A key responsibility of our Parliamentary Unit is the submission of evidence to relevant select committee inquiries. This work ensures that policy makers across the UK are making decisions informed by a sound evidence base, while also developing the role of official statistics in democratic debate.

Vicky Cummings has been on secondment from the ONS to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) since March 2021. She has written a blog about her experiences working for a Select Committee, and how her analytical background has helped her contribute to the Committee’s work.

If, on my first day at ONS, you had told me that 4 years later I would be seconded to a House of Commons Select Committee I probably wouldn’t have believed you (or understood what you were talking about)! But here I am, 8 months into a year long secondment to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine constitutional issues and the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, including the work of the UK Statistics Authority, ONS, and OSR. This video very helpfully explains how Select Committees work.

Prior to this secondment I hadn’t had any experience of working with Select Committees at all; I am a Social Researcher and was previously working in the research and design team in Social Survey Transformation at the ONS, leading on designing Labour Market questions in a respondent centred way. When I saw the secondment advertised on the staff intranet I thought the experience would be an incredible development opportunity, and a quick chat with my mentor confirmed just that.

So, what have I been doing whilst on secondment?

The short answer is, quite a huge variety of things, but to pick a few highlights:

  • Unsurprisingly, I have picked up the Committee’s data/research workstreams, which has involved tying up the Committee’s inquiry into Data Transparency and Accountability during Covid-19 and the recent scrutiny session of the work of the UK Statistics Authority.
  • Helping out on some of the wider committee work; for example, the Committee’s inquiry into Covid-19 Vaccine Certificates and a session on the Work of the Cabinet Office.
  • Getting involved in planning and delivering training around survey design for the Committee teams. I have also joined a couple of wider working groups focusing on accessibility of Committee documents and participation methods. These opportunities have not only allowed me to share some of the great knowledge I gathered from my previous roles at ONS but also provided me with the opportunity to learn about some of the other ways of doing things.
  • As co-chair of the ONS BAME network, I have also been interested in how colleagues in Parliament experience inclusion. I have tried to use this opportunity to explore that further through signing up as a member of their Race Networking, speaking to colleagues and attending events organised by their social mobility and various other networks. I have found it really interesting to reflect on inclusive practices in a different workplace context.

I have really valued the experience that I have gained whilst on secondment. Part of PACAC’s role is to explore how the Authority, ONS and OSR fulfils their mission to Parliament and to the public and it’s been so enlightening to witness the mechanics behind that process.

To find out more about PACAC and their work you can visit their website.