Send money to a prisoner - Beta Assessment

The report from the beta assessment for MoJ's Send money to a prisoner service on 08 July 2016.

Stage Beta
Result Met
Service provider MOJ Digital & Technology

The service met the Standard because:

  • User needs were thoroughly understood and influenced every aspect of the service’s development
  • The team is complete, high functioning and focussed on user needs
  • The most appropriate technologies have been used and changed as necessary
  • The design closely follows the Service Design Manual’s style guide and the team will share variations they’ve developed and explain the reasoning behind the changes
  • Analytics have been well implemented across all service components with the data being used to influence future development

About the service

Service Manager: Tony Duarte

Digital Leader: Matthew Coats

The service allows the family and friends of prisoners to send money via online banking. This is achieved by providing customers with a tool that generates a unique reference for the payment. The unique reference is a combination of the prisoner’s number and date of birth - both of which are validated within the tool then presented as a formatted reference number.

Detail of the assessment

Lead Assessor: Allon Lister

User needs

The panel was impressed by the team’s deep understanding of user needs of both internal and external users. It was positive to also see the emotional needs from internal and external users. This understanding extended to the prisoners themselves and the team explained how lack of money, or extended timeframes to receive money could impact their self-esteem and in some cases, physical safety.

The panel was also pleased to see that broader issues around privacy for those sending money to prisoners had also been considered.

The panel felt that there was an opportunity for greater face to face research with external users and users with accessibility needs this is outlined in the recommendations.


The team is well formed and essentially complete. It’s clear that user research and understanding of user needs is very much an activity for the team as a whole.


We were very impressed by the team’s use of technology. They have changed technology since the Alpha due to a better fit for the team and problem. The team is still using a “swivel chair” implementation to perform the data entry, but the operators needs have been considered and the API implementation is on the roadmap for future iteration.

The team have selected appropriate technologies, hosting the service on a highly reliable public cloud, and using it to good effect.

It’s clear that where there are gaps in the service, the team is looking to test hypothesis about how to best fill those gaps, and use technology where appropriate rather than being driven by technology solutions.


The team have demonstrated the MVP was based on user needs and demand, tackling money to prisoners first, with plans to develop the service to consider both disbursements (prisoners sending money to friends and family) and discharges (giving money back to prisoners when they leave).

The team have considered the needs of the back office staff, building separate task focused tools for the needs of the business hub staff and the security staff, carrying out contextual research with staff in their place of work.

The design was consistent with the GOV.UK design patterns and style guide. There were some deviations from the styles in the case management tools. These should be documented on the hackpad, with user research evidence, and shared with the wider design community.


Analytics is well implemented across the public and staff facing components of the service. It was evident to the panel that data gathered from analytics, along with user research, is producing actionable insights that are being used to influence the service’s features and development.


To pass the next assessment, the service team must:

  • Demonstrate substantial direct contact and research with users and potential users of the service.
  • Undertake user research around accessibility issues, on the internal and external users.
  • Contribute any deviations from the design patterns to the hackpad and design community


Send Money to a Prisoner is a great example of how to create effective and impactful digital services that meet user needs and produce business value. It’s exciting and encouraging to see a useful and usable service that’s being developed with absolute focus on user needs.

In addition to the necessary skills and experience, the team demonstrated deep understanding and genuine passion for the service and this is evident in the development to date.

We advise the team to act on the recommendations above and we very much look forward to seeing how the service has iterated when the team return for the service’s live assessment.

Digital Service Standard points

Point Description Result
1 Understanding user needs Met
2 Improving the service based on user research and usability testing Met
3 Having a sustainable, multidisciplinary team in place Met
4 Building using agile, iterative and user-centred methods Met
5 Iterating and improving the service on a frequent basis Met
6 Evaluating tools, systems, and ways of procuring them Met
7 Managing data, security level, legal responsibilities, privacy issues and risks Met
8 Making code available as open source Met
9 Using open standards and common government platforms Met
10 Testing the end-to-end service, and browser and device testing Met
11 Planning for the service being taken temporarily offline Met
12 Creating a simple and intuitive service Met
13 Ensuring consistency with the design and style of GOV.UK Met
14 Encouraging digital take-up Met
15 Using analytics tools to collect and act on performance data Met
16 Defining KPIs and establishing performance benchmarks Met
17 Reporting performance data on the Performance Platform Met
18 Testing the service with the minister responsible for it Met
Published 17 March 2017