Designs for the future

Next steps for design at HM Courts and Tribunal Service and next steps for me

Jen Staves
3 min readNov 2, 2022
An image of a blank A5 sketchbook, open, with a black pen resting on it.
Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

About 6 months ago, I joined HM Courts and Tribunal Service as Head of User-Centred Design, on loan from DfE. It was the right opportunity at the right time, for three reasons:

  • A chance to stretch across user-centred design, with delivery accountabilities.
  • A chance to shape the future of user-centred design at HMCTS, as when I joined, most of the team were on fixed-term contracts, due to finish at the end of March 2023, when Reform ends.
  • A chance to work in a place where every single service really matters to individual people, and where getting that wrong affects people’s lives.

I’ve learned so much in the last 6 months, and we’ve been able to achieve a lot.

User-centred design secured

I’m really excited that we’ve been able to show the business that user-centred design matters, and that they’ve agreed to fund it in perpetuity. That’s a massive win for all the content designers, interaction designers, user researchers, service designers and performance analysts who have been doing brilliant work. It also means we can go out to recruit MORE permanent civil servants across the team!

Senior Service Designer

Interaction Designers

Junior Interaction Designers

Junior Content Designers

Performance analyst

I can tell you that for each of these professions, the people are amazing and the communities are super supportive. Here are a few of the community things we have in place:

  • Cross-HMCTS Design and Research Community — the third Thursday afternoon every month, tackling big, crunchy issues and learning from each other
  • Ringfenced specialist community of practice time on the first Monday of every month from 3–4 (all at the same time so we can make sure we’re not pulled into other work)
  • Ad-hoc development days for the communities
  • Community crossovers — like Nad and Ros talked about in this blogpost
  • Talking about our work — regular blogposts (next one up is about performance analysis, then service design and user research — I’ll add the links in here!)

Fancy doing my role?

There’s also one more role up for grabs — you might have noticed it on Jukesie’s Public Sector jobs list — Head of Design. Spoiler alert: that’s my role, but slightly different. And that’s because…

I’ve accepted an offer to join HMRC as their Deputy Director for Design in the Making Tax Digital Programme, and I’ll join later this month. It’s really exciting — a chance to work on a programme that’s well-funded, high-profile, with lots of ministerial interest. And a chance to work on a programme that has loads of potential to benefit from brilliant service design and a focus on the customer experience.

I’m actually a little gutted to leave HM Courts and Tribunal Service. The people are great, the services matter, there’s lots of work to do. But those who know me know I’m a huge believer of getting design into the SCS levels, so this is an opportunity I can’t miss.

But back to my current role — the one you could apply for! We’ve tweaked it slightly — although I have loved how broad my remit was, now that we know how the teams will be structured for the future, we decided it should focus on content, interaction and service design — and that the performance analysts would move to the User Research team, making the most of combining qualitative and quantitative insights. We also have moved the business analysts into the business analysis function that already existed — making sure they benefit the most from being grounded in their community of practice.

So if you think you’d be interested, go for it! There’s so much good stuff to do and good people to work with and important services to make good.



Jen Staves

User-centred design and service delivery leadership.Head of UCD. @hmctsgovuk, formerly @dfe_digitaltech @explorewellcome @explorify @tradegovuk.