Strategic Aim 5: Invest in service improvement, innovation and technology
The report found that significant change management support would be required to deliver innovative service improvement using technology. It suggested that savings in legal aid expenditure should be invested in technology that would benefit service delivery and client access.
As justice system reforms progress, technology is likely to be a central element, and court business will rely on it in the future. Clients are more likely to use technology for transactional purposes and, of course, it presents opportunities to improve access to legal services. Providers will have to adapt to meet the changing needs of their clients. We want businesses to survive and thrive, but there is a responsibility on the providers to ensure this happens too.
The Scottish Government considers that investment in online services is important in supporting access to justice. As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century online services and information are, for many, the first step in obtaining assistance. It is clear from the Review that, for civil justiciable problems, on-line information may be lacking or difficult to find. We have begun the process to significantly develop Scottish Government online advice services such as mygov.scot to provide citizens with a one-stop shop for advice and information and signpost them to direct assistance if required. This will include pro formas which will empower members of the public to resolve issues on their own and links to third sector advice services and law centres. Our strategic vision includes that we have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others. We will continue to work with third sector partners and support them to improve their online presence and capabilities. Views will be sought on how we achieve this. In particular we will discuss with Citizens Advice Scotland its views on the recommendation which directly impact on it.
The Scottish Government is responding to an increasing shift in Scottish society towards reliance on online information and self-help in every day transactions by developing and growing the mygov.scot website. With its growth comes the challenge of getting people to the right information and helping them to access the most appropriate services to meet their needs.
To assist with this the content team for mygov.scot are currently working with CivTech to develop a digital conversational search tool on relationship breakdown. Initial research involved user experience mapping with participants who had been through the experience of separating from a partner in different circumstances. It revealed a number of user research insights around the user experience.
To support the development of the technology, the Scottish Government recognises that user experience is a key criteria. CivTech have recently undertaken further user research interviews to see if a tool would potentially create a better user experience for users at crisis point or dealing with complex situations and will consider the outcome of the user research report before considering next steps.
We would want a new legal aid service to invest in, promote and reward innovation and efficiency. Funding is a challenge and diverting funds away from front line delivery is not always an easy, or popular, decision particularly when results are not always immediately felt.
However, technology can be used to improve efficiency and quality. As justice system reforms progress, technology is likely to be a central element, and court business will rely on it in future. Clients are more likely to use technology for transactional purposes and of course it presents opportunities to improve access to legal services.
The report suggests that innovation within publicly funded legal assistance should be supported financially and rewarded, and that projected reductions in the demand-led legal aid budget over the next decade should be reinvested in online systems and other innovative technology. The Scottish Government supports the aim to invest in innovation, although reductions in demand-led budgets cannot be guaranteed. We will continue to work with justice agencies and legal professionals to identify credible opportunities to invest in technology.
We envisage a new legal aid service being equipped to harness new technology and develop new approaches for the benefit of all who are involved. That would best be delivered by a legal framework that can adapt to technological advances, and is funded to enable that to happen. The independent review of the regulation of legal services report, Fit for the Future addresses some of the challenges in using technology within the legal sector and makes some interesting recommendations. Progress in delivering those recommendations, which will also be subject to public consultation, may help to inform development of a structure that could be adopted for the reformed legal aid service.
Email: Shona Urquhart