Dame Julia Cleverdon (Chair)
Tina Chui (Statistics Canada)
Dr Evelyn Collins (former Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
Sam Freedman (Institute for Government)
Professor Anthony Heath (University of Oxford)
Lela Kogbara (Black Thrive Global)
Si Chun Lam (West Midlands Combined Authority)
Professor Shannon Vallor (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Milly Zimeta (Former Director of Policy, Open Data Institute)
Emma Hickman (item 3 only)
Libby Richards (item 3 only)
Paola Serafino (item 4 only)
Professor Jenny Gibson (University of Cambridge, Nesta)
Professor Uzo Iwobi (Race Council Cymru)
Professor Tom Shakespeare (LSHTM)
1. Welcome and Introductions
The Chair welcomed members to the fourth meeting of the NSIDAC and introduced Si Chun Lam as a new member of the committee. Si outlined his role in the West Midlands Combined Authority, emphasising the importance of creating connections and bringing data together to benefit organisations, to make the right decisions. The other members present also gave a brief overview of their backgrounds.
The Chair noted apologies from those absent. She noted the updates on the action log, with Louise Vesely-Shore (ONS) providing a further update on action 2.06 advising that Evelyn Collins has liaised virtually with the ONS Harmonisation Team and is content with the team’s approach to managing complex legal and user needs in developing and reviewing standards. Work to secure funding for the proposed national survey of disabled people was discussed, with Shannon Vallor outlining her involvement. Shannon attended one of the workshops hosted by the Cabinet Office, and highlighted discussions around the scope, aims and how to make sure the survey is accessible.
The committee emphasised their support for this survey. They discussed the potential to engage with the Department for Education to understand how this survey may benefit understanding of disabilities in children/education, in the context of the DfE’s recent review of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision. As a leader of the national SEND strategy is due to be appointed shortly, they may benefit from access to improved data. Responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were also highlighted.
Action: ONS to confirm scope of survey and whether there has already been engagement with the Department for Education.
Action: Chair to send Claire Coutinho, Minister at the Department for Education, a note asking about involving children in the survey, and how to make this happen if supported.
2. IDTF Implementation Progress
Louise Vesely-Shore (ONS) presented on Q4 2022 progress towards implementing the Inclusive Data Taskforce recommendations.
Committee members enquired about delays to work on data relating to non-household populations. It was confirmed that work to scope the feasibility of collecting survey data from those in non-household populations has been paused. Progress is now dependent on the review of data sources currently being conducted by ONS, which will identify gaps in the data available. This information will then be considered to determine the scope for any survey development.
Members also asked about delays to the development of intersectional analysis methods. It was outlined that ONS is undertaking intersectional analysis and examples were given. This included the ONS publication in January which explored equalities in multiple areas of life and across multiple groups, which is part of the Cabinet Office’s Equalities Data Programme. Work to develop methodological guidance has been delayed due to resourcing limitations in ONS and a requirement to test what was needed.
The Committee discussed how to ensure members were kept updated with developments in areas of interest. The ONS Centre for Equalities and Inclusion (CEI) monthly newsletter was highlighted.
Evelyn Collins expressed an interest in engaging on work to improve workforce diversity. Members also asked about the work to develop a mechanism to review under-representation. It was outlined that his has been delayed as the requirement is planned to be discussed with the new cross-Government Inclusive Data Sub-Committee (IDSC). The first meeting of the IDSC was delayed but has since taken place on 19 May. It is anticipated that the IDSC at a future meeting will review what is currently in place to identify and address under-representation, and then consider what else is needed to address this effectively. The work will then be re-planned.
Action: Committee members to confirm areas of interest to be kept updated on.
Action: Committee members to confirm they are happy to receive the CEI monthly newsletter.
3. Subnational statistics and ‘ONS Local’
Emma Hickman and Libby Richards (ONS) provided an overview of the work being undertaken to improve statistics at a subnational level, utilising the new ONS Local analytical advisory service. In their presentation they guided the members through different aspects of the work, giving examples of current work to explore the opportunities and challenges presented.
A discussion was then facilitated on how to best use the new ONS Local service to address gaps and ensure we are connecting with the right networks, and how to overcome key challenges around local economic statistics.
Members welcomed the ONS initiative, with Si Chun Lam noting it has been transformative for the relationship between ONS and the local authority in the West Midlands. Discussion focused on:
- how the tools can join up geographically disparate areas that have shared characteristics, and whether such comparisons could be made on a global scale;
- the importance of making data available at the local level in a timely manner, and the value in upskilling local analysts as some tools (e.g. NOMIS API) need a particular skill set;
- the sources and granularity of the available data, emphasising the importance of fully understanding the scope and limitations of the data to ensure they are not inappropriately used to inform policy decisions;
- the role of local engagement and how local data and knowledge can be used to better understand what is going on for people. Members also discussed the value in sharing information about what queries have been raised and are being explored so that others are aware of what may be available;
- the various local organisations and networks which could be engaged with, including across the education sector, the health sector (NHS Trusts, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Integrated Care Boards), civil society organisations, police forces, transport providers, media, housing associations and Innovate UK;
- the need to understand the use case for the data being shared and to pinpoint the knowledge gap that the additional data aims to address;
- the importance of considering disclosure and data protection whilst also sharing data at a sufficiently granular level so that it can be used to address local priorities. There was discussion around the challenges with accessing specific sources of sensitive data (for example, Department for Work and Pensions, DWP).
Members also expressed an interest in a demonstration of the products available and being developed.
Action: Sam Freedman to put the Chair in touch with the ex-Director of Teach First, Danielle Tobin.
Action: ONS to engage with Evelyn Collins to explore learning from Northern Ireland experience of using data locally.
Action: ONS to share details and examples of the tools/products being made available with members of the committee.
Action: The Chair to write to Mims Davies MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression) regarding sharing of data held by DWP.
4. The Equality Data Asset (EDA) Proof of Concept
Paola Serafino (ONS) presented this item and outlined progress to date developing an Equality Data Asset (EDA), which is being completed in partnership with the Cabinet Office. An initial Proof of Concept dataset has been created, hosted within the ONS Secure Research Service (SRS). It is anticipated this data will address a gap around understanding the characteristics of business owners, identified as a priority for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Black and Minority Ethnic Business Owners.
Members welcomed the update and sought clarification on the rationale underpinning the source and level of the data used in the prototype. Whilst it was felt to be a positive first step, limitations around some of the data currently being linked in the Asset were discussed, and how this could ultimately limit understanding of outcomes and intersectional analysis. Members noted the importance of being clear about what this asset is able to help us understand (for example, exploring outcomes but not barriers or causation) and expressed support for additional research which specifically explores the barriers experienced by different population groups. It was also highlighted that using Companies House data may not capture the full range of business owners and to consider if there may be additional publicly available data sources which could supplement this.
Members asked if it would be possible to see the prototype asset to be able to comment fully on the potential value and next steps.
Clarity was requested on how the EDA differs from the Integrated Data Service (IDS) being developed by ONS to replace the SRS. It was explained that the IDS is the platform facilitating the development and availability of the EDA. Other linked datasets will also be made available within the IDS, along with tools to aid analysis, but the EDA is being specifically curated with inclusivity in mind. Discussions also explored the processes and safeguards in place to make sure that the data is only accessed and used appropriately, with members expressing concerns about wider examples where data has been used for discriminatory purposes. Members highlighted that in some other countries this type of data is not shared because of a lack of trust that it will be used ‘for the public good’. Members welcomed assurances that the IDS process requires those requesting access to explain the purpose of the research and how the data and findings will be used.
Action: ONS to explore providing members with access to the EDA prototype.
Action: ONS to share details of the processes and safeguards in place for use of the SRS/IDS.
5. Forward Agenda Items
Due to time limitations, members were encouraged to share any views on the proposed agenda for the July meeting and any specific queries they would like the suggested topic areas to cover, via correspondence.
6. Any other business
Louise Vesely-Shore advised that the ONS is undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment as part of the work to transform population statistics which will be presented at the July meeting. Members were asked to share any experience or good practice in completing these assessments via correspondence.
Members have subsequently highlighted guidance from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, as well as emphasising the value of engaging people in discussions to understand the potential impact.
Next meeting: 6 July 2023
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