Inclusive Data Principle 7

Harmonised standards for relevant groups and populations should be reviewed at least every five years and updated and expanded where necessary, in line with changing social norms and respondent and user needs. 

Our approach

ONS will consult stakeholders, data experts, users and people with lived experience for an initial and ongoing review of standards to ensure we are keeping pace with societal change.

ONS will publish a Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation Plan in early 2022, which will set out plans and timescales for review and updating of current harmonised standards and guidance for the collection of data on equality characteristics (see Inclusive Data Principle 5).

This GSS Harmonisation Plan will set out the planned frequency of review of harmonised standards and guidance in order that data collection keeps pace with societal change. New governance for overseeing the delivery of the work on harmonisation across the GSS will be created. ONS will act in a convening role to identify relevant initiatives within the UK statistical system and facilitate sharing of knowledge and best practice.

ONS will continue to work collaboratively across UK government and the devolved administrations through the Inter Administration Committee and the GSS Analysis & Evaluation Committee to facilitate the production of coherent statistics across the UK statistical system. The recently updated Concordat on Statistics sets out the jointly agreed framework for statistical collaboration between the UK Government, and the Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Welsh Governments. This collaboration will help build the foundation for an inclusive statistical system across the UK.

Current and planned work

  • As part of the user engagement activity supporting the National Statistician’s recommendation on the future of the census and population statistics, ONS will play an active role internationally in the development of harmonised standards, including with United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) /Eurostat on the 2030 Census Recommendations on population concepts and related definitions. This will ensure that the development of new standards and definitions continues to draw on international collaboration and best practice. User engagement and the evaluation of user requirements will take place during 2022 and into 2023 with publication of the recommendation in 2023.
  • The ONS-led Titchfield City Group on Ageing-related Statistics and Age-disaggregated Data, which includes members from National Statistical Offices, from United Nations agencies, multilateral and bilateral agencies, academics, and civil society organisations, will continue work to develop reference guidance. Through 2022, 2023 and 2024, the group will develop workplans with publication of recommendations in 2025.

  • ONS will publish a GSS Harmonisation Plan in early 2022 (see Inclusive Data Principle 5). This will set out plans and timescales for reviewing and updating the harmonised standards and guidance for the conceptual measures relating to equality characteristics, covering different data collection modes including face to face interviewing, telephone and online.
  • ONS will set out plans for regular review and updating of harmonised standards and guidance as part of the GSS Harmonisation Plan.
  • Following consultation with stakeholders and data producers including the devolved administrations, ONS will design and implement new governance arrangements in Spring 2022 for monitoring and delivering the GSS Harmonisation Plan.
  • ONS will review the June 2021 published GSS Coherence Work Programme in collaboration across the 4 nations of the UK to ensure that it has a strong focus on inclusivity. An updated coherence Work Programme will be published in 2022.
  • The Cabinet Office’s Equality Hub will work collaboratively with ONS and other government departments and agencies to promote and improve the use of harmonised categories for different characteristics, reflectingthe commitments in the Race Disparity Unit’s Quality Improvement Plan, and the Disability Data Improvement programme, providing greater coherence of data collection, analysis and reporting across public sector organisations. This work will be ongoing over the next 3 years.
  • The Cabinet Office’s Equality Hub will work with local authorities to understand data availability for different groups and recommend where it might be improved with regard to harmonisation and other data quality issues, reflecting the commitment from the Race Disparity Unit’s Quality Improvement Plan. The remit of the work will be expanded to include other protected characteristics. Work will commence in early 2022 and continue in 2023.

  • Reflecting the recommendation from the third quarterly report on Progress to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities, the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit will work with other Government Departments and agencies to understand when data collections will move to new harmonised standards for ethnicity.Timeframes are dependent on the GSS Harmonisation Plan.
  • HMRC will introduce new data collection standards for HMRC surveys using GSS harmonised standards. Agreement will be sought for the introduction of new data standards and dissemination across HMRC during 2022.
  • Innovate UK will work with the GSS Harmonisation team in ONS as part of their review of data collection methods.
  • The UK Research and Innovation Prevention Research Partnership (UKRI PRP) funded Violence, Health and Society Consortium (VISION) (City, University of London) will bring together data producers and data users in the fields of health, civil justice, criminal justice and Third Sector providers of specialised services to victims or survivors, to provide a forum for engagement to enable harmonisation of data. Initial engagement with multiple data users and producers will take place in 2022, with proposals for data harmonisation informed by theory and engagement in 2023.

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