- Dame Julia Cleverdon (Chair)
- Dr Evelyn Collins (Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
- Sam Freedman (Institute for Government)
- Professor Jenny Gibson (University of Cambridge, Nesta)
- Professor Anthony Heath (University of Oxford)
- Professor Uzo Iwobi (Race Council Cymru, joined end of item 2)
- Lela Kogbara (Black Thrive Global)
- Professor Tom Shakespeare (LSHTM)
- Professor Shannon Vallor (University of Edinburgh)
- Dr Milly Zimeta (new posting to be confirmed)
- Lorenz Noe, on behalf of Shaida Badiee (Open Data Watch)
- Liz McKeown (from item 2)
- Debra Prestwood
- Dawn Snape
- Louise Vesely-Shore
- Emma Jones
- Rachel Bryan
- Louise Fryer
- Lucy Gwilliam
- Nikita Tejaa
- Sofiya Stoyanova (item 2 only)
- Nick Woodhill (item 3 only)
- Rachel Condé (items 3 and 4 only)
- Vicky Cummings (item 3 only)
- Charlie Hales (item 3 only)
- Meg Pryor (item 3 only)
- Josephine Foubert (item 4 only)
- Seth Thomas (item 4 only)
- David Gordon (University of Bristol, item 4 only)
- Marc Verlot (Cabinet Office, item 4 only)
- Richard Laux (Cabinet Office, item 4 only)
- Tina Chui (Statistics Canada)
- John Shale (ONS)
1. Welcome and Introductory Address
- The Chair welcomed members to the second meeting of the NSIDAC, thanking them for accommodating the move to an online forum at short notice, given the inclement weather affecting London on the day. The Chair re-emphasised the importance of the Committee and specifically welcomed Shannon Vallor who had been unable to attend the first meeting. She then invited those present to raise any concerns over the recording of the meeting, which had been previously agreed.
- The Chair thanked Tina Chui for sending comments on the papers in advance, which were posted in the meeting chat for corresponding items. The Chair noted that most actions from the previous meeting had been completed as noted in the action table included within the papers circulated. Where relevant, the outstanding items would be covered during this meeting’s discussions.
2. Non-household Population Deep Dive
- Sofiya Stoyanova (ONS) presented plans for work to improve the inclusivity of non-household populations (NHPs) in data and evidence. Sofiya framed the issue highlighted by the Inclusive Data Taskforce (IDTF) recommendations, which stated that those in NHPs were underrepresented in data, with available data often being of insufficient quality. It was noted that there is currently no single definition for NHPs. Members reflected upon the size of the evidence gap and the impact of this and noted a desire to review flows in and out of homelessness.
- An update was provided to members on progress against the commitments on homelessness and communal establishments (CEs) made in the IDTF Implementation Plan. Progress included:
- A review of current available evidence on the hidden homeless, to be published in February 2023.
- In response to a request for a definition of this term, Sofiya clarified via correspondence that there is no universally agreed definition of hidden homelessness. Some use the term to describe people who are experiencing homelessness and are hidden from public view, while others use it to describe people who do not appear in official statistics. For the purposes of our research, we will refer to hidden homeless as these individuals who are likely to be missed from official statistics. This might be because they do not approach local authorities for support out of mistrust of authorities; not understanding that they meet the criteria; are without recourse to public funds; or they may not meet the legislative definition to receive support for homelessness.
- Research to explore and develop methods for capturing unsheltered or unhoused women, including qualitative research, to be carried out by the end of the financial year
- Collaboration with Scottish Government to review international methods for capturing the scale of hidden homeless, with a report to be published by March 2023
- A programme of work to review the current data landscape for CEs, including a draft report reviewing data available for those in adult care homes
- Sofiya provided a summary of the work strands currently being undertaken by the cross-ONS NHP Strategic group and opened for discussion on how the group should approach understanding the data landscape on NHPs.
- Of the two programmes of work presented, members indicated a preference for work programme two: providing a high-level review of evidence for all NHPs, focussing more deeply on a few priority groups. Members noted that groups covered by this umbrella term are very different and therefore not easily comparable. Members suggested that the high-level review could be followed by selected deep dives, which should include understanding the subjective experience and wellbeing of those in certain groups. However, members noted that it would be challenging to identify which groups should be prioritised here. It was also noted that administrative data may be better available for some groups than others.
- Thinking about the term NHP, members emphasised the importance of considering learnings from problematic acronyms used for administrative categories, such as BAME and LGBTQIA+, which could constitute ‘othering’ of people considered to be captured in these groups. It was highlighted that the IDTF recommended moving away from the use of larger meta-categories which encompass several heterogeneous groups. Milly Zimeta shared the ODI’s recent work on teasing out differences in meta-groups, in this case discussing the representation of race in data.
- Members discussed the short-term priorities of the NHP strategy presented, noting that it is important to understand the user need and demand for the data and the subsequent likelihood of delivering positive change. Members highlighted challenges to avoid further marginalisation of those not recognised as ‘high-priority’ groups. Members noted home-schooled children, children in care, those who are non-verbal, and adults in supported living, among others, as experiencing particular disadvantage.
- Finally, Sofiya presented the longer-term strategic vision and work plan to ensure all NHP groups are robustly captured across key areas of life in UK data and evidence. All members agreed that a radical re-conceptualisation of the way NHPs are thought about would be beneficial, removing the exclusionary distinction between household and non-household populations. Committee members encouraged the idea of thinking in terms of ‘living spaces’ which is both positive and inclusive.
- The Chair noted an opportunity for ONS to reach out to the teams responsible for providing shelter to those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, to gather any data learnings that could positively contribute to shaping the work on NHPs.
Action: ONS to review and share discussion points with NHP Strategic group for consideration, in relation to:
- Which NHPs to prioritise
- Proposal to remove distinction and consider ‘living spaces’
- Learnings from the problematic use of broad overarching categories to refer to groups comprised of distinct populations for administrative purposes, applying this learning to NHPs where possible.
Action: ONS to link up with Cabinet Office leads (and Dame Louise Casey) on rough sleeping during the COVID-19 pandemic, to review any data learnings to be shared.
Action: ONS to provide members with an update on the progress of the work on NHPs via correspondence or at a future meeting.
3. Embedding Harmonised Standards into the UK Statistical System
- Nick Woodhill (ONS) presented this item, supported by Rachel Condé, Vicky Cummings, Charlie Hales and Meg Pryor from the ONS Harmonisation team. Nick highlighted the importance of implementing harmonised standards across the UK statistical system, not least in meeting recommendations made by the IDTF. Nick gave a brief overview of the accompanying paper [NSIDAC(22)07] which detailed the range of topics the team considers, including the protected characteristics amongst other topics such as socioeconomic background.
- Creating harmonised standards was presented as a comprehensive undertaking, which looks at a range of data collection modes and additional guidance, to balance user need and aid the comparability of statistics across the UK. Nick noted the relevance of harmonisation to both administrative and survey data. Attention was also drawn to the importance of building robust and coherent harmonisation infrastructure and standards for data collection from the outset, rather than attempting to clean and harmonise data after they have been collected. As well as developing harmonised standards, the importance of ensuring that harmonised standards are actually being used was also noted.
- Nick welcomed the views of members on how to promote and embed harmonised standards across Government. Some members noted the challenges of comparability, in terms of the potential tension between the importance of comparability for cross-sectional analysis against the notion that in a constantly changing world, we need to have definitions and standards that can evolve. In particular, it was noted that unless definitions and standards are updated, true comparability will not be possible, as respondent’s perception of terms like ethnicity and gender will change over time and we will not be comparing the same things. It was suggested that ONS ought to explore how best to mitigate issues arising from constant change.
- Members raised specific issues with harmonisation, including around ethnicity data where in some surveys, you are unable to respond as both Welsh and Asian or Welsh and Black. Others noted that there is still a lot of uncertainty around the collection and comparability of certain measures that may differ across local authorities, for example, Free School Meals.
- Members also considered that any move to a new model of measurement, such as using combined models of disability, should be accompanied by a rapid move to using, and promoting the use of, these new classifications. Members flagged the need to consider how new classifications will work in practice with existing legislation and legal definitions.
- Members highlighted work being undertaken for consideration by ONS:
- BSI: creating standards for inclusive data
- 360 Giving (trying to harmonise data about grant-making): Data Standard
- Government Digital Service: Privacy and Inclusion Advisory Forum (PIAF)
- Overall, members concurred that there needs to be change, and that this will involve a process to ensure proper implementation. Nick closed by clarifying that, as well as harmonising standards for administrative data, work will also be dedicated to the accompanying guidance for users, including researchers.
Action: ONS to consider and explore the resources shared in relation to the creation of harmonised standards and inclusive data.
Action: ONS Harmonisation Team to explore how best to mitigate issues arising from constant change with what people mean by terms like ethnicity.
Action: ONS to meet with Evelyn Collins to discuss an approach on conflicting definitions for legal and user need.
Action: Milly Zimeta to provide Nick Woodhill with an introduction to colleagues in BSI, 360 Giving and other government forums, such as PIAF.
4. Progressing Towards Improving Inclusivity of UK Data and Evidence on Disability
- Dawn Snape (ONS) presented this item, with David Gordon (a member of the former IDTF invited as a guest to this meeting) providing opening remarks on disability data and the IDTF recommendations on improving data for disability. Dawn then presented an overview of cross-system statistical work on disability, including by the Cabinet Office’s Disability Unit and work in each of the Devolved Administrations.
- Tom Shakespeare then discussed his own experience working with ONS on qualitative research exploring the experience of disabled people with accessing goods and services, noting limited previous research on the subject. Tom noted that this collaborative and iterative piece of work could be used as a template for future exploratory qualitative work. Dawn noted how this qualitative project, and one exploring the educational experience of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), have encouraged ONS to look at how learnings can contribute to quantitative data collection and data capture more broadly. She reported less progress on income equivalisation work relating to disability, although work is being commissioned to look at the methods of determining the different impacts that inflation may have on disabled and non-disabled people.
- The Chair then invited discussion. Members queried the lack of granular and intersectional disability data available, suggesting that there may be data available which is not currently being utilised, and recommended further work is done to explore this. In response, Anthony Heath offered to explore the option of conducting intersectional analysis of disability and ethnicity using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Josephine Foubert (ONS Joint Disability Analysis Lead) shared an example of a recent more granular analysis using linked data, and a review of the availability of impairment data in health data available to ONS.
- Members highlighted the importance of terminology and moving away from the deficit model in definitions or measures, as was discussed with Non-Household Populations. An example was given highlighting that people may not identify, or feel comfortable with, being classified as ‘vulnerable’ as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members instead encouraged a focus on understanding the strengths of communities.
- Members noted that disability is multiple and heterogeneous, and there are currently conflicting ideas on how to measure and discuss this. Lela Kogbara shared Tom Shakespeare’s paper on ‘The Social Model of Disability: An Outdated Ideology’. The merits and limitations of the social and medical models of disability were discussed, leading to a suggestion that ONS should consider how to progress the inclusivity of disability data using both models.
- Members also discussed the importance of measuring participation restrictions, noting that adjustments for different disabilities and impairments can sometimes conflict and that work needs to be done to better understand this. It was noted that any questions used should enable insights into how different groups are affected and why, including neurodiversity and those not visibly disabled.
- The opportunity to contribute to any future revised National Disability Strategy was highlighted, which Members suggested could incorporate recommendations on inclusive data and statistics.
- David Gordon highlighted perceived limitations of the current UK harmonised guidance on capturing disability data, which includes the potential to screen out some who would be considered disabled under Equality legislation. Members also noted that the questions may not adequately reflect children’s experiences, and there is limited international comparability.
- Members raised the importance of funding in resolving issues around cross-comparability of disability data in different government departments, as well as in providing more intersectional and granular data. One specific barrier to progress noted was the lack of funding to implement the UK-wide survey on disabled people’s experiences planned by the Cabinet Office. Members also noted a potential funding opportunity presented by current interest in COVID-19 and long COVID data and discussed other funding avenues to explore.
Action: ONS qualitative team to reach out to Jenny Gibson regarding the offer to collaborate on work with children and young people.
Action: Anthony Heath to explore opportunity for intersectional analysis of ethnicity and disability using the Labour Force Survey.
Action: ONS to explore the potential to update the guidelines on disability to ensure appropriate inclusion of both the social and medical models of disability in measures going forward.
Action: ONS, Cabinet Office and the Chair to discuss and explore the feasibility of pursuing the idea of a cross-government (or wider) funding consortium to address disability data gaps.
5. Committee Agenda Forward Look and Dates of 2023 Meetings
- The Chair handed over to Debra Prestwood (ONS) who outlined potential items for discussion in upcoming agendas. Committee members agreed on the importance of the proposed topics to cover, including intersectionality, cross-system working, Census transformation, the Equality Data Audit and lived experiences research.
- Some members shared support for an item to be added which focusses on children and young people, as well as for revisiting some topics already covered to understand progress.
- The dates for all 2023 meetings were shared: 7 February, 20 April, 6 July and 16 October.
Action: ONS secretariat to send out calendar invites to members for 2023 meetings.
Action: Committee members were encouraged to consider any topics for future discussion and contact the ONS Secretariat by email.
6. Any other business
- Nothing was raised. The Chair provided closing remarks on the sessions, thanking members for their contributions.
The papers that informed this board meeting are attached as a PDF document for transparency. If you would like an accessible version of the attached papers, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org