The original plans for the working group and subgroups, which are supported by the LIP Network, were disrupted due to the changing priorities Covid presented. Our response to these changing needs was to commission a response exercise to understand how sector needs, experiences, issues, and solutions around innovation had changed. The following represents a summary of our findings.
- Capacity, Skills and Expertise: Workforce capacity is strained and making space and driving change is hard work and difficult to justify at a time of crisis. There’s still a feeling that we lack the skills and understanding to adapt easily and build for the future, training would be valued.
- Need for investment: Money still matters, infrastructure funding will continue to be important but as we move through crisis response stages investment in the future design of services will become increasingly vital. Inclusive user centred design is expensive and time consuming, it needs a commitment by funders to invest adequately in it, but it’s worth it.
- Investment for the benefit of everyone: Cross sector connectivity, certainty, confidence, and communication is key to our future. There needs to be more service delivery partnerships to “build back better” and deliver end to end user experiences, not necessarily just investing in the organisations who do everything – there aren’t enough of those – we want to change and develop together.
- Leadership: There’s a lack of strategic oversight and the system feels incoherent. To address this, we need the Ministry of Justice, funders, and the sector to come together. Organisations management and leadership capability and competence needs invest with a focus on change of culture as well as training and need for transparency and targets.
- Knowing our users: We’re seeing different clients; digitally skilled and capable but short of money. There’s an opportunity for Covid to drive legal empowerment, especially for the more advantaged, and for us to explore how we can help people help themselves. Beyond this we have limited knowledge of our users, our evidence is still anecdotal due to a lack of collection of protected characteristics or vulnerability data. There is a big gap in our knowledge around the user journey of client through the sector and system.
- Need for seamless services: The lack of consistent approaches across the justice value chain increases the complexity and challenge for users. User interface, engagement, communication, and support has increased in importance, but services are still limited in their collective ability to provide holistic services.
- Access and Exclusion: Digital exclusion can manifest in several different ways and doesn’t just mean people who don’t have access to technology. Access and exclusion are a huge issues, we need to re-evaluate where we try to reach clients (initial points of contact) and how we enable their access to our current delivery methods (e.g. by providing phone credit).
o Design: To overcome these issues on a long-term basis, good design principles are key. It is only by working with our users and investing in service delivery methods that meet their needs that we will be able to overcome access and exclusion issues.
- Data: There is a lack of data that gives us a picture of the systemic and structural issues facing the sector. We have anecdotal evidence to suggest we have new groups of users, that some users are not able to access us and that users are arriving at court without support and advice, but we cannot say for certain. This prevents us from effectively planning for the future.
- Standardised good practice/ delivery/ funding models: There is a lack of good funding, delivery, and support models. We are a long way off standardisation which adds complexity both for delivery organisations and their users. Using new processes in short time frames requires clarity. There won’t be a “one size fits all” delivery method but there are standardised principles which ensure good practice across different models.
- Consistency across the sector: Coordination and partnership working is key but it takes investment (and capacity) to embark on the behaviour change journey necessary to provide and end to end experience, not only for our users, but for the access to justice community – we need a broader community of practice to represent the broader changes we want to see.
Learning and Sharing
- Sharing and building on our learning: Learning lessons and sharing ever more important, and people are desperate to catch up on what works and what’s out there. These learned lessons should include sharing summaries of what, how and why people are doing to reduce silo working (both in organisations and in the sector more widely).
- Centralisation of learning and opening access to these: In terms of how we share, can this be done more centrally to increase reach and decrease time demands on staff and organisations? We need a single place to go to find good practice. The LIP Network is proving very valuable as skills and knowledge share including getting case studies and use cases out there.
- The importance of communication: Communications has increased in importance as regular internal and external meetings for people at similar levels has enabled members to identify and problem solve and address needs as they come up, but our organisational websites are huge barriers to sharing and communicating.
- Building and expanding our community: The COVID-19 experience has taught us we can adapt quickly but there is a lack of community as a sector around technology and tools which prevents us effectively sharing learning and updates. The LIP Network is a brilliant sounding board but lack of resource (budget) for all stakeholders to deliver.
o Benefiting from external experiences: What can we learn from other areas of the sector, and from external initiatives? The pro bono community has organised and can respond collaboratively, Catalyst, and others, have an offering to the sector, how can we best capitalise on these?
o Wellbeing: Support is really important, mental health and wellbeing sessions are proving welcome as is sharing resources. Having time to think broadly and strategically versus despair and coping has also proved an important part of “recovery”.
1. Keep embracing change: not only have things changed quite drastically but things are about to change again. We expect further transformation over the next 6 months.
2. Focus your efforts: start small and simple, with a single strong and specific vision, using an injection of cash to get the project off the ground.
3. Build a cross sector approach and consensus: we need to work together, particularly with the umbrella bodies, to develop a coherent shared vision and workplan. Specifically, around:
a. Data: the accurate and shared recording of user data is critical, standardisation, potentially via a common data framework would have immense value.
b. Tools and technologies: A dashboard of tools showing what tool is being used to address which problem would be valuable but ideally it would be supported with human resources which supports the community to understand how tools might be implemented in organisations and the potential impact.
4. Use external expertise: Establishing learning and sharing pathways with external experts such as the Collaborative Plan, the Law Tech Delivery Panel, the Ministry of Justice, the international community, and organisations such as Catalyst is essential to ensure we reduce duplication and are well placed to contribute to and benefit from future initiatives.
5.Recognise the value in taking time to talk and reflect: Not just to support our work but to support our mental wellbeing. Allowing time to be and think creatively and making space to learn from ourselves and each other by sharing and absorbing learning is incredibly beneficial.
6. Come together to create additional change: We want a change programme which has our users at its core; we want to change the world for our users. Change is hard and long term but by coming together we can make technological change work for us and our users.