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Prison Visit Booking - Service Assessment

The Prison Visit Booking service meets the needs of prison visitors to book social visits easily and at their convenience. It does this by improving the booking experience by making it easier to book, being available 24/7 unlike booking phone lines, and making the booking process quicker. It also meets the needs of prisoners by supporting rehabilitation through increased social visits as staff can process more visits more quickly. Visitors can submit details of the prisoner, up to six visitors and select three alternative booking slots to increase the likelihood that a visit can be booked. Submission results in an auto notification email being received by the visitor and an email with all the relevant details being received by prison visits booking staff in the prison social visits mailbox. HMPS staff then make a booking in the backend system and reply to the visitor's booking request email with booking confirmation details.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
N. Williams

Service Manager:
T. Duarte

Digital Leader:
M. Coates

Assessment Report

The Prison Visits Booking service is seeking permission to be branded a live, Digital by Default service on the domain.

Outcome of service assessment

The assessment panel can confirm the service has shown sufficient evidence of meeting the standard, and should go live as a service on GOV.UK. This means the service can now remove its Beta branding.


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

It was clear that the service team have put users at the heart of every decision in developing the service as it progressed from alpha to live. The team demonstrated that the service is technically safe to operate, and that the team has the skills, capacity, infrastructure and processes in place to operate a high quality service and continually monitor and improve it - including detailed plans to integrate with p-NOMIS to provide real-time bookings. The assessment panel were pleased with the level of commitment from the team, and MOJ, to support and iterate the service on an ongoing basis. The assessment panel’s recommendations from the beta assessment have been addressed, and the team is now doing very good work to gather, publish, interpret and act on analytics data in order to improve the service.

Of particular note, the assessment panel felt that the team’s approach to designing assisted digital (AD) support has been exemplary. The team demonstrated a strong focus on user needs for AD, basing support on findings from significant user research across potential channels. It was encouraging that MOJ has a user researcher dedicated to AD user needs, ensuring consistency of AD support across MoJ services. The AD support meets the cross-government assisted digital model, including clear communication of the support, user needs assessment and performance measurement. The team showed that they were committed to improving this support when live, through a user survey and ongoing analysis of call metrics. The service is ahead of its target for digital take-up and has plans to review this.


The assessment panel observed a number of specific ways in which the service’s content and user interface design could be improved. The assessment panel have documented these and sent them to the service team separately. The document includes a few points which we require the service team to address before they remove the Beta branding from the service, and some further suggestions which should be addressed or discussed with us as soon as possible thereafter.

With regards to AD and digital take-up, the assessment panel also recommend that the service team:

  • continue to monitor AD support closely in the first few months and keep in contact with staff on the ground to make sure the service team pick up on any points for improving the support
  • work with the GDS AD team to develop performance measurement criteria for assisted digital, to be included on the performance platform
  • develop the digital take-up plan further to show how you will encourage your service users to take-up and become independent users of your digital service and to build in clear profiling which takes into account planned improvements to the digital service

Next steps

This service has been given approval to go Live as a Digital by Default service. It is already operating at a subdomain, so this is just a matter of removing the Beta branding after addressing the recommendations as above.

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