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Fee Remission - Self Certification

Fee Remission is a HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) service for users in receipt of state benefits or on low income. The service offers users a simple way either to exempt themselves from paying court or tribunal fees or to have refunded the fees users have already paid.

Of the c. 500,000 paper applications to HMCTS for fee remission each year, approximately 75 percent are currently being rejected. Many of that number are themselves resubmissions. Often the people applying are eligible for fee remission, but they fail to fill out the form correctly, so their application is rejected.

The Fee Remission service under assessment will have three interrelated parts:

  1. a user-centric and more easily completed paper application form; which feeds into
  2. a software application for court staff to check with the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) whether the applicant is in receipt of benefits or on low income; then based on learning from 1) and 2)
  3. a digital form to replace the paper form

HMCTS was already undertaking work to redesign the existing paper form in parallel with the creation of the Fee Remission service. The team took the opportunity to collaborate with their HMCTS colleagues.

Through this collaboration, the team were able to use feedback from the redesign of the paper form to inform the design of the digital service. The team was also able to start collecting the applicant’s National Insurance number on the paper form, a necessary step for the creation of the court-facing app.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:
Alpha Review

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
J. Busuttil

Service Manager:
A. Woodcock

Digital Leader:
M. Coats

Assessment Report

The Fee Remission service has been reviewed against the 26 points of the Service Standard at the end of the alpha development.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration the assessment panel has concluded the Fee Remission service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development.


The service was assessed against all 26 points of the Digital by Default Service Standard.

The service currently meets the requirements of the standard for an alpha. Areas of good performance against the standard included:

User needs

The assessment panel felt that the service team’s research into user needs was particularly strong for this relatively early stage of development. The team has been working with the Personal Support Unit (PSU), a charity that provides free, independent advice to litigants in person, witnesses, victims, their family members and supporters, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB).

The team has conducted interviews, comparative usability testing of paper forms, and guerilla research with members of the public, PSU and CAB staff, and court staff in Birmingham, Bristol, Salford, Wolverhampton and the Central Family Court in London.

By the date of the alpha assessment, the team had spoken to 35 users, observed 36 forms being filled out, of which 7 were members of the public making actual applications for fee remission.

The team

The team has also been working closely with their colleagues in HMCTS in an agile manner. They have shared their research findings with them, and are helping them to redesign the paper form to be more user-centric based on the evidence gathered so far.

One example of this approach was to remove the need for the public to write down the applicable court fees on the paper form. The fee amount varies and court staff are better placed to record the correct fee required. Making this change is expected to remove one of the main causes of form rejection.

Analysis and benchmarking

The assessment panel liked how the team was using the redesign and testing of the paper form as a method of gathering user needs for the design of the court-facing app.


Security, privacy, tools and standards

  • Although the Information Asset Owner (IAO) and Accreditor are acting as the team’s conduits to the Senior Information Risk Officer (SIRO), the team still needs to obtain a risk appetite statement directly from the SIRO.
  • Check whether the service will be subject to assessment using the Requirements for Secure Delivery of Online Public Services (RSDOPS).
  • When delivering the public-facing digital form later in development, re-engage with GDS to assess whether user needs prompt the use of GOV.UK Verify
  • Ensure the team is familiar with the roles and responsibilities of data protection.
  • Be clear on what the cookie policy needs to be for the Fee Remission service, rather than assuming it will be the same as for GOV.UK
  • Work with central web ops team to clarify and document how the new deployment processes will work for the Fee Remission service.
  • Carry out capacity and load testing on the digital service, even though traffic patterns to the service are predictable and anticipated to be of low volume.
  • Carry out CESG’s IT Healthcheck Service (CHECK) initially, and whenever there are significant changes to the technical architecture.

Open source

  • Add the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) open source source licence to the public code repositories.

Assisted digital and channel shift

  • Check the assisted digital needs of court staff with HMCTS and HR.

Analysis and benchmarking

  • Ensure the method of assessing staff time before and after does not rely on reporting methods outside of the team’s control, or which may become difficult to compare consistently if changed (BMS codes).
  • Use scorecarding methodology to track user satisfaction on the paper form, the staff-facing app, and the subsequent digital form.
  • Consider measuring the reduction in amount of time people spend with PSU or CAB assistants to complete a form successfully.
  • Consider what organisational support (training etc.) HMCTS may need to provide for the phased roll-out through the 150 courts.
  • Identify sources for and start gathering data for digital take-up in advance of the creation of the digital form replacing the paper form.
  • In advance of establishing the public-facing digital service, consider creating an operational dashboard to monitor key metrics and make it available to HMCTS.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes