Is it useful for government to publish the take up of welfare benefits?

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 or 0207 449 5361.

Housing and communities in England

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.

Scottish Government Surveys amalgamated from 2012

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

Another Statistics Canada chief quits over cuts and control

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.

Consultations, consultations

If January is your slow month, now’s the time to act on these current data user consultations:

(1) Beyond 2011 – Public Consultation

Businesswoman consulting a partner

Opening date: 17 October 2011
Closing date: 20 January 2012
Department: Office for National Statistics
Category: General

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 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.

(2) Lifestyles Surveys Consultation Review

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

General Lifestyle (Household) Survey ends

On 30th June, ONS announced that it the General Lifestyle Survey (previously the General Household Survey) will be discontinued from January 2012, with some questions transferred to other surveys.

In reponse to consultation, the ONS states:

” ONS welcomes all of the responses received and notes the concerns. These responses will be taken into consideration during the next steps of this project. Given the need to harmonise UK and EU poverty indicators, and ensure efficient data collection, we propose that the GLF ceases to run in its current form from January 2012.
Statistics on Income and Living Conditions required by European law (EU-SILC) will be collected via the Family Resources Survey (FRS) with a standalone survey providing the longitudinal SILC element. GLF questions not covered by EU-SILC will be collected using a separate survey, subject to continued funding for non-EU-SILC variables. Over the next six months, ONS will explore the exact format for this survey to best meet users’ needs. Details will be made available later in the year.”

Full details are available from the ONS website in the ‘Response to the future of the GLF survey consultation’

UK Statistics Authority insists on doing its job

A meeting of Learned Societies heard that the UK Statistics Authority had found that the government was breaking its own code of practice on consultation, and was not willing to inform the Authority of proposed changes to official statistics; The Authority is required by law to advise on the impact of changes in statistical production. The same meeting heard that government departments are doing their own thing when implementing cuts, some cutting outputs with minimal or no public consultaton, and others involving users in extensive reviews. Not all are sharing their plans with the head of the government’s statistical profession, the National Statistician. 

The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Michael Scholar expressed disappointment in a letter to Minister Francis Maude last October 2010 that the government was unwilling to allow the Authroity to advise on the impact of proposed changes to statistics, listing 17 examples where the statistics of one government department informed the work of others.

The UK Statistics Authority issued the first of its Statistical Expenditure reports, in which it investigates “any changes to departmental statistical work programmes where there are questions about whether user needs have been fully considered; where adequate consultation may not have been carried out; where the effects on other departments or other statistical series may not have been taken into account; or on the rationale underpinning the proposals more generally.”

The first Statistical Expenditure report is attached to a letter to Eric Pickles on 8th April 2011, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, which demands that the government responds to the needs expressed in consultation over the Citizenship Survey. The survey has been cut completely, with fieldwork ending on March 31st 2011, in spite of users’ clear identification of its importance in ‘providing  evidence on the Big Society, extremism, cohesion and integration, fairness in the criminal justice system, discrimination, the impact of immigration, volunteering, well-being, and many other issues’.

Scottish Surveys reduced

A review of Scotland’s surveys, started in 2008, has turned into a cost-cutting exercise resulting in greater efficiency, fewer outputs and less precision. The full Scottish Household Survey Review is not yet published, but the Scottish House Conditions Survey will become a module within the general Scottish Household Survey. The Scottish Health Survey sample will be reduced by one third and will no longer include a nurse’s visit. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey will be reduced in size, no longer providing data for local authority areas, and be carried out each two years rather than annually.

On the brighter side, the three surveys will be harmonised and from 2013 pooled data will provide some estimates for smaller populations than previously possible.

The changes will take place from the end of 2012. Summary by the Scottish Government.

Calling all NOMIS users: save your data

The UK Office for National Statistics are consulting on alternatives to NOMIS. All current NOMIS users may consider and respond to the ONS consultation document regarding access to Labour Market and related statistics.

The plans are unlikely to satisfy any user interested in geographic areas other than the normal administrative and electoral hierarchy, or using information for very detailed variable definitions, or a wide range of options. The proposals are based on the common denominator of current uses. Data that cannot be provided for all local authorities will not be provided for any (out goes detailed analysis for large authorities). Variable values will be pre-banded (out go unusual age-groups even if they are wide ones). Such needs would be met by the ONS Virtual Data Laboratories, which are accessible to approved researchers, on approved projects, at ONS sites.

The ONS Data Explorer is proposed to meet many users’ needs. As explained further in the document, some needs will not be met by the ONS Data Explorer, and ONS needs to hear “what the importance of this data is to users, how they make use of it and the impact on the general public. It is these users that ONS particularly want to hear from to better understand this usage of the more detailed data currently available.”

Responses should be sent by 20 May 2011 to

UK General Lifestyles Survey, formerly GHS, under the axe

Following the General Lifestyles Survey (GLF) User Meeting hosted by the Economic and Social Datasets Service in March, see for a note of the ONS presentation regarding the future of the survey.

In summary:

– ONS confirmed that the FRS will be the vehicle for the EUSILC questions (currently on GLF) from 2012 onwards

– The NHS Information Centre are proposing to withdraw funding for the 2011 GLF

– ONS propose replacing the GLF from 2012 with a new survey based on the Opinions survey

Given this new information, you may wish to reply to the GLF consultation document (even if you’ve already done so previously):

(thanks to ESDS for this information)