Please act *now* if you want to save small area population data!! Dear colleagues
- Image from Photologue_np on flickr
Understandably, only a few of us can invest much time in following the plans for future censuses and you may therefore be unaware of recent developments. If you are a user of small area census data, please read on and act if you can – there is a real risk of losing the small area census data that you currently take for granted.
ONS are currently undertaking research on potential replacements for the conventional census in 2021. Although that seems a very long way off, recommendations need to go before parliament next year and the preparatory work is already well advanced. Based on the series of roadshows run by ONS last autumn, they have not received convincing high-value use cases for small area population attributes. Arguments such as “they are used to target local services” are not sufficiently robust to stand up to the inevitable financial scrutiny. A leading option is to derive basic age/sex data from linked administrative records and to use social survey data to obtain the types of population attributes that would previously have been obtained from the census – (ethnicity, LLTI, tenure, car ownership, employment, etc.) This would clearly not deliver small area data of the current quality, if at all.
We are urgently appealing to the research community to have your say: if no case is made, it seems entirely likely that ONS will not be able to include generation of costly small area data as part of the recommended option. If you can demonstrate high-value research (and ideally high-valued impacts!) based on small area 2001 census data, please mail us – we need to marshall further evidence by the end of February. Ideally, we are seeking identifiable research with an estimate of value and impact and/or an indication of why it could not be done without high quality small area data. If you can supply a paper or URL where further details could be pursued, better still.
NB This is about England and Wales, although Scotland and Northern Ireland will be reviewing the same issues in due course. If you want to find out more about Beyond 2011, see http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/what-we-do/programmes—projects/beyond -2011/index.html Although there is not a formal consultation currently open, you can also mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org With many thanks, David Martin, University of Southampton Email: D.J.Martin@soton.ac.uk Paul Norman, University of Leeds Email: P.D.Norman@leeds.ac.uk
[Reposted with permission from the radstats jiscmail list.]
This issue of Radical Statistics comes out of the February 2012 Radical Statistics Conference, which was held at the British Library in London. The conference focused on the Mis-Measurement of Health and Wealth and was the best ever attended Radical Statistics conference. Five of the eight presentations given at the conference are collected here (we hope to include the remaining three presentations in some form in a future issue of Radical Statistics).1 As a set, the papers published here are very much in the radical statistics tradition: they do not simply critique mainstream methods of measuring, but also reveal the social necessity of challenging such measures and begin to propose alternatives.
The issue begins with Howard Reed’s critique of the ways that UK debt statistics are constructed and interpreted. He unpicks the UK Coalition Government’s ‘maxed-out credit card’ explanation of current government finances, and demonstrates the links between this reading of the data and the ‘austerity’ policies which are responsible for slowing growth in GDP (and therefore exacerbating the debt/GDP ratio). Howard also points out that contrary to popular opinion, the previous Labour government’s real spending was very much in line with historical precedent. Continue reading
A critical submission on cutting government research and publication of the take up of welfare benefits has been sent from Adrian Sinclair, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh. He argues that cutting statistics of take up would be “neither acceptable nor responsible”, ”would deprive policymakers and analysts of essential evidence for evaluating benefit effectiveness”, would weaken critics of government policy, and would end statistics that have inspired improved evidence in many other countries. Consultation on this issue has ended: Government expect to respond to submissions by 4th Januay 2013.
The closing of take up statistics would also be jumping the gun, as the benefits system in the UK is changing with the introduction by this government of ’Universal Credits’. A different consultation on production and dissemination of Claimant Count statistics following the introduction of Universal Credit, closing 12th November 2012.
At its conference earlier in September, the UK’s Royal Statistical Society (RSS) considered whether the government cutbacks had undermined the UK evidence base. The three presentations, two from the UK Statistics Authority and one from Radical Statistics, are summarised below. We will post a blog when a full written version of the Radical Statistics presentation is available.
RICHARD ALLDRITT, UK STATISTICS AUTHORITY kicked off the session, noting that the budgets for statistical work across government vary and are set almost completely independently of each other, restricting the scope for co-ordination in spite of other virtues. It is not necessarily wrong to reduce or reorganise statistical production, and to assess change it is necessary to have a means of assessment, as the UKSA has via its Statistical Expenditure Report series. Maximising value needs to become a conscious focus of statistical work in government. The case must be made convincingly that expenditure on statistics is not only good value, but better value than alternative uses of that money.
JIL MATHESON, NATIONAL STATISTICIAN focused on the statistical profession within government. The number of Official Statistics had decreased from 1,085 in 2010 to 932 in 2012. Prescription cost analyses from the Health and Social Care Information Centre had ended for example. Statistical budgets were not easy to measure as statistical work was variously described in each Department as research or under policy headings. The Office for National Statistics budget has been reduced by 17% from £161m to £136m during the five years to 2015. However, demand was still strong for statisticians, and permission had been gained to recruit again. Economists and Social Researchers have also grown in number recently. The reduced budget had focused attention on the right question: ‘Are we doing the right things with the budget we have?’
LUDI SIMPSON, speaking for the RADICAL STATISTICS GROUP, gave evidence that analysis has suffered in particular, making statistics of less value and giving greater space for misinterpretation. Compendia and ONS publications had ceased, and health analysis removed from ONS priorities. The UKSA Committee on Official Statistics had commented that they didn’t know enough to assess changes in statistics and had made no comment yet on cessation of statistics. The cuts were greater in Local Government where many senior staff had left. Strategic planning responsibilities have been transferred to District Councils without research support, from Regional Offices and Regional Development Bodies which have been abolished. The further introduction of commerce to public service has resulted in measuring demand rather than need. A full report will be circulated soon to the Stats User Net for comment.
From ScotStat News 31 Aug 2012: “In late autumn 2012, there will be fundamental changes in Jobcentre Plus handling of employer vacancies and services in support of job search.
“This means that existing National Statistics on Jobcentre Plus vacancies will cease and there will be no further releases on Nomis. Statistics will be made available from the new job-search service. However, definitions will not be consistent with the existing series.
“DWP have opened a consultation with users of the statistics on 15 August 2012. This will run for 13 weeks until 14 November 2012. The consultation can be found on page 4 of the latest DWP Quarterly Statistical Summary. Users are encouraged to respond to this consultation.”
Current use of the vacancy statistics were discussed in July at the Labour Market Statistics User Group. Paul Bivand’s presentation mentions the upcoming changes.
The DWP quarterly statistical summary is also suspended pending revised reporting tools.
The UK Department of Work and Pensions is running a consultation from July 12th to October 4th on the future of the annual statistical publication Income Related Benefits:
Estimates of Take-Up. It is proposed that the publication is discontinued. The Take-Up publication is sourced from the Family Resources Survey and shows the level of take-up of entitlement to benefit for the six main income-related benefits in Great Britain:
Income Support, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Jobseekers’ Allowance (Income-Based) and Employment and Support Allowance (Income-Related).
The full National Statistics publication can be found at:
The consultation can be found at:
Please direct any questions on this to Simon Lunn email@example.com or 0207 449 5361.
A briefing paper from Reduced Statistics investigates the UK Department for Communities and Local Government. It had a 7.8% cut in the 2010 Budget, with further large yearly reductions to 2015. Under the doctrine of ‘localism’, much of its core policy and analysis work in housing, planning and regeneration has been devolved to local authorities. A number of its non-Whitehall agencies which produced statistics have also been abolished or merged. Read the full five page Reduced Statistics briefing on housing communities in England.
Comments are welcome to expand and improve the content of the briefing.
The annual budget for four major Scottish population surveys has been cut by £2.8m, reducing the sample size for some questions and omitting a nurse visit and its blood samples. On the plus side, core questions will have a larger sample size in the combined survey. The four affected surveys are:
- The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey
- The Scottish Health Survey
- The Scottish Household Survey
- The Scottish House Condition Survey
The Scottish Government report summarising these changes was published in November 2011. Comments are requested by firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip Cross, StatsCan’s chief economic analyst, has resigned, citing the reduction of reliable basic information from the Census, and the politicisation of the national statistics agency.
The resignation comes 18 months after the head of StatsCan Munir Sheikh left, forced by the Federal Government to take responsibility for its decision to replace the Census detailed questionnaire by a voluntary household survey. The Federal Government felt that a compulsory census was invasive of privacy, a comment also made by journalists supporting a ‘Mind your own business’ campaign during the 2011 UK Census.
The unknown bias in the Canadian voluntary household survey is blamed for serious uncertainty in Canada’s price index. The consequences of the decision to make the NHS voluntary have only begun to manifest themselves, say economists in Canada. Statistics Canada has had a long deserved worldwide reputation for its independence and authoritative contributions to official statistical methods. These cuts to the Canadian Census and other surveys caused an outcry and fears of similar downgrading of the statistical base in other countries, as reported in previous entries to this Reduced Statistics blog.
Further cost cuts, due to be announced in this spring’s federal budget, mean the Canadian agency is preparing for the possibility of layoffs.
If January is your slow month, now’s the time to act on these current data user consultations:
Opening date: 17 October 2011
Closing date: 20 January 2012
Department: Office for National Statistics
The User Needs Consultation aims to ensure that we have a clear understanding of users’ needs and priorities.
The views expressed will be critical in determining how we develop our assessment criteria, how we evaluate alternative approaches and what option we recommend for further development beyond 2014.
The User Needs Consultation document can be downloaded from our website (626 Kb Word document) .
This document provides brief discussion and guidance on the questions included in the questionnaire and we would appreciate it if you could look at it before responding.
Thanks in advance for your help on this.
Please complete the questionnaire online – or use the questionnaire included in the consultation document and return electronically to email@example.com by 20 January 2012.
If you would like to share your views on the issues behind the Beyond 2011 Public Consultation you can join the conversation on the Royal Statistical Society Statistics User Forum.
As you will be aware, the NHS Information Centre (IC) publishes the following Lifestyles survey publications:
The findings are used to provide an insight into the health and behaviour of people in England. The longevity of the surveys also enables changing trends to be studied over time. They can be used to help decision makers improve policies and services and ultimately improve the health of population in this country.
The NHS IC has launched a public consultation on the Lifestyles surveys with the following aims:
- to engage with the users of the surveys to develop a more complete understanding of the use made of this data
- to ensure the surveys are relevant and meaningful to the needs of users
- to seek the views of users on the content and format of the publications
This consultation will run for 12 weeks from Friday 30 December 2011 to Friday 23 March 2012. Please ensure you submit any comments prior to the closing date so they can be considered.
Further details, along with the full consultation document are available at www.ic.nhs.uk/work-with-us/consultations/lifestyles-surveys-consultation-review