The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put the adult social care sector under the spotlight and the Office for National Statistics has responded to the demand for trustworthy, high quality insight on the impacts of COVID-19 by providing analysis using new data sources. To further improve data sharing and fill gaps in evidence for this sector, the ONS is introducing steps to improve social care statistics. Sophie John explains more.
Recently the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) published papers outlining gaps in evidence in social care across the four nations of the UK. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which had a significant impact on care home residents and recipients of domiciliary care. The impact of the pandemic highlighted, in line with the OSR report, the need for increased information on adult social care as the demands on services continue to rise.
The OSR report also highlighted that, historically, social care has not been measured with the same depth of data and analysis as healthcare due to a scarcity of funding. This is problematic for researchers, academics and policy makers who require sufficient evidence upon which to make informed decisions.
Today, we have made our first step towards making improvements to accessibility by releasing a new interactive tool where users can easily explore the landscape of adult social care data in one place.
The new interactive tool compiles official statistics relating to adult social care across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and each month it will be updated with new publications for users to browse, including fresh insight on the effect of the COVID-19 on the care sector.
While we have met one of the OSR goals of improving the accessibility of official social care statistics this is only the first step of many required to continue to improve evidence around this sector.
The OSR report also highlights the need for improved leadership and collaboration. Our aim is to engage with stakeholders across the four nations, whilst working with the Government Statistical Service Harmonisation team, to help make statistics more comparable, consistent and coherent. Engaging with organisations working in similar areas, we will endeavour to ensure that work is joined up and well informed by other experts.
Further, we are working to identify the gaps in evidence in adult social care data. Areas of interest include investigating data availability on unpaid carers and self-funders to seek to improve knowledge of individual care journeys and outcomes.
Following our releases on Deaths involving COVID-19 in the care sector, England and Wales we plan to produce a new annual release for ONS reporting deaths in care home residents which will be released later this year. This will help us understand more about the causes of death in care home residents, including characteristics, to inform policy.
The ONS, working with partners across the sector can play an important leadership and coordination role within adult social care statistics and our interactive landscape tool is our first step towards achieving this.