Capturing our learning

The research and evaluation team are involved in a wide variety of projects and are crucial in capturing what is happening across the criminal justice system and understanding how meaningful system change occurs.

User research

This year we conducted two pieces of user research for HM Courts and Tribunals. This work reflected our strategic aim to ensure that the courts recognise and respond to people with multiple vulnerabilities.

The first piece focused on how HMCTS call handlers understand and respond to users with multiple and complex needs. We saw major service design impact from this work including a new communication approach for call handling staff, which was subsequently tested at our lived experience forums.

This work also prompted HMCTS to develop a specialist support and training to call handling staff and the adoption of a trauma-informed approach to call handling.

The second piece of work with HMCTS was on behalf of the Crime Reform Programme. This user research was focused on understanding the defendant’s engagement with the courts process – both face to face and in video remand hearings.  This work is ongoing and we see huge potential for its impact as it is the first time that the Crime Reform Programme has heard directly from defendants. Video remand is particularly relevant in context of increasing use of video to reduce risk of spreading Covid-19.

Miriam Davidson, Head of Inclusive Service Design, HM Courts and Tribunals Service: “The work Revolving Doors completed [for HMCTS] has been instrumental in shaping the work for my team for the remainder of the year. The research demonstrated clear design challenges that we need to consider as we design any services for our users with multiple and complex needs.”

Peer Research

We are continuing to develop our approach to peer research, focusing on the input of peers at key points of the research process in order to add the most strategic value and therefore have the greatest impact.

Recently, we led a successful peer research project with HMI Probation which looked at service user involvement in probation services. We were really pleased with the feedback we received from the HMI Probation team, which included an article in Probation Quarterly.

Emma Sweet, peer researcher, quoted in Probation Quarterly 14: “Being involved from the start of the process, through co-designing the questionnaires, really gave the [Lived Experience Team] the opportunity to use our experience to give a different perspective on some aspects of the questions. It also allowed us to help shape the direction in regard to who to target to get the key information required for this project.”


Through our evaluations, we’ve supported services that work with people in the ‘revolving door’ across the country, from Teesside to Bristol, and Birmingham to Brighton.

We have carried out a series of evaluations from our learning partnership with Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT) programme. Birmingham Changing Futures Together is one of twelve Fulfilling Lives: Supporting People with Multiple Needs sites funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. You can read our series of Birmingham Changing Futures Together evaluations here.

Our latest piece of work is evaluating St Giles Trust peer advisor network. We’re really excited for this project as it will enable us to gather learnings from very different geographical locations and devolved areas, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This work is also very strongly aligned to our strategic aims: systems change through lived experience involvement and coproduction.

We’ve been able to engage ‘hard to reach’ groups in our work and continued to learn about the barriers and issues facing vulnerable and disadvantaged people, and the health, social care, criminal justice and other systems surrounding them. Our evaluations have helped to deliver service improvements, influencing approaches to support and partnership working.

Paul Sargent, St Mungo’s Service Manager: “Your evaluations have literally shaped our plans and service design. We wouldn’t now be looking into work with acute hospital trusts and their emergency departments without last years (sic).”

By measuring impact of different programmes and interventions we’ve been able to compare and understand what works to support people facing multiple and complex needs and different sub-groups within this, such as women, ex-offenders and people experiencing homelessness.

Looking ahead

Finally, this year we’ve doubled our research capacity, and therefore our potential for impact. Lauren Bennett, a dedicated evaluations specialist, was recruited as our new Evaluations Manager last year. Most recently, Phil Mullen joined the team as Research Manager who brings expertise and passion for participatory peer research. Phil will be focusing on new independent research and cross-organisational learning and impact. You’ll be hearing from both over the next few weeks as part of this series.

If you have any questions about any of research mentioned in this blog, please contact