Transforming How We Release Statistics in DWP – Tom Davies
In DWP’s Client Statistics Branch we’ve developed a variety of formats for releasing our statistics to cover the wide range of our user’s needs. This article is a chance to tell you about these different formats. We’re particularly excited about the new interactive statistics visualisations that we’ve released – we’ve included some links at the end of the article and we’re keen to get your feedback on these.
DWP Client Statistics are responsible for around 60 Official Statistics releases each year. These cover the high profile Welfare Reform Agenda (e.g. Universal Credit and Benefit Cap statistics) and areas of wide public interest (e.g. National Insurance Number Registrations). We’ve developed an understanding of the wide range of users of these statistics and as a result, transformed how we release statistics to meet the users’ needs.
Client Statistics’ release strategy consists of 3 broad formats: first releases; detailed tables and interactive data visualisations.
Our first releases have been developed over 2016/17 so they are all in a consistent template; in landscape format, with key messages on the front page and ideally not more than 10 pages long. These releases provide users (such as the Inquiring Citizen) with high-level summaries of the statistics that are easily accessible. The releases are accompanied by Background and Methodology documents that contain more detail for users. Our Work Programme publication has been completely transformed using these guidelines and has been reduced from 41 pages to 10 pages. DWP’s Permanent Secretary, Sir Robert Devereux, has praised our publications: “Our published stats are excellent…particularly the thought that has obviously gone into choosing the words: simple, not patronising, not spun and not geeky but to the heart of the matter.”
Some users (such as the Expert User) want to create their own data in a format that suits them. Our Stat Xplore website (https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk) allows users to create customised breakdowns of the statistics by selecting from a range of geographic and demographic variables. Users can create graphs and maps from the data they create, and can export the tables in various formats. We also provide ready-made tables for users to quickly access both within Stat Xplore and in spreadsheets.
Stat Xplore provides some useful evidence for which breakdowns are the most popular. We use this information to decide the headline stories that we include in the first release. In addition, we have over 6,000 registered users that we can contact to ask for feedback and consult with on potential changes to our statistics. Andrew Dilnot has praised the Stat Xplore tool and wishes that other Government Departments could provide similar functionality for users wanting bespoke, detailed data.
A really exciting innovation over the last few months has been the creation of interactive visualisations of our statistics. These are interactive tools that enable the user to focus and visualise their area of interest rather than search through a big spreadsheet. An example is the National Insurance Number Registrations – an important migration statistic. We’ve developed an interactive world map to show the number of registrations from different nationalities and where in the UK they have registered; previously this data only existed in a table of over 2,000 cells.
I’ve got some really enthusiastic people in my team who have taught themselves C3, D3 and Jquery programming skills that they’ve used to create these visualisations. We’re really keen to get your feedback on them (links below) to inform our next visualisations – please send any thoughts to PAUL.AINSWORTH@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK or MARK.BURLEY1@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK.
So in summary, we’ve transformed how we release our statistics so we’re using a multi-layered approach. First releases with clear headline messages; Stat-Xplore for the expert user who wants to create their own detailed tables; and new interactive visualisations that allow users to explore their areas of interest. We believe that by making important statistics accessible to a wide range of users, we’re informing better decisions.
Here are the links to our interactive statistics visualisations:
Tom Davies TOM.DAVIES1@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK