National rollout of the new digital prison service:
Create and vary a licence
Ministry of Justice
13 amazing people
Visual Design, Prototyping, UX Research & Strategy, Usability Testing, Accessibility, Live User Support
– Launch across 122 prisons and 12 probation areas in England and Wales
– 1,980 created licences within the first couple of weeks (December 2022)
– 23 engagement and onboarding events
– Overwhelming positive user feedback
– The journey from the
challenge to the solution
Prison and probation staff have to work with a lot of old digital systems on a day-to-day basis. In the strategic context of moving away from those legacy systems, we were asked to focus on licences.
What is a licence?
A licence is a piece of paper with some conditions which the person leaving prison receives. Licence conditions are the set of rules individuals must follow if they are released from prison but still have a part of their sentence to serve in the community. The aims of the licence period are to protect the public, prevent re-offending and secure the successful reintegration of the individual on licence into the community.
A managed service team found in the discovery phase that the current licencing process is frustrating and disjointed. It is full of communication problems between the people working in prisons and those in probation. People need to chase each other via email and it is hard to find a person to speak to if someone is on leave. This disconnect costs a lot of time, money and nerves as well as leads to inconsistent licences.
How might we transform the licence creation and variation process to improve communication between staff, ensure accuracy and save valuable time?
(I) To allow probation practitioners and prison staff to create licences for people leaving prison;
(II) To allow probation practitioners to vary licences for people on licence in the community.
Simplifies the process for creating a licence which removes the need for prison case administrators to prepare, send off and chase the pre-discharge form to probation practitioners. This will reduce the time spent and frustration experienced by staff in both prisons and probation.
A managed service team has gone through the discovery and alpha phase of this service. Our team has taken over the service after the first pilot area in Wales. Usually, we would have 3-6 months of handover time but we only had 2 weeks to pick up where they left off.
Most of our team members were already working on a live product called ‘Manage POM (Prisoner Offender Manager) Cases’. So taking over the national rollout of this new service stretched people thinly across 2 services. Even though we had a lot of odds against us from the very beginning the team rose to the challenge.
Once the service was live in Wales we immediately saw 30 licences in progress as well as a number of approvals completed. Our main task was to gather feedback, evaluate it and implement changes. While becoming familiar with the service we already started working on the necessary improvements based on user feedback. Shortly after, we rolled out to a second pilot area (East Midlands) before we would rollout the service nationally.
In summary, the team introduced a new digital service that allows probation practitioners to create licences and submit them to the releasing prison, which then digitally signs and prints the licence allowing the prison leaver to have their copy.
"Much more efficient. Took 10 rather than over 30 minutes, which is often the case with trying to edit PDFs and Word, and submitting licences via email."
– Probation Practitioner
"The automated licence conditions is very useful as it reduces the natural typing errors etc and ensures consistency with the format"
– Head of Offender Management Unit
I played a key role in successfully launching the new ‘Create and vary a licence’ service for over 27,000 users. My responsibilities were designing a feature to upload maps and onboarding guidance, answering support emails from users, as well as testing two features for another service. This showcases my ability to provide high-quality work under tight time constraints. I think strategically and use the support emails we receive from users to build evidence and push my priorities to improve the user experience.
Upload multiple exclusion zone maps
The challenge with this feature was technical limitations because the service was built on templates. There was also time pressure to get this feature live for national rollout. I worked with a content designer, user researcher and development team to enhance my design, with the result of a smooth user journey which has reduced the number of user queries. For the launch of the new service, our content designer and I also decided which changes didn’t impact the user experience too much and can be done after going live with a minimal viable service.
A new need was uncovered for probation staff who work across multiple teams. When all the cases would be loaded at once the system could not handle it because we haven’t had pagination in place yet. The team cases view could be very long; hundreds or even thousands of cases long. Therefore we introduced a filter so that users could work across multiple teams but also had faster loading times. Therefore, I designed a filter in line with the following user story:
As a probation staff who has multiple teams assigned to me
I need to quickly find cases belonging to a particular team or teams
so that I can monitor team cases and ensure work is done within the required timescales.
As a result of this user-friendly team filter our users do not experience 500 errors anymore and they can easily jump back and forth between teams.
Our service owner mentioned:
“Incrementally rolling out enabled the team to respond and fix issues as well as monitor the level of support queries.
From handover in May to fully live across England and Wales, meeting our original Outcome Delivery Plan target by the end of 2022,
was impressive and a real testament to the team's hard work, adaptability and positivity to make it happen.”
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