My vision for justice reform involves being much smarter in the way we run our public services.
We can deliver better rehabilitation of offenders to stop them reoffending, a smarter system for detaining and educating teenage offenders, a cheaper and more effective prison system, a legal aid system that commands public confidence and a criminal justice and court system that works effectively and puts victims first.
Digital by default can help us achieve this vision.
It will transform the services we provide, the way we work and the systems and processes that underpin these priorities.
It enables us to design services around the needs of users to support better outcomes, whether that means tools to help rehabilitate offenders, providing victims with more information about their case, or allowing individuals to file claims more easily.
It allows us to deliver solutions at pace that are simpler, easier to use and better value for users and the government. Delivering digital services that people prefer to use allows us to dedicate alternatives like phone helplines to those who really need them, while reducing demand on these higher-cost channels.
We have already made some good progress in designing digital services, for example with information about the justice system on GOV.UK, digitising applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney, the introduction of digital working in the criminal justice system, and moving civil legal aid applications online. We have also made data on the justice system available and accessible so the public can see how it is performing.
However, we can do a lot more to exploit digital technology to provide better services.
In future we will look to work with a wider range of technology suppliers who can deliver more efficient and flexible solutions, use common platforms with other departments to avoid duplication of services, improve our user insight and performance management to deliver services that people prefer to use, and use digital to work more effectively with the private and voluntary sectors.
The increased capability of our staff to understand the potential of digital will also lead to new policy options, with the user and digital delivery in mind at the outset.
In recent years, almost every major private company has found new and more cost-effective ways of doing things, and delivered better services as a result.
We are now doing this in the public sector, and digital will be at the heart of achieving a transformed justice system that is more effective, less costly and more responsive for our users.
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, 20 December 2012
The Civil Service Reform Plan, Government Digital Strategy and Digital Efficiency Report have already made the case for digital by default, estimating savings of £1.8 billion per year and setting out 14 actions to realise, notably:
Our strategy sets out how the Ministry of Justice will become digital by default.
By digital by default, we mean digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so, while those who can’t are not excluded.
By digital we mean internet-enabled: such as desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile or digital devices not yet invented. We also include video and non-networked digital devices such as kiosks.
This means wherever possible our services, including information and transactions, will be delivered through digital channels, rather than face-to-face, phone or post.
It will involve changing the way we work, and transforming our processes and practices.
Most importantly, digital services will be designed around the needs of our users, whether public, practitioners, staff, partner organisations or stakeholders.
Those who may struggle to access or use these services by themselves will be given support so they’re not excluded by these changes.
Digital transformation will help us design and deliver services that are more effective, less costly and more responsive for our users.
It will also contribute to more consistent and co-ordinated services across government.
We will take 20 actions, grouped under four overarching themes:
Delivering services that meet user needs, through:
Using digital to improve our working practices, creating a digital organisation through:
Increasing the pace and ease of digitisation, through:
Improving collaboration and helping people use our services, through:
This strategy supports the five priorities within our Transforming Justice programme and provides a framework for service transformation during the remainder of this spending review and the lifetime of the next review.
It will be updated annually alongside our business plan and the digital roadmap developed with our business – including executive agencies, major public bodies and the judiciary – to assess current and planned digital services across the justice system.
To lead the implementation of the strategy and champion digital transformation we have appointed a Digital Leader to our Departmental Board and created a new Digital Services Division as a centre of expertise.
However, everyone across our organisation – not just digital specialists – will have to be involved and committed to these actions to make the strategy a reality and make the Ministry of Justice a digitally capable organisation for the future.
Our vision for the Ministry of Justice is to put the user first in designing services that are digital by default. We will achieve this by:
The Ministry of Justice is working to reform the justice system through our Transforming Justice programme which focuses on:
Digital transformation will support these priorities by:
Our strategy focuses on how we will start to move towards a digital future, but does not provide a detailed review of every information asset, transaction, service, channel or process. We will develop detailed implementation plans to support priority projects in the coming months, and focus on digital transformation of those services where it provides better value for money.
The Ministry of Justice provides some services online, but often only part of the process is digitised. Most of these could be extensively if not fully digitised. This would be better value and provide a much better user experience.
Some of our services are not online at all and still rely on paperwork or call centres, and these could be digitised.
In many cases we would like to see less demand on our services through reduced reoffending or fewer civil and family cases, where disputes could be resolved outside court. In some cases, successful services may well be those which are used less.
And many of our users have a choice about whether they formally engage in the justice system. This makes the interaction between our online information and services of particular importance, to ensure that only those people who need to use the justice system do so.
Redesigning services to respond to user needs is highlighted as the most important part of the Government Digital Strategy, and will be a significant change in approach within our department.
The potential for all of this to improve public confidence in the justice system should not be underestimated.
If we don’t focus on the user outcome we’re trying to achieve when we design policy, information, services and processes, how can we know that the solutions we’re putting in place will meet user needs and deliver our business objectives?
Digital transformation is essentially about our department developing better business strategy, informed by user understanding.
Users are at the centre of delivering digital by default.
A wide range of people among the general public use our services, in addition to the staff, partner organisations, practitioners, businesses and stakeholders who help provide these services and use the processes that support them.
It is not possible to reflect all these user groups in detail within this strategy, what is important is to understand the breadth of user types, and identify common insights into what they are seeking from the justice system which better digital services can support.
Individuals engage with the Ministry of Justice in a number of ways, for example:
Anyone could come into contact with the justice system at some point in their lives, but some demand comes from groups who are more frequent users of government services.
They may have a number of concerns such as mental health problems, disability, lack of education, drug or alcohol addiction, being on benefits or in debt.
Demand also comes from bulk users of our services, for example:
Nearly all of our users find themselves in a complicated, pressured or stressful situation, want simple, relevant information and swift, easy access to services that deliver the desired result. Digital by default will help achieve this.
We will be gathering more data on specific user needs to inform the digital redesign of each of our services and help us meet those needs more effectively.
Our strategy highlights 20 actions grouped under four themes:
Delivering services that meet user needs, through:
Our focus is to provide a better experience for the user and deliver greater efficiency for the department.
The Ministry of Justice invests most of its budget in prisons, probation, courts and legal aid.
We will identify the processes, services and information that support these parts of the justice system to identify where digital transformation can make the most difference.
We have already had some success, notably in:
However, many of our services have not been digitised. Those that have been are often ineffective, increasing demand on more expensive channels like helplines.
This presents a prime opportunity to transform the way the department operates to realise a step change in service quality and reduce costs.
We have identified four exemplar services for digital transformation by March 2015.
These have been chosen based on business priorities and data regarding transaction volumes and take-up:
We have already embarked on a programme to redesign all of our services, where digital transformation will provide better value for money. We’re prioritising those which handle over 100,000 transactions per year and those which support the projects within our Transforming Justice programme.
These include transactions for fine payment, claims lodgement and tracking offenders through the criminal justice system, where we are exploring the potential for digitisation.
We will also be tackling many services where the volumes are lower, but better value for money could be realised. And we will explore opportunities where changing an existing process would make delivery of a new digital service possible.
We will publish our priorities by March 2013, once we have further assessed the potential for digital transformation.
Service Managers (known as Product Managers in the private sector) will be accountable for the quality and usage of the digital services.
By March 2013 we will have recruited five Service Managers with proven experience of delivering effective digital services. We will also try to identify Associate Digital Service Managers within the business and train them with the necessary skills.
We will converge the Ministry of Justice’s corporate content to Inside Government by April 2013, and agency and specialist content to the site by April 2014.
We rewrote all of our Directgov and Business Link content to meet the mainstream user needs of citizens and businesses for the launch of GOV.UK in October this year.
As with the mainstream content, we will not automatically move all specialist content on the justice.gov.uk website to GOV.UK. We will ensure that it is rewritten and repurposed to meet clearly identified user needs and presented in user-friendly formats.
Once we have transformed our services we need to ensure we continue to develop them based on user feedback. Currently there is little robust user information for our services, as they were not designed to capture performance data.
We will work with our department’s Analytical Services team to develop and apply better management information and customer insight and make full use of feedback across our services. This data-driven approach will allow us to continuously improve our services and meet user needs more effectively.
This applies as much to information as to transactions. The right information is a vital part of the service to ensure that people access the justice system when they really need to, know what to expect and can navigate the system successfully.
Using digital to improve our working practices, creating a digital organisation through:
The digital future requires radically different ways of working.
Until recently, investment in digital services at the Ministry of Justice has been inconsistent and unco-ordinated, leading to duplication and inefficiency.
There was a small centre of digital capability, but limited awareness of the digital by default agenda or understanding of digital opportunities across the department.
Organisations with a digital culture are open, innovative, flexible and encourage their people to experiment and use their initiative.
We have made good headway during 2012 in moving digital into the mainstream operation of the Ministry of Justice and putting digital leadership in place. We have:
The Digital Services Division will:
This will involve getting specialist talent in and giving them space to innovate. It’s a very different approach to our current, largely outsourced, big supplier model.
The Digital Services Division model will be to:
We’ll also develop capability within the department. We will ensure those developing proposals have the right capability in ‘digital thinking’ to know how user-centered digital design should influence policy and delivery, and who to consult to achieve this.
To build capability, we are:
These steps will embed digital understanding across the department, so staff are better equipped to decide what services should be delivered digitally.
Digital by default is a core theme running through the Civil Service Reform Plan, which states that “central government wherever possible must become a digital organisation”.
Achieving this presents us with a significant challenge.
The Ministry of Justice has a large workforce with a diverse range of skills – from administrators within courts that keep the justice system moving, to probation workers managing offenders in the community. Increasingly, our staff are not location-based.
We are already exploring better use of digital technologies including:
By exploiting the full potential of video technology we can radically improve the way we work and deliver services. For example, by removing the need to transport prisoners to court we can make best use of staff time and our estate.
Digital technology will make it easier for our department to be transparent, allowing us to be more open about our performance and allowing others to hold us to account more easily.
We have already made some good progress in this area, for example:
We could go further. In line with our open data strategy we are working to understand demand for information about the justice system and will continue to make our data accessible and reusable.
We are looking at how we manage digital projects themselves. Adopting an ‘agile’ approach will help us to develop services more effectively and at pace.
This is challenging for government, which in the past has been criticised for a lack of rigour in the management of projects and has since invested in traditional project and programme management skills. These now need to be further developed to enable us to fully benefit from the flexibility that agile brings.
Agile is an approach where projects and products progress and develop in incremental iterations. The product works from a very early stage, so improvement can be made based on real user feedback and testing.
These principles are unfamiliar to all but a few in government, and to adopt an agile approach we will need to educate and equip our staff. We will start by establishing agile delivery through the Digital Services Division and in the design and development of our exemplar services.
To support an agile way of working we will need to change our existing approaches to scoping ICT solutions, managing risk and procuring new suppliers.
We will seek to develop more effective partnerships, both internally and externally.
The Digital Services Division will provide strategic advice to existing processes in each of these areas to help break barriers to digital transformation.
Increasing the pace and ease of digitisation, through:
The justice system has evolved over a long time, and many of its processes can no longer cope effectively with demand.
As with many government systems, there are problems with:
To achieve digital by default we’ll need to remove the barriers throughout the system.
We have to recognise that we’re not always best placed to build solutions in-house and need to use a wider range of partner organisations.
As a first step, we’ll need to have access to a wider range of smaller suppliers rather than automatically relying on a small number of big IT suppliers. We will work with those who have the most relevant skills and are faster and more flexible, with an emphasis on using small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Our delivery model will be mixed: some services will be developed in-house by the Digital Services Division, others by SMEs working alongside our staff (which has the added benefit of transferring knowledge) and still others delivered by GDS or outsourced entirely.
We will favour the use of open source solutions wherever possible.
Open source solutions are freely available for all to use, and developed by the community that use them. An example of open source software is Wordpress, the blogging platform.
The main benefit will be in working with the wider development community, who are continually improving these shared solutions. In turn, our contribution to developing these solutions will benefit SMEs and support economic growth.
A further barrier to successful digitisation is the lack of an effective management information system.
Many of our services were not designed to capture the data we need about our users and performance.
We will work with our business to understand how we can develop better real time management information. As we begin to redesign our services we will take a modular approach, building automated data collection into each one.
Across many services, legislation passed before the growth of digital constrains the development of simple end-to-end digital services.
The Ministry of Justice will commit to identifying and removing legislative obstacles. In practice this could mean reviewing current restrictive interpretations of laws or amending legislation that prevent us from developing straightforward, convenient digital services. An immediate example is the need for a wet signature that prohibits full digitisation across many of our services.
As legislation can take time to change, in the interim we will get on with delivering partial digital solutions, but always with a view to realising the full potential for digitisation later.
The Cabinet Office will be delivering a new suite of common technology platforms to underpin the new generation of services that are digital by default. GOV.UK is the first and platforms for identity assurance, performance metrics, and others will follow.
These platforms will be used as core components in the development of all of our digital services.
In the interim, Digital Services Division will ensure that any services are built in a modular fashion, in order to take full advantage of these platforms as they emerge while maintaining momentum.
We will build with the maxim of ‘loosely coupled but tightly integrated’ modules as far as possible. This means that a service may temporarily use one solution for identity assurance or payments, but when a cross-government platform to answer this need is completed, the modules could be exchanged.
As well as identity assurance and metrics, common elements in our services include payments, booking appointments and case management. Many interactions with the justice system start in a similar way, for example submitting an application or lodging an appeal, and we will develop common solutions wherever possible.
Improving collaboration and helping people use our services, through:
Future policy and services must owe far more to collaboration within the department, across government, with front-line staff and public users.
This means finding ways to connect us all to work together in partnership.
We won’t always need to build digital solutions, and can reuse tools that already exist in the marketplace.
Digital technology will allow us to collaborate more with our users and partners to improve our services together. Defaulting to open standards and making greater use of APIs in the development of our services will support this.
An API (or Application Programming Interface) is a way of making information available to other developers to use in tools and services. APIs allow developers to use information quickly and easily, and help to ensure that they can access data in the most efficient way available.
Increasing collaboration will allow others outside of government to use our data to innovate and develop their own useful tools. Events such as ‘hack days’, where developers collaborate intensively on software projects, will help us explore these possibilities more fully.
Digital tools will make it easier than ever before to engage the public and specialists in the policy-making process.
The Civil Service Reform Plan puts a great emphasis on this, calling on civil servants to use “web-based tools, platforms and new media to widen access to policy debates to individuals and organisations not normally involved.”
From 2013, we will respond to this commitment by working with policy teams to formalise a new model for open policy-making.
The emphasis will be on engaging and consulting more openly and informally throughout the policy cycle in the spaces where people are already having conversations. This includes online spaces such as blogs, chat rooms, Facebook, and Twitter.
We will support this with access to the right tools and understanding of how to use them effectively, including trialling open access to social media for staff early in 2013.
As well as enabling our staff, we need to ensure the public are aware of our digital services and the shift away from other channels. The government ambition is for digital services to be so easy to access and use that all who can use them, choose to do so.
Channel shift refers to the move away from expensive channels like phone and post to less expensive digital solutions, like online self-service.
This is a particular challenge for our department, as many members of the public and even some of our staff don’t fully understand the justice system. Most don’t understand when and how to interact with us, what to expect when they do or how justice decisions are made.
We will therefore design digital services to help people find, understand and use the justice system successfully.
We have no budget for paid-for communication channels and already work with staff, partners and stakeholders to provide information and promote services. In this context digital channels play an essential role in supporting communication.
In May 2012, social media guidelines were issued to civil servants based on six principles that encourage use of social media for consultation, engagement, transparency, accountability and ‘to be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings’.
Social media will allow us to communicate more effectively with all of our audiences, especially as most people use these channels routinely in their everyday lives. It will allow us to reach a wider audience faster at much lower cost, and communicate with people in the places where they already are. For example, 50% of the UK population now uses Facebook. To make the most of this we will need to be aware of the risks involved, but less risk averse.
We will work with our behavioural insight team to work out how to encourage ‘channel shift’ (the move to digital channels) so all those who are online benefit from our improved digital services. We know that channel shift takes time, so we’ll carry out communications planning to ensure people are ready for the change.
In moving to digital services, we need to ensure that no-one gets left behind.
Assisted digital is the way the government is helping users who are not online to access services they’re entitled to.
The digital by default commitment means that digital becomes the default option for people who can use it. It also means reducing the number of non-digital channels and providing alternative ways to enable as many people as possible to access digital services as the default method. Research shows that 18% of adults have rarely or never been online.
Given the breadth of our user base, not everyone who uses our services will currently be able to access them digitally, and we are committed to ensuring that our digital services are accessible to all.
As we introduce new digital services we will consider where more effective methods can be used as a ‘way in’ to access these. What we provide for people will depend on the service and the needs of the user, but we will look to work with a range of external partners to ensure that the right level of support is provided, focusing on those who need the most help.
In developing assisted digital, the Digital Services Division will work closely with the dedicated assisted digital team in the GDS. We will operate within the standards being established by the GDS and will look to procure collaboratively to ensure an efficient and consistent approach.
In 2013, we will develop assisted digital support for applicants for a Lasting Power of Attorney.
By April 2015, we will look to provide more assistance for offline users when we deliver our four ‘exemplar’ services.
While we are committed to delivering digital by default services, this is about making government digital, not the country as a whole. However, we will consider opportunities where we can support development of digital capability and inclusion among our users.