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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Listening to anglers is helping to improve our fishing licence service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Defra services, User research

A pair of hands, holding a fishing rod and reel.

As National Fishing Month gets underway again, we hear from Jenny Yates, Service Owner in our ‘I Want to Fish’ team, about what our latest user research into digital fishing licences shows, and what future improvements anglers might see as a result.

A year ago my colleague Melinda wrote about the progress we’ve been making to develop our digital fishing licences. It was in Spring 2021 that we released the first iteration of the digital 12-month fishing licence.

For the moment this remains just one of the options for users, as we recognise that not everyone can access digital technology or have the confidence to do so. So, for now we’re keeping the paper version too. That being said, since we took the step to begin going digital, we’ve had some great feedback from those who have opted to receive their licence by email or text rather than through the post.

The numbers moving to digital are encouraging

Up to 40% of our anglers are now opting for digital licences but we want to increase this percentage further. We want more of anglers’ licence fees to go straight back into angling, fisheries improvement projects and enforcement rather than on print costs which mostly are now unnecessary. You can see where every penny of rod licence income goes in the Fisheries Annual Report.

We wanted to understand why a large proportion of our users were still settling for a paper licence through the post rather than a text or email. So, we created a survey and circulated it to 2000 anglers who had recently bought a licence. We also commissioned a market research company to call up 100 anglers who had told us they do not like being communicated with by email.

This group was particularly important to us because we presumed they would have lower levels of digital confidence. We found that among other reasons, the anxiety of not being able to locate their licence on their phone because of signal, battery, or inbox issues, was key.

We are now reviewing our in service content to understand how we can allay some of those fears for anglers and support them better in being able to present their digital licence when required. For example, we recognise some anglers will want to print their licence at home or take screen shots.

A purple background with white text which reads. "Perfect, especially as you can have a licence sent as a text." "It’s great to now have the paperless option and save money that can be spent in other more relevant areas covered by the fee." "In my opinion the service is improving year on year. I also applaud the option to go paperless if required." "Excellent idea going paperless." "It is easy and simple, but make sure everyone goes paperless." "System is easy to use. Paperless is beneficial to all. It would be difficult to improve a great website." "I love the idea of paperless licenses."

Capturing the views of those working in the field

We’ve also been speaking to our Fisheries Enforcement Officers, who confirmed that they frequently see screenshots as proof of licence, meaning that sometimes not all relevant information is contained on the screen shot, depending on where in the online journey the angler has taken it from. This leads to more lengthy and difficult licence checks.

We’re now reviewing common screenshot points within the journey to assess whether the information covered in these points can be more consistent with all standard information required for an enforcement officer to conduct a licence check. After all, a key part of our service vision is allowing anglers to relax and enjoy their fishing. Due to limitations presented by screen shots when it comes to our enforcement officers being able to verify whether they are genuine, additional checks will be required.

What else we have planned

The good news doesn’t end there though. We’re exploring a whole array of other improvements which would make the life of the angler easier, and give anglers more bang for their buck.

  • For example, we’re hoping to introduce automatic payments for our customers next year. This will create a recurring payment schedule if a user requests and consents to this. It means that anglers coming back to the GOV.UK service year on year to enter the same details will be a thing of the past.
  • And we expect to be moving to Gov Notify for all our licence printing needs from next year; once again adding the benefit of reduced costs in this area means more money can go  back into angling.
  • During the recent wet weather, we’ve also noticed that licence sales have been dropping, perhaps inevitably given how long we’ve been in this rainy period. So, we're using Power BI to identify buying trends and to map sales data against rainfall, among other things.
  • Finally, we've commissioned an independent accessibility audit. When we implement recommendations from this we hope to be ranked as a 'great' service by the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO). The CDDO is the Cabinet Office body responsible for leading the way with digital development in government.

Jenny Yates is a Service Owner in the Defra Digital Data and Technology Services ‘I Want to Fish’ team.

National Fishing Month is an initiative created by the Angling Trades Association to encourage more people to get a taste for fishing and enjoy time by the water. The Environment Agency, Angling Trust, Canal & River Trust, and Angling Trades Association, joining forces to make fishing part of every family’s to-do list this summer.

For queries about rod licensing, including how to purchase a digital licence, please visit the 'Buy a rod fishing licence' web pages.

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