Our digital transformation project would enable us to take a deep dive into website statistics, talk to organisations across the UK, and hold community interviews with users of the Toolkit, and potential users. Eight months on and as we come to the end of the first phase of our user research (thankfully with all the planned community sessions already completed!) we want to share some of what we’ve learned.
In our last post, we talked about what we’d learned from our website statistics. In this post, we take a look at responses to our Toolkit user survey and our interviews and focus group sessions around the UK.
We had a pop-up survey on the Toolkit website for a few months and got loads of great responses. The respondents were varied: some people were going through the asylum and immigration process themselves or were helping a family member to do so; others were volunteers or staff members at refugee and migrant organisations; some were independent volunteers/supporters.
We heard about the different ways that people are using the Toolkit. Some people use it help train volunteers, others use it to explain to clients where they are in the legal process, what might come next and how they can prepare, some people use it to educate themselves.
As well as suggestions for changes we could make to the content and new content that people would like to see, we had so many lovely comments about the Toolkit and how useful it is. People described how the Toolkit was easy to read and clearly presented, using straightforward language and clearly being on the side of the person navigating the legal process. People referred to it being “friendly” and having “clarity of information” as well as liking that it had “lots of detail”. The images and diagrams were mentioned as a particularly useful aspect, as were the translations (with more translated content requested).
Perhaps most concretely, we got a great insight from people sharing actions they had taken as a result of using the Toolkit. These included sitting down when someone first arrives in UK to explain what the process will involve; requesting a copy of the asylum screening interview record; doing a mock interview ahead of the substantive asylum interview; going to visit the location of the asylum interview in advance; requesting travel tickets to asylum interviews; going to support someone who had appeal hearing; going to observe appeal hearings; representing themselves in court; preparing in case of being detained; submitting a fresh claim; and considering whether a judicial review is the right option.
Community interviews and focus group sessions
Part of our research into the “digital behaviour” of Toolkit users and potential users was conducting either one-on-one interviews or focus group sessions in different places across Britain. We did interviews and focus group sessions in Glasgow, Swansea, Liverpool, St Helens, Newcastle and Coventry and we are very grateful to the groups who made that all possible. We are also extremely thankful that we finished the last of these just before the Covid-19 crisis really hit.
The research was both a good opportunity to spend time with group members and see the groups in action, and find out a lot more about how people who are currently navigating the asylum and immigration system, use the internet. The point of this was that after hearing how people use the internet for information-gathering, we can adapt the online Toolkit to better match these digital habits, so that we can more effectively help people to understand their legal situation and have access to justice.
Of course, “people who are currently navigating the asylum and immigration system” is a very diverse group and there was a real range of “digital literacy” but also a clear appetite from many people we spoke to to learn more about how to use the internet to help with their legal situations. As more and more services move online (even before the Covid-19 lockdown), increasing people’s digital skills is a real priority.
There was some diversity in responses depending on where we did the interviews, and also between nationality groups, and predictably, some trends dependent on age and prior education or employment levels, but there were also some unifying themes.
People were generally very aware of how to access free wifi (before the Covid-19 lockdown made this much more challenging), and there were multiple points of access for this in every town/city. We noted the development in this since we first launched the Toolkit in 2012, when free open access wifi was much less prevalent. An area of reflection for us though, is how easy it is for people to engage with the legal information in the Toolkit and make decisions about what they need to do in their legal case if their access to online information is mainly in public spaces, with little control over their environment. People cited poverty as a real barrier to online access, and poor internet connection even when they did know how to access wifi.
People often used the internet for several hours each day, though generally more for entertainment than information-gathering. Lots of people we spoke to use Facebook and WhatApp, almost everyone uses YouTube, very few people use Twitter and hardly anyone used Instagram. Almost everyone was very familiar with using Google Translate (and its limitations), and several people talked about taking photographs of Home Office or other official letters they receive and using Google Translate to understand them.
Everybody we spoke to said they use their mobile phone for accessing the internet, even the few people who had a laptop.
Perhaps like most people using the internet, there was little “website loyalty”. People generally didn’t have a particular website they returned to again and again, they would simply google what they wanted to find out about. We had lots of discussions about how you know if a website can be trusted, and we identified a clear need for more work on raising awareness of what is good information.
What next for the Toolkit
We’ve spent some time collating all the information we’ve gathered from our website statistics analysis, the Toolkit survey responses, and our community research.
We’ve identified several key ways we want to transform the Toolkit to make it more user-friendly, and more effective at increasing knowledge, understanding and confidence when navigating a very complicated legal process.
The next step (which we’re very lucky won’t be too affected by the current situation) is designing prototypes of new ways of displaying the Toolkit content, and doing some online testing. Then, when face-to-face work is again possible, we’ll be going back to the community groups we first worked with and asking their members what they think about the design and how they would change them.
There’s a lot of work still to do, but it’s been a fascinating experience and we’re energised by all that we have learned and the opportunity to have even more positive impact.
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