of the prizes is some pounds 3,500.

That 'intelligent person's agency' tag has echoes of the 'thinking person's introduction agency' slogan which Drawing Down The Moon uses in its publicity, and like DDTM and other upmarket agencies such as Sara Eden and Virginia Charles, Sirius seems to be targeted at the 'successful professionals' market - the type of person who reads a quality newspaper, has a good career, and is willing (and able) to pay more than pounds 500 for the opportunity to meet similar people of the opposite sex.

Ms Corbett, like her counterparts at other agencies, is keen to emphasise that, these days, introduction agencies are certainly not for life's inadequates or failures. She says: 'Our members make important decisions every day in their professional lives - why shouldn't they take control of their emotional lives?' She points out that successful men and women can find themselves alone through the break-up of a relationship, bereavement, or because they have spent all their time and energy pursuing their careers.

She adds that a surprising number of women nowadays are perceived by men as being 'too successful' and therefore unapproachable (I take her point, though I'm not sure that I would want to meet a man who takes that view, through an agency or not).

'It's a sad fact that in the high- pressure world we live in meeting people and making new friends is not always easy. What the agency offers is a 'safer' way of meeting other people in similar circumstances,' she says.

Sirius, launched in 1992, has its head office in Cheshire but covers the whole country, employing a team of interviewers who meet all new members in their own homes. The agency then compiles a personal profile, which members approve before it is sent out to prospective partners (with confidential information such as name, address and telephone number left out).

Your profile is sent to an appropriate person and you receive his or hers at the same time; if both parties agree to take things further, Sirius supplies first names and telephone numbers.

There is no limit to the number of profiles members may request, but they are promised at least six within a year. Sirius has members across the age range, though like most agencies it warns tactfully that 'above the age of 40 or so, the numbers of men tend to dwindle as age increases, making it a little less easy for our lady members'.

Members have their own voice mail box on the agency's computer, where they can leave or collect messages. A feature that marks Sirius out as different to many of its competitors is that it runs a programme of short breaks and holidays for members, ranging from sailing in Greece and skiing in the Alps to walking in the Lake District. Other trips include long weekends in Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, New York or Milan (the last including a night out at La Scala).

To win a year's membership of Sirius, all you have to do is complete this sentence in no more than 20 words: 'I would love to join Sirius because . . .' The three men and three women who submit the most witty and apposite entries will each win a prize. Everyone who enters will receive a Sirius information pack.

Send your entry to: Sirius Competition, Heart Searching, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please include your name and address, and if possible a daytime telephone number. Closing date: Monday 18 April.

Sirius, by the way, situated in the Canis Maoris constellation, is the brightest star in the night sky - 'a shining symbol of the change we hope to bring to your life'.

Sirius Introductions: 0625 860924 (Chelford, Cheshire); 071-256 6123 (London); 031-225 3606 (Edinburgh).