The ONS has published its first annual review looking at the progress that’s been made in the past year towards making the UK statistical system more inclusive. Debra Prestwood updates us on what’s been achieved so far, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Inclusivity is a key pillar of the UKSA’s strategy, Statistics for the Public Good, and is relevant to everyone collecting, working with, disseminating and using UK data and evidence. The strategy highlights the importance of inclusivity in ‘ensuring our statistics and our workforce reflect the experiences of everyone in our society so that everyone counts, and is counted, and no one is forgotten’. This morning the ONS published its first annual review of progress towards embedding inclusivity in UK data. It looks at what has been achieved across the UK statistical system since we published the ambitious Inclusive Data Taskforce (IDTF) Implementation Plan In January 2022. That plan included over 200 commitments made by UK government departments, the Devolved Administrations, academia and civil society organisations, to improve inclusivity of UK data and evidence. Progress was already being made prior to this, but the IDTF’s recommendations enabled us to focus more collaboratively and strategically on data improvements across the statistical system. Some of the key achievements we’ve seen as a result include:
- A range of work programmes underway across government to improve data inclusivity of currently under-represented groups in both survey and administrative data collections. This work will allow us to fill data gaps on children and young people, refugees and migrants, and people experiencing homelessness, giving us greater analysis potential.
- The launch of ONS’ pioneering programme of qualitative research providing insights into: disabled people’s experiences with private sector activities, goods and services; the educational experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities; and the lived experiences of Gypsies and Travellers – all of which is helping to inform policymaking.
- The establishment of new strategies by the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to develop more inclusive data.
- Delivery of the first year of our review of harmonised standards and guidance so that measurement approaches keep pace with societal changes.
On top of this the ONS continues to build on its extensive Census 2021 engagement with the public, through the launch of the Assembly and Engagement Hub. Many new initiatives across the four nations are also focusing on improving accessibility of data and evidence for users.
So we’ve made great progress over the last year, and we want to keep up that momentum. But in a climate of constrained public finances, there are bound to be challenges. Working as we are, in collaboration across the statistical system, provides the best possible opportunity for doing more and achieving better outcomes together.
We need to collectively keep striving to enhance trust and trustworthiness among all population groups so they are willing to ‘count and be counted’ in our statistics.
With that in mind the ONS has put inclusivity at the heart of its ambitious and radical programme of transformation for population, migration and social statistics, and is launching an extensive public consultation this summer.
Also, the Integrated Data Service is now in public beta phase and will be an important tool for enabling improved future intersectional analysis.
The National Statistician has called on us all to consider whether there is more we can do to contribute to this important mission. We can only improve the inclusivity of UK data and evidence if we all work together.
Debra Prestwood is Deputy Director, ONS Equalities and Inclusive Data Division