Filling Key Evidence Gaps: Public Policy Quarterly Review

New work to fill evidence gaps on disability, job quality and domestic abuse are among the projects delivered by ONS Public Policy Analysis in recent months. For Liz McKeown, the ability to work collaboratively across government and beyond is key to providing new insight on topics that matter.

Last summer we identified that one of the priorities for the year ahead was to use new data sources and new approaches to fill important evidence gaps and help policymakers tackle some of society’s most challenging issues.

To mark the publication of the fifth edition of our Public Policy Analysis Quarterly review I wanted to reflect on this work and highlight the different ways in which we have been able to make progress.

Importantly this is not an effort we are making alone; increasingly we are partnering with others – not just across the wider Government Statistical Service but also externally with Civil Society organisations. This helps us ensure we can make use of all available data sources to give the best possible insight on an issue but also ensures that our statistics and analysis get well used by policymakers and practitioners on the ground.

A number of recent examples are captured in this edition of the quarterly review

  • We published a domestic abuse compendium bringing together data on domestic abuse from a range of sources which together supports those working to achieve better outcomes for victims and helps to better understand the criminal justice system’s response to perpetrators of abuse. We published it to coincide with UN 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign and are continuing to work with key organisations such as Refuge, Women’s Aid and Mankind to ensure it has the greatest possible impact. We also published a data tool allowing users to get insights on their local area;
  • We published our second iteration of estimates of the number of deaths of homeless people. These estimates made use of innovative methods and linked data on death records and locations of homeless shelters and hostels. We have worked closely with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism who were crowd-sourcing a database of deaths among the homeless to develop and improve our estimates and this release led to parliamentary discussions on the urgent need to tackle this issue.
  • We have launched a new series of reports exploring the situation of disabled people in the UK. Our new reports show the contribution that disabled people make to society, as well as the inequalities that can be faced across several areas of life: education; employment; housing; crime; wellbeing and loneliness; and social participation. We worked with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and charities such as Disability Rights UK and Scope to help achieve this. We also published exploratory analysis on the disability pay gap for the first time. Going forward, our research programme aims to address the need to further improve the evidence base in this area.
  • We provided an update on our progress in measuring the Sustainable Development Goals where the “leave no-one behind” agenda aims to ensure that the SDGs are translated into effective action for specific populations, particularly vulnerable groups such as disabled people. Continually adding data breakdowns for the SDG indicators is an integral part of our work in filling evidence gaps.
  •  We have begun to explore how job quality might be measured producing some initial analysis in response to requests from representatives of city regions. The initial work explored three indicators of job quality: good hours; a desired contract type, and; a position not in low pay. Going forward, we are currently exploring developing new analysis around this topic including links to automation, wellbeing, and updating the analysis using 2019 data.

These represent just a few examples. You’ll find a number of other areas highlighted in the review – from assessing the value of public spaces to developing an alternative approach to looking at ageing – where new statistics and analysis are providing new insights on key areas. I encourage you to take a look.

And, as the new year and decade begins our work in this space continues. Earlier this month we published a compendium of child abuse statistics. This was our first attempt to fill an important evidence gap by collaborating with other government departments and support services (such as NSPCC and NAPAC) to bring together a range of data sources. This helps better understand both the nature of child abuse and the potential demand on support services.

As we continue this important work, making sure that statistics and analysis sheds light on society’s most challenging issues, you’ll be able to follow our progress in our quarterly reviews – the next and sixth edition will be available in April. In the meantime do get in touch with us if you want to explore how we can work together to provide rigorous statistics and analysis on the issues that matter most.

Liz McKeown is Director of Public Policy Analysis at the ONS