Service Design Network
Author - Service Design Network

People migrating to the UK can apply for a ‘right to remain’ based on their socio-economic circumstances or their rights under the Refugee Convention or Human Rights Act. Each year approximately 50,000 people raise an appeal when their applications are rejected.

Service Design Award 2020 Finalist Project

Immigration and Asylum Appeals - by Engine

Category: Professional Non-profit / Public sector

Client: Immigration and Asylum Reform Project | Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service | Ministry of Justice

Location: UK

“I SEE THIS AS THE MODEL FOR ALL REMAINING TRIBUNALS” - UK SENIOR PRESIDENT OF TRIBUNALS

Intorduction

Appellants often live on the edge of society, with poor social capital, low digital literacy and little trust in government - they struggle to promote their appeal argument and understand how it is progressing.

The brief:

  • To re-imagine ‘access to justice’ through the lens of the 50,000 appellant immigration and asylum seekers
  • To develop replacements for legacy systems with a joined-up, efficient digital service

Our approach to radical transformation

Similar projects, were redesigned in vertical slices leading to designs with older tech and lower ambitions. We advised our client to follow a more radical approach to avoid these limitations.

On the strength of our work, our client agreed to the design of a new end-to-end service from scratch, which would support interconnected transformative service features throughout the appeal lifecycle, a better experience for all users and release bigger cost savings.

Process

IT’S BEEN AN UNIQUE EXPERIENCE WITH ALL THE STAKEHOLDERS WORKING TOGETHER. GIVEN IT’S AN ADVERSARIAL PROCESS IT’S AN EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENT AND THE TEAM HAS MANAGED THESE SESSIONS VERY WELL SO EVERYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE.” - GOVERNMENT TRANSFORMATION LEAD

Discovery

The project was immersed in a complex backdrop of UK legislation, judicial rules and legacy ways of working. Desk-based research helped us understand our service landscape, identify constraints and innovation boundaries.

Having mapped our stakeholders, we mapped the as-is, analysed performance metrics to zoom in on internal processes (e.g. appeal validation; appeal fee payment) and identified operational pinch points.

To examine these pinch points in more detail and fully understand our design challenges, we used 1-2-1 structured interviews and journey mapping with judges, operations officers and caseworkers, solicitors, charitable bodies and appellants helped us build key insights. These fed into a holistic service blueprint and user summaries for our most sensitive and knotty journey – appeals for asylum seekers.

Key insights

  • 50% of all appeals were found in favour of the appellant, suggesting poor initial decisions outside of our control, yet an opportunity to resolve appeals before a hearing
  • Multiple paper copies of evidence physically moved around the UK, becoming fragmented, creating a confusion re a single source of truth
  • Most work by all parties was left until the last minute, and with fragmented evidence, hearings were confused, often having to be adjourned and re-heard - leading to appeal lifecycles in excess of 18 months

Alpha – Conceptual design

As Alpha commenced, our team grew to include developers and technical architects, along with other skills. This enabled us to work with stakeholders and conceptualise a new service design across 3 streams:

  1. User experience for all actors, front and backstage, online and in-person
  2. Technical architecture – to knit together modules of digital capability from the host programme
  3. Judicial rules and end-to-end processes and role redesign

User experience and process redesign

We designed and iterated in the following ways:

  • Prototyping on paper. series of co-design sessions, redesigning all processes and touchpoints (physical/digital).
  • Sprint-to-sprint digital iteration. Built coded prototypes, tested face-to-face and remotely. Conceptual prototypes for new/challenging UI designed on paper/low-fi wireframes for review/refinement before coding into the prototype (5 versions)
  • Service simulation. Gathering all key service stakeholders (caseworkers/charities/appellants/judges) testing the end-to-end service. These generated insights that would be missed if we had only tested slices of the service, journey by journey.

Alpha was split into 2 distinct phases, the first was to deliver the service design for appellants with legal representation, the second for appellants without. They both employed the same methodologies.

Beta – Private to Public

A Public Beta service launched in February 2020, following a Private Beta that stretched for just over 1 year.

Private Beta

Private Beta was invite-only, working with live appeals for asylum seekers, submitted by trusted UK law firms. Private Beta was as lightweight as possible, allowing us to launch sooner and iterate untested new policy and service touchpoints at pace. Approximately 40% of the service was enabled through offline temporary processes in support. Through usability testing, alongside service feedback from surveys and face-to-face
engagement with users, the service was refined, and new features added.

Public Beta

The service is now accessible to all legal representatives. The Public Beta, the service continues to receive design and delivery of new features and appeal types. E.g. appeals from appellants ‘out of country’; the capability to change legal representation part-way through an appeal.

Authentic participation: our default approach to design

From Discovery through to present day we have employed a co-design approach. We are facilitators of design, practicing design-led research and putting the experts by experience wherever possible into the role of designer. This helps socialise insights and reveal hidden ideas that could otherwise remain unknown in the minds of disempowered users.

Appellants without legal representation

Key to this aspect of service design, was generating empathy through storytelling with our community of change. Owing to the fear asylum seekers hold in government, access to their stories relied on us building close working partnerships with many charitable bodies up and down the UK.
Through them we were able to spend time recording the stories of asylum seekers. With visualised stories in hand, we were able to bring asylum seekers, virtually, into rooms and forums they almost always dare not enter.

The stories were so powerful, honest and emotive. They provided a case for change that pushed judges, policy makers and operational staff to agree on radical new ways of working described in the impact section of this submission.

Cross-Governmental working

Appellants’ journeys start in another government department, long before they need to submit an appeal. This department has a significant role to play all the way through our service – the information they supply, their operational undertakings, and policy, impact our service design from start to finish. Our team initiated and facilitate an exemplar in cross-governmental working groups, which has enabled significant changes to their policy and service delivery described later.

Outputs

While we delivered both design and technical development, the outputs detailed are from the service design practice disciplines (research; content; interface; service)

Discovery – delivery to client only

  1. Level 3 process maps for all legacy service operations - Technical maps using BPMN visualisation to unpack complex, multi-department processes for all service operations
  2. Appeal data models - Mapping structure of data that hosts an appeal lifecycle – examining the critical path, retired data-points and gaps in data
  3. As is systems maps - Mapping the flow of data between legacy systems internal and external to our client’s organisation
  4. Key user journeys - Magnified journey maps for the most critical user roles
  5. Legacy service blueprint - Full end-to-end service blueprint for the legacy service
  6. User-type groups and summaries - Summaries of all users/actors for the service including incidence of service use, key pain points, service timeline mapping
  7. MVP scope for Alpha and speculative roadmap for delivery - Summary of an Alpha programme of works to test service concepts and ultimately meet our client’s mandated delivery milestones

Alpha – delivery to client only

  1. Future service map – approximately 10 iterations -  Hybrid map of process and blueprint, used to mature the service design and guide developers and stakeholders
  2. Future service blueprint summary - Colloquially called our service on a slide – our go to tool for engagement, repurposed and reworked to help communicate a variety of communication needs e.g. technological impediments; locating new features
  3. Feature-by-feature service/journey flows - Visualisation of new user features conceptualising and finalising new service capabilities
  4. Sketch/InVision-based and coded prototypes – 5 iterations - Prototypes used to rapidly test, iterate and mature the UI/UX design with users and stakeholders
  5. Usability testing reports and prototype iteration change logs - Research artefacts to provide the evidence base for design changes and track the progress of change
  6. Future service user personas - Map user needs against current and new service roles – behaviours, needs, pain points, touchpoints analysis
  7. Roadmap from Private to Public Beta - Summary of the Beta programme of works to enable the client to meet their mandated delivery milestones
  8. Digital take-up strategy - Strategy to promote users uptake of the new digital aspects of the service in support of retiring legacy service
  9. Future performance/impact measurement framework - Analysis and presentation of impact measures to enable measurement of the new service

Private -> Public Beta

  1. Private Beta end-to-end live service scaling to Public Beta - A live service environment (hosted online and in physical hearing centres) facilitating live appeals for authentic appellants as specified in the end-state versions of the above Alpha outputs
  2. For each new feature as the service scaled during Public Beta – delivery to the client only
    a. Summary guides research and insight guides to the context for each new service feature – key stats, user behaviours, design challenges,
    additional user needs
    b. Feature-by-feature service/journey flows - Visualisation of new user features conceptualising and finalising new service capabilities
    c. Clickable prototypes – iterated and ready for development - Prototypes used to rapidly test, iterate and mature the UI/UX design with users and stakeholders

"…I’M NOT JUST BLOWING SMOKE HERE, YOU’RE HELD UP BY JUDGES GREAT AND SMALL AS THE EXEMPLAR PROJECT. YOU’VE DONE A GREAT THING”- DEPUTY DIRECTOR TRIBUNALS

Impact

  1.  Cross Government Transformation and Early resolution - 18% of cases are now resolved without a hearing, no longer requiring such a resource intensive and emotionally demanding process. This figure is projected to rise significantly. From our cross-governmental working described earlier, extended through large-scale co-design workshops, new policy, external to our host government department, has been written to enable early case withdrawal - should the evidence (which our service design promotes early on in the appeal lifecycle) demonstrate poor pre-appeal decision-making – appeals are ended early, in favour of the appellant.

    At time of writing, digital uptake is 80% of all appeals submitted. This means 7,200 cases can be resolved in this way – a figure likely to increase – freeing up time and resources for the most complex cases and helping people move on with their lives as soon as possible. Closer working
    relationships between the government departments persists and they continue to build new joint ways of working and service efficiencies.

  2. Effort proportionate to the service phase
    Before, the service was unable to guide delivery of the right information at the right time, leading to bloated and wasteful effort. Our service design ensures that input by all parties is only applied as and when needed. E.g. Application is only 10% the size it used to be, leaving the complex fact finding for a later date, meaning that it’s easy for people to submit appeals and avoid missing their short 14 day window to do so.
    “…[A] COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED TRIBUNAL ... HOPEFULLY OTHER AREAS ARE LOOKING IN AND SEEING THE DIFFERENCE THAT CAN BE MADE”- UK CHARITY

  3. Plain English, inclusive design
    We worked with the judiciary to turn complex legal language into plain English, accessible even to those for whom it's a second language.

  4. An independent judiciary able to provide enablement
    The new service for legal representatives is tied to complex judicial rules and legacy ways of working we weren’t able to change. However, in support of increased access to justice, senior judicial leaders wanted to approach appeals for unpresented appellants afresh, in support of inclusion and accessibility. Our design, sustains the independence of the judiciary, offering in-person and digital enablement techniques, using
    impartial lines of questioning. Appellants are supported to gather evidence and build their cases fit for scrutiny by other government departments and judges during hearings.

    “NEXT TIME WE HAVE A PROBLEM TO SOLVE I WILL REACH FOR STICKY NOTES, SHARPIES AND STICK OUR IDEAS WHERE EVERYONE CAN SEE THEM”- RESIDENT JUDGE

  5. Judges as designers: people powered change
    One hearing centre is now working in partnership with a charity to enable them to offer support for people who lack representation, from within their hearing centre, whilst maintaining the independent nature of the judiciary. Local case workers and judges used design methods learnt from our team to navigate risks that would have impeded such a venture in the past.

  6. An established community of ‘intra’preneur, design-thinkers
    Immigration law is ever-evolving and with Brexit on the horizon, our service manager is now equipped with a thriving community of design-thinkers (judges, caseworkers, operational and policy managers) able to address change with a human-centred approach, well after our project team have left the building.

“…THE BENEFITS ARE CLEAR. IT'S A MODEL FOR HOW YOU SHOULD DO THINGS – A REALLY WELL RUN AND EXECUTED PROJECT." - DIRECTOR TRIBUNALS

Conclusion

Rarely do you get to work on a project with such eye-boggling scope, that seeks radical change across physical and digital dimensions, with human-centred, life-changing objectives at the centre, immersed in long standing legislative roots and established cultures and ways of working.

Our service design is already showing high impact against the initial objectives. The design has reduced the required number of appeal hearings by 18%, changed policy across government departments, brought adversarial bodies together to collaborate on an ongoing basis, enabled new devolved caseworker capabilities, created a more inclusive service for appellants without representation and enabled lighter, digital end-to-end service delivery.

We feel proud to not only leave behind a service design that continues to iterate and scale, but also to have established a large community of civil servants and judicial leads who believe in human-centred design principles and who know how to wield a sharpie and packet of post its without us.

Project Team:

David Singer - Service Design Lead

Natalie Harney - User Research and Service Design

Naomi Grant - User Experience Designer

Francis Harkin - Content Designer Delivery

Damian Stafford - Delivery Manager

Pavanpal Dady - Product Owner

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