Applications are invited for two evaluation fellows to explore the feasibility of using administrative data to evaluate policy and practice interventions in the justice system. Fellows will use quasi-experimental methods to understand whether specific interventions are effective at delivering intended outcomes, such as:
- reducing reoffending
- protecting the public
- delivering swift access to justice.
The evaluation fellows will access de-identified and linked administrative data made available in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS) or the SAIL Databank through the Data First programme, led by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and funded by Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK). They will use this existing linked data to explore interactions across justice services over time, including courts, prisons and probation services, and assess the impact of changes in policy and practice on user outcomes.
Possible areas of focus for the projects include:
- criminal justice
- family law
- civil law
- court reform.
The aim of the evaluation fellowships is to establish whether different policies and practices within the justice system are effective in delivering intended outcomes of reducing reoffending, protecting the public and delivering swift access to justice.
Evaluation fellows will help to fill vital evidence gaps, including those outlined in the MoJ areas of research interest 2020 (GOV.UK) and contribute to better evidence-based policy across the justice system.
Fellows will work alongside MoJ teams to co-design the evaluation programme, and identify the most policy-relevant, timely and impactful evaluations that are feasible with the data.
Examples of areas that the evaluation fellows could focus on to inform policy and practice include:
- criminal justice: looking at the frequency of reappearance and reconviction before the criminal courts for specific groups of offenders who differ in a key outcome (such as sentencing, custody or post-custody supervision) because of legislative, policy or practice changes. Fellows could also explore strategic crime prevention priorities, looking at the impact on reoffending of different sentencing outcomes for high-frequency recurrent offences, such as burglary and vehicle crime
- family law: exploring the impact of changes to processes, practices or policy (for example, the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce or the implementation of a 26-week timeframe for public law cases) on volume, cost and return rate of cases through the family courts
- civil law: assessing the impact of recent changes in housing law, such as legislation preventing bailiff enforcement of evictions during the pandemic in England on the numbers of orders made and enforced
- court reform: evaluating an aspect of the complex and wide-ranging HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) reform programme (for example, the impact of digital services on access to justice), in line with the HMCTS Reform Evaluation Framework.
This aligns with the UK government’s National Data Strategy to transform the government’s use of data, including unlocking the potential of linked administrative data, to understand the impact of services and make improvements that benefit service users.
The fellowships will follow three phases.
Scoping phase (three months, February 2023 to April 2023)
Fellows will work with the following to co-design the evaluation activity:
- HM Prison and Probation Service
- ADR UK.
They will submit their project proposals to data owners and the ONS-administered independent Research Accreditation Panel for approval.
Implementation phase (12 months, May 2023 to April 2024)
The fellows will explore the feasibility of using Data First datasets to evaluate policy and practice interventions and conduct quasi-experimental evaluations using linked justice administrative datasets. The fellows will provide regular updates and discuss their progress at project board meetings.
Impact phase (three months, May 2024 to July 2024)
The fellows will disseminate their findings to key stakeholders across MoJ and other government departments, as well as HM Treasury. Findings will be published as appropriate on GOV.UK and the ADR UK website, with associated academic publications in open access formats.
Fellows will be embedded within an MoJ team with the support of a line manager and other team members. MoJ staff are based in several locations nationally, offering geographic diversity. We anticipate the fellow will adopt a hybrid approach, working flexibly between home and the MoJ office (or offices) to connect with colleagues as necessary.
The fellows will work with analysts at the MoJ to identify scope for further quasi-experimental evaluation activity, using data from the ONS SRS, that explore priority evidence gaps. The fellows will also produce user guides to support future researchers wishing to conduct impact evaluations using justice data in the SRS, as well as ‘Data Explained’ outputs to share learning on the usability and limitations of the data.
The objectives are as follows:
- scope the feasibility of linked administrative datasets to understand their potential to address justice policy and practice interventions
- deliver evaluation findings with clear policy and practice implications for the criminal, civil and family justice systems
- engage with MoJ analysts, policymakers and operational colleagues to ensure insights are effectively understood and disseminated
- demonstrate the value of using existing administrative data for impact evaluation purposes and build a strong economic case for expanding work in this area
- work alongside MoJ analysts to build capability in quasi-experimental design methods.
The full economic cost of your project can be up to £177,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. If your application is linked to another applicant as a proposed job share, the total cost of the combined applications should not exceed the full economic cost of £177,500.
Training and development
The fellows will benefit from wider support, networking opportunities, and learning and development available to MoJ Data and Analysis colleagues. They will be supported by the MoJ Evidence and Partnerships Hub in the translation, dissemination and application of their work for policymakers, including through knowledge exchange opportunities such as seminars and roundtables.
About the data
Fellows will access linked MoJ data for England and Wales, hosted by ONS SRS or the SAIL Databank.
The datasets provide rich information on people and cases as they interact across the criminal and family courts, prisons and probation services. Linking these datasets provides new and unique opportunities to enhance understanding of the pathways, needs and outcomes of justice system users.
- magistrates’ court defendant case level
- Crown Court defendant case level
- prisoner custodial journeys
- family courts (which can be linked to Cafcass data by SAIL)
- criminal courts, prisons and probation linking
- MoJ Department for Education datashare.
Further information about the content of these datasets can be found in individual data catalogues and a user guide, published on the GOV.UK website (MoJ Data First).