2020/21 Performance Summary

2020/21 was the first year of our five-year Strategy ‘Statistics for the Public Good’ and ONS Strategic Business Plan. We have made significant progress and delivered a wide range of notable achievements while addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on our outputs and organisation, the end of EU Exit transition period, and the one-year Spending Review 20 outcome.

More information on achievements and performance can be found in Annex A, with a full account in the 2020/21 Annual Report and Accounts, however in brief they include:

  • The Covid Infection Survey (CIS) was introduced and operationalised within 10 days at the start of the pandemic, before scaling up to become the largest community-based study assessing COVID-19 with over 150,000 households taking part each fortnight across the UK. It has involved over 4 million swab tests to date and over half a million blood tests with an operating budget over £500m. CIS is now the UK flagship surveillance study and has become the trusted source of data related to COVID-19 infection, incidence and antibody prevalence in communities across the UK. The programme has recently taken on a new role to monitor the effectiveness of vaccines. By continually adapting, we have responded to new policy questions throughout the pandemic.
  • the Census 2021; Census Day on 21 March 2021 represented the first Census completed primarily through electronic questionnaires, allowing the public to complete online at a scale never seen. We published headline figures for completion at 97% exceeding the overall target response rate of 94%. This is a significant achievement as Census 2021 activities progressed during the disruption of the pandemic. Using the lessons learned as we have progressed, research has continued to support recommendations the National Statistician will make in 2023 on the future of the Census.
  • the Integrated Data Programme (IDP); The cross-Government IDP has been established and will build a comprehensive data service, underpinned by a secure and trusted infrastructure. This will enable Government to make best use of its data assets and support in unlocking the potential of linked data, building up data standards and tools. We have achieved critical milestones including developing the first phases of the technical, data and methodological infrastructure; initial Analytical Lighthouse Projects; production of two Outline Business Cases and a Full Business Case – the latter submitted to HM Treasury in March 2021 seeking the continuation of the Programme through to 2024/25 and beyond.
  • continued transformation of our Economic and Public Policy statistics and analysis.
    • Over the last year, COVID-19 has resulted in unprecedented changes in how the UK’s economy has operated and performed. The ONS has kept up with that change of pace onboarding new data sources, implementing innovative, fast paced surveys (The Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey [BICS]) and adapting its methodology to ensure we can continue to accurately measure its change. This included publishing experimental data providing more timely insight on the Labour Market; a monthly publication that became the main measure for explaining employment patterns, keeping Public Sector Finances data in line with the Government’s circa 50 separate schemes to support the economy; producing new publications on how the UK trades with the rest of the world. Collaborating across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) to collect, analyse and publish economic statistics; new local area child poverty statistics (CiLIF); and analysis on furloughing, international trade and business expectations.
    • The ONS monitored the social impacts of the pandemic weekly providing timely data to Government and the public on social distancing, working from home, socialising and Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), providing data on vaccine rollout and hesitancy, monitoring the impacts on work, wellbeing, household finances, relationships and the future. We informed Government decisions, with our information used in Government dashboards and spoken of widely at No10 press briefings.
    • The ONS significantly transformed Public Policy statistics: moving quickly to provide early insights of the effect of the pandemic on the population and migration using administrative data sources; moving the face to face crime survey to a telephone operation within weeks to ensure we could continue to measure levels of crime, and including, for the first time, natural capital in the Blue Book – a big step in ensuring nature is accounted for in economic accounting and laying the foundations for future enhancements.
    • The ONS launched an Inclusive Data Taskforce consultation, with accompanying communications from the chair of that taskforce Dame Moira Gibb. The Taskforce has a UK wide remit, to provide recommendations on improving the UK’s inclusive data holdings and infrastructure. The work of the Taskforce will reflect user needs from a broad range of stakeholders including central and local government, academics, civil society, think tanks and businesses.
  • putting in place the building blocks for an inclusive and sustainable business model through the Corporate Systems Improvement Programme (CSIP), BASE Review and the Continuous Improvement / Efficiency Programme.
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