Together at last – UK’s planning and housing statistics now in one place

The Government Statistical Service (GSS) has launched a new housing statistics interactive tool, which will help users explore the landscape and range of housing, planning, homelessness and rough sleeping statistics produced by Government. Debra Prestwood gives an update the latest work to improve the accessibility of official statistics and reflects on cross government initiatives completed in 2019/20.

In July 2019 we blogged about our user engagement survey results which highlighted the need to increase the accessibility of existing official statistics. Feedback we received included:

“I have worked with the all types of gov data and in my experience it’s hardest to find what you need in housing, it’s scattered amongst various sites, in differing formats and some have really unhelpful table names.” Local Authority, England

 “I think we all need greater awareness of what stats are available” – Housing Association, Wales

The housing interactive tool directly addresses feedback by bringing together information from all four countries of the UK into one place to build a more useful, comprehensive view of housing statistics.  Previously, statistics on homelessness were only accessible through each country’s individual website, but this new interactive tool allows users to quickly find data and even uncover related statistics they may not be aware of. We have made the tool easy-to-use by grouping statistics under understandable titles with brief explanations and allowing users to filter and search through the statistics.

This has been the culmination of input from analysts from a wide range of Departments and the Devolved Administrations across the UK, as well as user testing by charities, academics and commercial organisations. Why not explore the housing interactive tool?

Interactive tools for exploring official housing and planning statistics

As part of our commitment to mobilising the power of data and acting on feedback, we’ve also updated our homelessness interactive tool which was launched in September 2019. This tool compares how each country’s homelessness statistics are collected and gives guidance on making comparisons. We’ve redesigned the tool with updated content and added functionality. Why not explore the homelessness interactive tool?

How are we getting on?

Improving accessibility to data is one of the five key focus areas of our work, together with Coherence, Quality, Harmonisation and User Engagement. We have updated our cross government workplan to show progress against the improvement areas we set out at the start of 2019/20. We have split our workplan into two to make it more manageable and easier to track. You can see our progress here:

2019/20 Highlights

Homelessness – In September 2019, we published two new articles and the interactive tool that together help build a useful, comprehensive view of homelessness and rough sleeping statistics across the UK.  The ONS has also been working in collaboration with the Centre for Homelessness Impact to bring together data from across government to better measure and map the factors that influence homelessness.

Affordable housing – In November 2019 we published our new analysis of the similarities and differences in the stock, supply, sales and characteristics of affordable housing statistics from across the UK, building a comprehensive picture of the data available. This was published alongside a report looking at the feasibility of harmonising UK affordable housing definitions and terminology.

Looking ahead

We continue to make progress collaborating across Government Departments and the Devolved Administrations to ensure we make the best use of resources and provide accessible data on key housing issues.

Priorities for our new 2020/21 Work Programme are under discussion with a view to publishing our new plan in April.  The lead up to the 2021 Census is an important time in housing and homelessness statistics development as we look at how this information could be collected from various new data sources. As a result, many of the actions in our 2019/20 workplan are longer term plans and will continue into 2020/21.

We are striving to improve the UK-wide scope and coherence of these statistics, while acknowledging that legislation, policies and data collection methods are different across the four countries of the UK due to devolution. We’ll continue to balance the availability of resources across Departments and the Devolved Administrations to support the coherence work alongside individual countries’ outputs and demands.

We look forward to building on the momentum of the collaborative work already completed and welcome your continued feedback on the priority analytical questions that need to be answered.

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Debra Prestwood is Deputy Director, GSS Strategy Delivery at the Office for National Statistics