Award-winning work on homelessness, world-leading progress in measuring sustainable development and the transformation of the UK’s migration estimates are just three current projects in ONS Public Policy Analysis. They show how the ONS is uniquely placed to harness the potential of new data sources and answer important questions facing Britain today. Here Liz McKeown reflects on recent achievements and looks forward to another exciting year ahead.
In Public Policy Analysis we aim to provide decision makers – from the citizen to the heart of Government – with the statistics and analysis they need to make the best possible decisions. Our work spans a huge range of areas including life expectancy, loneliness, housing, health, human capital, the environment, crime, migration and the changing population.
We recognise that it can be challenging for time pressed people to keep abreast of all our statistics and analysis – we produced over 200 outputs last year – and, after discussions with policy makers, academics and think tanks we developed the ‘Public Policy Analysis Quarterly Review’ which I introduced in a blog earlier this year. This short publication simply aims to provide a brief overview of the key findings from the last quarter while providing links to the fuller articles for those who want to find out more.
We’ve been delighted with the feedback it’s received and are pleased to publish the fourth edition today. To mark a year’s worth of quarterly reviews I thought I’d use this blog to look back across the four editions and reflect on some of the progress we have made. As we set out in our year ahead document in July our work spans three key objectives: improving our regular outputs; providing analysis that addresses the major issues facing society; and filling the evidence gaps that remain across public policy.
How have we been doing in the last year across these three objectives?
Well, we’ve worked hard to improve the clarity and communication of messages in our regular outputs and are increasingly making use of new data sources and approaches to provide better more granular statistics. We’ve launched five new public policy centres (as I outlined in this blog) covering Equalities and Inclusion; International Migration; Crime and Justice; Ageing and Demography; and Subnational Analysis. Each has produced new analysis often working on request and in partnership with other government departments, local authorities and civil society. And we’ve undertaken a wide range of work to fill crucial evidence gaps and ensure that our statistics, in concert with our work on SDGs, ‘leave no-one behind’.
To take a few examples that highlight our work across these areas:
- Transforming our migration statistics – We have been transforming our international migration statistics, making use of all available data to get a richer and deeper understanding of migration. Building on the findings of the research we published in August, our latest migration statistics include preliminary adjustments to estimates of EU immigration and non-EU emigration. To reflect this period of development we have reclassified them as experimental statistics. We continue to produce a best overall view of migration using all data sources available.
- Providing new insights and international leadership on ageing – Our Centre for Ageing and Demography has produced a range of analyses including exploring the interactions between working later in life, health and caring responsibilities and examining the relationship between population ageing, economic dependency and international migration. It has taken an international leadership role; chairing the UN Titchfield City Group on Ageing and a UNECE working group on measuring older people in institutions. And it is developing partnerships and relationships with key stakeholders in the area.
- Developing new estimates and analysis on areas that matter – we’ve produced new analysis on a wide range of topics including: groundbreaking work on children’s mental health and loneliness; estimates of student suicide leading to £14m funding for student support; new estimates of the risk of automation across the labour market; analysis bringing together economic and personal wellbeing to give a richer picture; analysis of homelessness across the four countries of the UK for the first time; and initial estimates of the proportion of children who had experienced the death of their mother.
- Deaths of Homeless people – using innovative techniques we were able to look at filling a key evidence gap at both national and local levels, helping to inform MHCLG and local homelessness strategies. The publications led to prominent media coverage, and won the RSS Campion Award, recognising outstanding innovation to improve services to data users.
- Micro Geography – we have developed new outputs for 1,186 specific towns on social and economic indicators to help understand ‘left behind places’ and work with MHCLG on their £1.6bn stronger towns fund. We have also launched analysis on the health of high streets. They both show the power of using real-world geographies with statistics to understand local trends.
- Sustainable Development Goals – we have sourced new data in partnership with others to report against 74% of the SDG indicators, and this makes us one of the world leaders in terms of the amount of data reported. We have built a reporting platform in open source software and reached out internationally to support other countries from Rwanda to Germany to use it.
While there is much to be proud of, we know there is also more to do. As we look to the year ahead we’d love to know what you think of our work in Public Policy Analysis, please do share any feedback or ideas with us – you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I hope you can find some time to sit back and enjoy the latest quarterly review. Like its predecessors it brings together a great and diverse collection of analysis. This quarter the topics range from: new analysis of the ethnicity pay gap to estimates of the very old and from our consultation on human capital to our analysis of healthcare spending – providing a wealth of fascinating insights to explore.