Leaving no one behind

As part of our drive to ensure UK statistics reflect the experiences of everyone in society, we have today published a detailed plan on how we will collectively improve the inclusivity of UK data and evidence so that no one is left behind.  Debra Prestwood describes some of the improvements we can expect to see in the coming months. 

Our robust data and analysis are key to effective decisions. But it’s not enough to just track general trends across our whole population. Society is made up of different groups who have different experiences: experiences that we need to recognise and understand if we want a society where everyone can thrive.  

At ONS and across the whole Government Statistical Service (GSS) we are committed to better understanding these differing experiences and addressing the gaps in UK data so that everyone is counted and counts. 

In September, we published the report and recommendations of the Inclusive Data Taskforce, an independent group of senior academics and civil society leaders, commissioned by the National Statistician to recommend how to improve the inclusivity of UK data and evidence. In his response to the recommendations, the National Statistician included a commitment to publishing a more detailed implementation plan. 

Since then, we have engaged with UK government departments and the Devolved Administrations, as well as more widely across the system of data producers and users in the UK. We have gathered information on work currently underway or planned to address the Taskforce recommendations, covering everything from building trust with survey participants to improving how we collect data on under-represented population groups and make our data and analysis more accessible. We have pulled all of this together into the plan that we have published today. 

Producing the plan has given us the opportunity to see the bigger picture across the UK statistical system in terms of initiatives to improve data inclusivity. Also for us and others to see opportunities to join up and build new collaborations to produce the systemic change needed. Going forward, ONS, the Cabinet Office’s Equality Hub and the Devolved Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will play a convening role in bringing people together across sectors and disciplines to achieve this.  

The implementation plan  

Our engagement highlighted progress that has already been made in the months since the recommendations were published. This includes:  

  • boosts to sample sizes of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Participation Survey and the Department for Work and Pension’s Family Resources Survey, to enable more granular analysis of specific population groups and areas of the UK;  
  • development of a new ONS household survey in partnership with Cabinet Office on the experiences of disabled people; 
  • ONS is doing new qualitative research on the lived experiences of groups under-represented in UK data, covering accesses to services for disabled adults across the UK, the educational experiences of children with special educational needs and disabilities in England, and life histories and priorities of Gypsy and Traveller communities in England and Wales. 
  • Welsh Government has already set up and will be developing an Equality Evidence Unit, a Disability Disparity Evidence Unit and a Race Disparity Evidence Unit to strengthen the evidence on different population groups living in Wales, including disadvantaged groups. 

Over the coming months a broad range of new initiatives are planned including: 

  • ONS will publish a Harmonisation Review Plan to update standards and guidance for measuring Disability and Mental Health, Ethnicity and Religion, and Sex and Gender Identity 
  • Department for Education will introduce two new cohort studies which together will follow a cohort of children from the age of 9 months to the reception year and a second, distinct cohort from Year 1 to end of primary school, delivering new insights into educational attainment for children with different characteristics and experiences. 
  • The Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit and ONS will make linked data on births and infant mortality by a range of characteristics available to approved researchers via the Secure Research Service, providing insights into maternal health disparities. 

This is just some of what will be happening; see the Implementation Plan for full details.  

Next steps 

This plan is a significant milestone to make the step-change needed in the UK data infrastructure, to make sure everyone is counted, and no one is left behind. Some of the initiatives are important first steps in responding to the recommendations that we can build on; others provide examples of promising practice that we can all learn from. As we make progress, the Plan will evolve and we’ll publish annual updates 

We are in the process of setting up mechanisms to monitor and publicly report on progress, including a new independent committee to provide advice to the National Statistician. 

Get in touch 

If you have any comments on the IDTF Implementation Plan, please get in touch. 

Picture of Debra Prestwood

Debra Prestwood is Deputy Director of Statistical Coherence and Inclusion Division at the Office for National Statistics.