Bringing ‘Better Statistics, Better Decisions’ to life in Population and Public Policy Statistics

Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy, Iain Bell sets out his agenda.

We’re all taking decisions every day of the week at home or in work – some small decisions and some major decisions, but without the right information how well informed are these? This is true no matter who you are, from those making major policy decisions through to deciding where to live or which school to pick for your child.

Statistics and data can play a key role on this and my mission as Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy is to bring together those who produce statistics and support decision-making to shine a light on the society we live in, informing the decisions that we are taking.

To me it is vital that we succeed in achieving this. In terms of delivering our ‘Better Statistics, Better Decisions’  strategy, the three Deputy National Statisticians are coming together to deliver the strategy. It has been said that Heather Savory is building our data, tech and people capability,  Jonathan Athow has the statistics with a pound sign in front of them and I have the rest. But “the rest” is vital. People have voted in referendums, national and local elections on public policy issues.  Migration, crime and health often rank above the economy in terms of the public’s concerns. With the negotiations on the terms for exiting the EU ongoing the need for better information to support the vital decisions for the future of our country is only going to increase. Jonathan is leading the work to ensure our economic statistics meet the needs of decision-makers and my role is to do the same for Population and Public Policy.

“I look forward to working across Government and beyond to ensure that everyone can have access to the best possible information to support them in their decisions with high quality information and evidence.”

There have been notable strides in improving our statistics by working together across Government – particularly in health where the joint working across the producers of statistics are increasingly making it easier for people to find and navigate the data they need. But we must go further and better exploit the new data sources coming available. So my task is threefold:

First, we need to ensure our statistics are available and accessible to all; as well as national and local decision-makers deciding on policies and running operations, we also need to reach citizens to enable informed choices on the decisions they face. For too long Government statistics have been hard to find and, once found, difficult to understand. We need statistics that anyone can easily find and understand. That needs to start from the users perspective, not the producers. This will often mean the producers of National Statistics need to come together to produce the outputs rather than the current fragmentation. We also need to use the right language and presentation which is trusted, authoritative yet easy to understand for all, not just the experts.

Second, we need to embrace data science and the data revolution and use the Digital Economy Act, which Heather is leading for us, to transform public policy statistics and ensure they reflect the modern society we live in. It is why I am delighted to be discussing our plans to improve migration statistics with stakeholders, using the data from across Government to give much greater insight into this vital issue and to do so quickly. Following these discussions we will set out the plans,showing when users can expect to see some of the key milestones and the range of products which we expect to produce from across the Government Statistical Service as we develop this system.

Finally and, most importantly, we need to support decision-makers. The strategy is Better Statistics, Better Decisions. Our insight, analysis and data will be vital to decision-makers and we need to make sure it’s there in an easy-to-use form and that where extra analysis is required we’re there to provide it for national and local decision-makers.

This is not something ONS can do on our own. It will need the people who work to produce National Statistics across the public service to join together to support those who need the information.  I look forward to working across Government and beyond to ensure that everyone can have access to the best possible information to support them in their decisions with high quality information and evidence.

Iain Bell, September 2017