Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation Strategy
|Publication date:||12 June 2019|
|Who this is for:||Members of the Government Statistical Service|
We in the Government Statistical Service (GSS) produce an amazing number of statistics on a wide range of topics and so it is vital that we provide consistency, coherence and comparability across these. By doing this we enable decision-makers to use and combine statistics from multiple sources with confidence and enable a more efficient joined-up approach to data collection. More comparable and coherent statistics leads to better decisions, contributing towards the Better Statistics, Better Decisions strategy
This is why harmonisation is such an important aspect of statistical quality and building trust. It enables us to improve the coherence of statistical outputs and the consistency of our statistical inputs. And through this, increase their value and efficiency.
So, I welcome this strategy for how the GSS can work towards greater harmonisation. We have a duty to consider the harmonisation of statistics right through the statistical production process, from the definitions and concepts used in the data collection, through to information on coherence in accompanying guidance, and integrating new datasets into existing statistical processes.
I encourage you all to use this strategy to ensure that we are delivering high value statistics that inform sound decisions.
Harmonisation is about making statistics and data more comparable, consistent and coherent and there are many aspects to this. This strategy covers the harmonisation of question wording used in questionnaires, interviews and administrative data collection, and the coherence of official statistics outputs. A number of other teams across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) are working on improving other aspects of harmonisation, such as data formats and storage, and methodology, which is out of the scope of this strategy.
This is a two-year strategy for the GSS. It sets out realistic actions to improve comparability and coherence across official statistics and includes examples of recent successes. It aligns with guidance published by the Office for Statistical Regulation on the coherence of official statistics, ensuring that we are compliant with the harmonisation requirements of the Code of Practice for Statistics. The aims also align with wider work in Government in the development of the National Data Strategy.
The strategy will provide guidance for all those involved in delivering statistics across the GSS, from those who develop and implement the administrative data systems and surveys to those who undertake the analysis and dissemination. The GSS is a cross-government network that produce analysis and statistics, and includes statisticians, researchers, economists, analysts, operational delivery staff, IT specialists and other supporting roles.
The strategy has been developed by the GSS Harmonisation Team through collaboration with the GSS. The team, situated in the Best Practice and Impact division (BPI), supports the GSS in ensuring the comparability and coherence of statistics. Further information on the team are detailed in Appendix A.
It should be noted that there is already a great deal of work underway across government to improve harmonisation of statistics. The GSS Harmonisation Team lead on delivering a number of workstreams to improve harmonisation, which are outlined in this strategy’s deliverables. And there are a number of other ongoing workstreams led by other groups. At a cross-cutting level, the Inter Administration Committee includes representatives for each of the four UK countries and its remit includes the coherence and harmonisation of statistics across the administrations.
There are also a number of cross government groups which address the issues discussed in this strategy for specific topics, such as:
- The English Health Statistics Steering Group and Four Nations Group for health statistics. These identify and propose solutions to issues of coherence and accessibility of health and social care statistics and reduce duplication in data collection / analysis to deliver efficiencies in official statistics
- The Cross-Government Housing Statistics Group who look at how coherence of housing statistics can be improved and encourage collaboration between producers of these statistics
- The Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit whose priorities include ‘developing a more consistent approach to how ethnicity data is collected and presented across government, so that better quality research and analysis can be carried out’
- The UK Harmonisation Working Group who ensure that the teams responsible for the development of the three UK census questionnaires collaborate and establish a harmonised approach where possible
- The Income and Earnings Working Group addressing issues of coherence in these statistics
- The Migration Statistics Transformation Programme which aims to put put administrative data at the heart of migration statistics
There are also various informal networks undertaking similar work. This strategy aims to build on this existing work and identify further opportunities to improve harmonisation in other areas of statistics.
Deliverables are split between BPI and the GSS and we are all responsible for its success. The strategy sets out how we can work together to improve the harmonisation of statistics produced by the GSS.
The priority topics for the GSS Harmonisation Team for the next year are outlined in Appendix B.
We recognise that circumstances and priorities will change over time and we will review this strategy regularly over its two-year duration to ensure it is still relevant and fit for purpose.
As stated in the Better Statistics, Better Decisions strategy, we want to see our statistics enabling sound policy decisions and providing a firm evidence base for decision making, inside and outside of government. Improving the harmonisation of statistics across the GSS will increase comparability and coherence thereby ensuring they serve the public good.
Therefore, the aim of this strategy is to:
Improve comparability and coherence of statistics across the GSS
We will deliver this aim through achieving three goals:
- Increase consistency in definitions and classifications used in data collection across government
- Improve communication of information on coherence in statistical publications
- Enhance the value of data through the integration and combination of distinct data sources
To improve comparability and coherence of statistics across the GSS we have set out three goals (as described in our aim). Further information on the parties involved in the delivery of the goals are detailed in Appendix A .
There are thousands of official statistics publications in the public domain. Despite each covering a specific issue of public interest, there are extensive overlaps in the topics covered, be that characteristics of respondents (people, households, or businesses) or cross-cutting themes such as housing.
In accordance with devolution of powers to the UK countries, statistics produced to support devolved decision-making are themselves devolved. As a result, analysts in each of the UK countries will have their own priorities and user-requirements for the statistics they produce, and we recognise that this may lead to unavoidable inconsistencies in how these are collected or presented. However, all producers of official statistics have a responsibility, under the Statistics and Registration Service Act or the Concordat on Statistics, to work collaboratively and openly across administrations when producing statistics, particularly those with a devolved interest, and to harmonise where appropriate or communicate differences effectively to users.
Consistent definitions and question wording in data collection
Statistics are developed to meet specific needs and make use of an extraordinarily varied range of different types of data, which are increasingly gathered for non-statistical purposes. Because of this, different statistics will often measure similar concepts using different definitions and classifications. When considering each set of statistics in isolation, this approach is satisfactory. When considering how they fit together into a wider evidence base we can do more to ensure they are comparable by using consistent definitions, language and question structure in data collection (both for administrative and statistical purposes) and statistics production. For this purpose, the GSS Harmonisation Team maintains and promotes a collection of recommended question wordings and output formats for use in statistical production, known as harmonised principles.
However, statistics are increasingly produced using administrative data sources, and this presents new challenges. It is vital that analysts can help shape the development of these systems to ensure that the inputs are consistent across government, where possible. Analysts should be engaging with the owners of administrative data systems to understand the challenges and opportunities for harmonisation in administrative data collection. And where administrative data is being shared for statistical purposes, data controllers and processors should collaborate with analysts and consider the effects of changes to the systems and ways that that data is collected on statistical outputs. This is in the spirit of the Code of Practice on Changes to Data Systems as outlined in the Digital Economy Act 2017.
Developing and agreeing cross-government approaches to measuring emerging topics
Public and policy requirements for statistics change over time. New requirements for statistics that cut across policy areas will arise, and it is important that the GSS develops a consistent method of capturing the right kind of information to support the emerging policy area. These situations require a cross government approach to developing standard definitions and concepts. We should consult widely to ensure that the individual priorities and challenges of each department and devolved administration are considered, particularly in devolved matters, and endeavour to reach a consensus where possible. This approach promotes efficiency because individual teams and departments will not need to provide the resources to develop and test their own questions and concepts. It also ensures that resources do not need to be spent on retrospectively improving issues with comparability which can be tackled at the development stage of the statistical production process.
|1.1 Improve adoption of existing harmonised question wordings in data collection and dissemination in government surveys||The GSS Harmonisation Team will regularly review the implementation of existing harmonised questions and assess what steps can be taken to improve this where necessary.
The GSS Harmonisation Team and harmonisation champion network will work with survey owners across government to ensure they are aware of the library of harmonised question wordings and help them to adopt these approaches where appropriate.
Government analysts will take a ‘harmonisation first’ approach to data collection, considering if they can use harmonised questions as a first option.
|GSS Harmonisation Team, harmonisation champion network and analysts across government|
|1.2 Develop consistent approaches to measuring emerging topics of public importance||The GSS Harmonisation Team will consult across government when developing harmonised questions, to ensure cross cutting topics are measured in a consistent manner. Topic experts from government, academia and the third sector will be involved as appropriate.||GSS Harmonisation Team|
|1.3 Ensure that existing harmonised question wordings are fit for purpose||The GSS Harmonisation Team will regularly review the quality of existing harmonised questions and update them in line with changes in best practice and new user requirements.||GSS Harmonisation Team|
|1.4 Ensure that harmonised principles are developed and communicated in a way that ensures they can be used in administrative data and linked data||The GSS Harmonisation Team will work with Government Digital Services (GDS) to ensure that patterns and registers for use in collecting data on personal attributes in administrative data systems reflect best practice.
The GSS Harmonisation Team will prioritise existing harmonised questions to be converted into GDS patterns for use in administrative data systems.
The GSS Harmonisation Team will work with the Government Data Architecture Group to ensure that harmonised questions are published in formats that meet the needs of modern statistics processes, such as using formats suitable for linked data.
|GSS Harmonisation Team|
|1.5 Improve the engagement with the owners of administrative data sources to increase harmonisation across key data sources||The GSS Harmonisation Team will undertake a workstream with the harmonisation champion network to improve engagement with the controllers and processors of administrative data sources across government and improve buy-in to harmonisation. This will include discussions with GDS to identify opportunities to influence their recommendations to administrative data owners, and discussions with Chief Information Officers and Product Owners to identify the main challenges to harmonisation. The work will be prioritised through consultation with users of administrative data sources.
The GSS Harmonisation Team will work with GSS Heads of Profession (HoPs) to identify owners of administrative data sources, communicate the benefits of harmonisation, and identify opportunities for harmonisation.
The GSS Harmonisation Team will work with GDS in their assessments of developments in administrative data systems against the Government Service Standards, focussing on Point 13 of the standards: ‘Use and contribute to common standards, components and patterns’.
|GSS Harmonisation Team, GSS HoPs and harmonisation champions|
|1.6 Collaborate across the UK nations to improve harmonisation where possible||GSS Harmonisation Team will consult with statistics producers in the devolved administrations early in the development of new harmonised questions to understand their policy requirements and barriers to harmonisation.
Census teams will collaborate via the UK Harmonisation Working Group to ensure the 2021 Census outputs constitute consistent, coherent and accessible statistics for the UK, individual countries and geographic areas within each country; and common topics and questions are agreed wherever possible, with the intention of making available consistent census outputs across the UK.
|GSS Harmonisation Team and Census UK Harmonisation Working Group|
|1.7 Ensure that coherence and harmonisation are considered in statistical production processes across the GSS||GSS HoPs and harmonisation champions to take steps to ensure that coherence and harmonisation of statistics are considered at each stage of the statistical production process. GSS HoPs to ensure that analysts in their departments have the opportunities and resources to improve coherence and harmonisation, where there is a clear user need.||GSS HoPs, harmonisation champion network, and analysts across government|
|1.8 Continue to engage internationally and to align statistics with international best practice where practical||The GSS Harmonisation Team and analysts across government will continue to stay abreast of international developments in best practice and endeavour to align official statistics with this where practical.||GSS Harmonisation Team and analysts across government|
Case study: loneliness indicators
In January 2018, the Prime Minister tasked the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with developing national indicators of loneliness suitable for use on major studies to inform future policy in England. This was in response to the manifesto published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. As this is a devolved matter, ONS took this work forward for England only, with scope for future work to harmonise across the Devolved Administrations, if required.
The Prime Minister set out the Government’s plans to appoint a Minister for Loneliness and committed Government to:
- develop the evidence-base around the impact of different initiatives in tackling loneliness, across all ages and within all communities
- establish appropriate indicators of loneliness across all ages with ONS so these figures can be included in major research studies
In December 2018, following consultations with key stakeholders and experts, the GSS Harmonisation Team published the GSS Harmonised Principles for measuring loneliness. These can be used to measure loneliness by any survey or administrative data source, which ensures a consistent approach can be adopted across major studies to inform future policy in England.
After identifying the need for indicators across all ages, we agreed upon two sets of questions. The first set of four questions is recommended for use with adults while there is an alternatively worded set of questions recommended for use with children. Since their publication, several GSS survey owners have agreed to include the questions in their questionnaires such as the Community Life Survey and National Travel Survey.
Sometimes it is not possible to change statistical inputs in a timely manner, due to specific legislative requirements for data collection, differences in policy or operational requirements, or financial barriers. We in the GSS are experts in our specific topics and will often have expert knowledge and understanding of other related statistics that non-expert users will often not have. Accordingly, it is our responsibility to help users to make sense of the landscape of related statistics.
Improved guidance of comparability and coherence
Some statistics are produced using inconsistent concepts and definitions with good reason, such as devolved policy and legal requirements, or the costs associated with making large changes to data collection processes. In these cases, we should consider what can be done to help users make valid comparisons between data sources.
For instance, we can identify where particular aspects of the data are consistent so that valid comparisons can be made. We can explain how inconsistencies will affect any users’ attempts to combine or compare the statistics from each data source. In our commentary we can explain the key messages from related statistical outputs, to give readers a broader narrative. We can consider whether additional data could be collected to improve the coherence of the statistics. The Office for Statistics Regulation Insights report on coherence in official statistics (published in summer 2019) includes numerous examples of work to improve coherence from across government.
|2.1 Champion harmonisation across government and in the wider research community||The GSS Harmonisation Team will run the harmonisation champion network to support analytical Heads of Profession and analysts across government in identifying opportunities to improve the comparability and coherence of UK official statistics. The champions will contribute to annual meetings, share best practice and act as a point of contact on harmonisation matters for their department/work area.||GSS Harmonisation Team and harmonisation champion network|
|2.2 Identify the next priority cross-GSS theme for improving statistical coherence, and take steps to improve this||GSS Harmonisation Team to work with GSS Strategy Delivery team in ONS, and GSS Heads of Profession to identify the next priority topic for which statistical coherence is an issue. Develop and deliver workplan for improving harmonisation of relevant statistics.||GSS Harmonisation Team and GSS Strategy Delivery team|
|2.3 Work with users of statistics to understand where there are issues with coherence and comparability, and take steps to improve these||Statistics producers should consider coherence and comparability when engaging with their users and assessing the quality of their statistics, and consider the guidance and examples of best practice in statistical coherence published by the Office for Statistical Regulation. Where appropriate, they should provide guidance to help users increase their understanding.
GSS Harmonisation Team and harmonisation champions to continue to engage with users of statistics on cross-cutting topics to identify new opportunities for improving comparability and coherence of statistics. Provide guidance to help users increase their understanding, where appropriate.
All user engagement should draw on guidance from the GSS Good Practice Team. Any new guidance will be tested on users to ensure it is fit for purpose and improves understanding of the topic.
|GSS Harmonisation Team, harmonisation champions, and producers of official statistics|
|2.4 Collaborate with OSR to investigate best practice or limitations in coherence and harmonisation of statistics across the GSS||The GSS Harmonisation Team and OSR to collaborate in the delivery of OSR’s 2019/20 workplan. They will collaborate to identify and share examples of best practice in statistical coherence, as well as identify issues of low coherence or comparability in official statistics and work with statistics producers to address these issues.||GSS Harmonisation Team and OSR|
Case study: homelessness
Homelessness is a devolved matter in the UK, so homelessness statistics are produced by each UK country separately. Statutory homelessness and rough sleeping are the two main concepts of homelessness which are collected in each UK country and published as official statistics. However, due to devolution, legislation and administrative data collection, systems are different in each country and information about comparability is generally limited. Nevertheless, users are interested in comparing these statistics, specifically comparing regions and cities across the UK. Therefore, it is necessary that comparability and the issues surrounding comparability are explained as described in the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) systemic review on Housing and Planning Statistics published in November 2017.
In February 2019, after extensive stakeholder engagement with government departments, the devolved administrations, academics and third sector organisations, the GSS Harmonisation Team produced a report investigating the feasibility of harmonising UK definitions of homelessness.
Our research concluded that although a general definition for homelessness could be created, developing a harmonised definition that government departments and the devolved administrations could incorporate into their statistics is very challenging. Therefore, we are collaborating with statistics producers in the four UK countries to develop improved guidance to help users understand the comparability of statistics on homelessness across the UK. This will help users to better understand the processes and legislation behind the different statistics, and where comparisons can and can’t be made.
Technological advances and developments in data sharing present new opportunities and challenges for producers of statistics. Harmonisation can play a key part in making the most of these opportunities and overcoming these challenges. As the potential of administrative data sources is realised, new questions are raised about how it can be used in conjunction with data sources that are already in use. As new methods of dissemination and data linkage are developed which can draw together multiple data sources, it is vital that users understand how these data sources can and cannot be used in conjunction with each other.
Combining data sources for new purposes
As new data sources are identified and utilised, we must ensure that we understand the inconsistencies in definitions and concepts and how they can be overcome. This will allow us to do two things. Firstly, it will enable the integration of new or existing data sources to provide improved or more efficient estimation. The GSS Migration Statistics Transformation Programme, a cross-GSS initiative led by ONS with Home Office as the lead policy department, is a key example of this. Secondly, it will enable new modes of communication of data and statistics which allow users to compare statistics from multiple data sources without requiring expert knowledge of each of those underlying sources.
|3.1 Enable the combination of multiple data sets through the Connected Open Government Statistics project||GSS Harmonisation Team to work with the data engineering team and data owners to identify data sets on related topics and develop ways of communicating differences in definitions that will affect the interpretation of the statistics.||GSS Harmonisation Team|
|3.2 Enable the integration of multiple datasets to enhance official statistics||GSS Harmonisation Team to work with teams across GSS to improve understanding of the definitions and question wording used in data sources and how they can be integrated and used together to improve the value of statistics.
Analysts and data controllers across the GSS to collaborate to improve official statistics through the harmonisation and integration of data sources.
|GSS Harmonisation Team, analysts and data controllers across government|
|3.3 Maintain awareness of technological advances and developments to identify new opportunities for harmonisation||Analysts across government should stay up to date on the latest methods and establish cross-GSS discussions to identify new priorities. They should collaborate across the UK to share best practice in data linking to improve statistical outputs.||Analysts across government|
Case study: Connected Open Government Statistics
In 2018, the Alpha phase of the GSS Data project (now known as Connected Open Government Statistics) began. The key aim of the project is to increase the impact and reach of GSS statistical data by improving how we organise, integrate and deliver GSS data online. The project aims to resolve the need to use spreadsheets as the primary dissemination mechanism and make data available in formats suitable for people, machines and the web. It has developed pipelines that can automate the transformation of data into 5* open linked data and connect disparate and comparable data releases into a single resource.
The 2018 Alpha phase was a small ‘proof of concept’ involving integrating data from trade and migration statistics, and the next stages in this strategically important project will be dependent on funding. Both trade and migration topics encompassed many datasets, a variety of departments, and a huge variation of classifications on complex, wide-spanning issues with high user engagement. Differences in this data, the collection methodologies and the classifications, means that it is very difficult to simply merge datasets together. Instead, we must be alive to the challenges of combining and comparing datasets which may have been developed independently and for different purposes.
This is where the GSS Harmonisation Team has come in. We are adopting a flexible approach whereby the project team use the expertise of the GSS Harmonisation Team to provide consultancy and advice on the comparability and coherence of statistics. The main challenges have been in harmonising the uses of geography in different statistics. Some data sources use the same terminology for slightly different areas or will refer to the same area in using different terms, so our work on identifying and addressing these differences will be vital to enabling users to draw appropriate conclusions from the statistics.
Case study: Migration Statistics Transformation Programme
ONS is transforming the way we produce population and migration statistics, to better meet the needs of our users. Working in partnership across the GSS, we are progressing a programme of work to put administrative data at the core of our evidence on international migration (UK) and on population (England and Wales) by 2020.
In January 2019, we published a research engagement report which shows the progress we are making towards a new approach for producing population stocks and flows using administrative data, by bringing more sources together to fill gaps in coverage. We have linked immigration, education, health and income records, and have explored how we can use these sources to determine the usually resident population of England and Wales and immigration flows to the UK. Our research has clearly demonstrated that no single source of information can tell us everything that our users want to know, or fully reflect the complexity of our changing populations, so we need to maximise the value that can be gained from using linked administrative data. This includes reviewing the concepts and definitions we use to produce population and migration statistics, to better reflect the complexity we can see in people’s travel patterns today – including circular migration.
As our programme progresses, we will continue to collaborate closely across the GSS to develop our approach for putting administrative data at the core of our statistics, and to address important evidence gaps identified by our users. We will iteratively develop our transformed statistics system, taking on board feedback from users and making the best use of new data and methods as they become available.
Delivering the strategy
To fulfil the aims of this strategy, we have specified a number of deliverables. These outline the steps that should be taken to ensure the GSS is moving in the right direction towards harnessing the power and efficiency of better harmonisation across data and statistics.
- The GSS Harmonisation Team will monitor the progress of each deliverable across the three goals and report this to the GSS harmonisation champion network on a quarterly basis.
- The GSS Harmonisation Team will produce biannual updates for the Statistical Policy and Standards Committee (SPSC) on overall progress on implementing the strategy.
- The GSS Harmonisation Team will produce annual updates for GSS HoPs on overall progress on implementing the strategy.
- The GSS Harmonisation Team will summarise progress on the strategy annually and review any requirements for revisions to the strategy.
After the two-year lifetime of the strategy, the GSS Harmonisation Team will review the deliverables and update the strategy. We will be flexible on delivery as the environment changes and welcome input and feedback into the strategy.
The GSS Harmonisation Team
Who we are
The GSS Harmonisation Team, situated in the Best Practice and Impact Division (BPI), supports the GSS in meeting its requirements to maintain, improve and report on harmonisation under the Code of Practice for Statistics. The team provides expert advice and guidance on the harmonisation of official statistics, and works with users and producers of statistics to improve coherence and comparability across government.
The GSS Harmonisation Team supports the whole GSS community but is not restricted only to the GSS, we can and do support other government professionals. We are happy to meet with other statistical producers and users to discuss the services and support we offer and the best ways we can meet their needs. To get in touch please contact us at email@example.com.
The GSS Harmonisation Team can support you by:
- sharing case studies of best practice of harmonisation
- maintaining and review a range of approved harmonised questions for your use
- bringing departments together via the GSS harmonisation champion network
- bringing together topic experts across the GSS and beyond to develop a best practice solution for your needs
- working with you to identify the user need for new harmonised questions. Providing resource to research and develop these
- providing strategic direction for harmonisation, agreeing our workplan with GSS Heads of Profession
Best Practice and Impact Division
Best Practice and Impact Division (BPI) has been created to support the GSS to improve official statistics. The division brings together the GSS Harmonisation Team, GSS Quality Centre, GSS Good Practice Team and Methodology Advisory Service.
We provide a range of services to all those working in statistics across government. The division works towards this through seven themes: providing strategic direction, sharing best practice, consultancy, building capability, tools and standards, assessment and monitoring, and one GSS voice. Under these themes, BPI supports the GSS through consultancy, training and advice.
To find out more about how BPI can support what you and your department please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Government Statistical Service
The Government Statistical Service (GSS) is a cross-government network, spread across a whole range of public bodies, including components of the devolved administrations and UK government departments. Led by the National Statistician, it includes statisticians, researchers, economists, analysts, operational delivery staff, IT specialists and other supporting roles. The GSS community works together to provide the statistical evidence base required by decision-makers and support democratic debate, publishing around 2,000 sets of statistics each year, and providing professional advice and analysis to decision-makers.
Harmonisation champion network, and Harmonisation topic groups and leads
The harmonisation champion network will ensure that each department or work area is engaged with the development of harmonised approaches to collecting data and producing statistics. Through continued championing of harmonisation in their departments or work areas, they will ensure that the development of each new topic has the right people involved.
Harmonisation topics are usually underpinned by a topic group, which are a working group of experts on that subject drawn from across the GSS. The chair of this group is the topic lead.
The Inter Administration Committee
The Inter Administration Committee (IAC) works in the context of the Concordat on Statistics between the UK Statistics Authority and the devolved administrations. It outlines the way in which the four countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) work together and cooperate on statistical matters. The chair of this committee is the National Statistician. The membership includes Chief Statisticians of the devolved administrations, the Registrar General for Scotland, the deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy and the UK Statistical Authority’s Chief of Staff.
IAC meets quarterly and its main responsibilities include promoting policies, strategies and standards which facilitate the production of coherent and harmonised statistics across the administrations; considering UK government statistics needed for devolved purposes and devolved statistics needed for UK purposes; and considering user need for statistics at UK level and for comparable sub-UK statistics, while recognising that individual administrations will have specific requirements that need to be met.
The Statistical Policy and Standards Committee (SPSC)
The Statistical Policy and Standards Committee (SPSC) assist the National Statistician in promoting and safeguarding the quality of official statistics. They develop and promote statistical policy and drive improvement in statistical methodologies, standards and classifications. SPSC reports to the National Statistics Executive Group (NSEG) providing biannual updates to agree objectives and priorities for statistical policies and standards.
|Topic/theme||Further detail||Key driver||Timescales|
|Housing||Improving comparability and coherence of statistics on homelessness and affordable housing and assessing quality of harmonised questions on other housing statistics.||Collaborative work with statistics producers across the UK in response to OSR Systemic review of housing and planning statistics.||See the housing workplan.|
|Health and lifestyle||Working with the three UK censuses to encourage a consistent approach to measuring long lasting health conditions. Collaborating with health theme groups to build links between statistics producers across the UK.||Health is a topic of high public importance and so it is important to ensure a consistent approach that considers international best practice.||Implementation review of unpaid care harmonised principle by end June 2019.
Further work to investigate harmonisation of data on lifestyles (alcohol and smoking) and assessing need for a harmonised principle on mental health.
|Income and Earnings||Improving coherence of income and earnings statistics across Government and integrating administrative data into existing traditional data sources.||The findings and recommendations of the OSR Systemic review of income and earnings statistics.||Publish glossary of terminology, followed by stakeholder engagement to encourage other publication glossaries to harmonise wording, by September.
Other aspects are ongoing.
|Quality of Life||Wellbeing and loneliness questions have been developed and implemented. Social capital questions are in development.||Government priority for better data on these cross-cutting topics.||Review implementation of loneliness principle in late 2019.
Develop and publish harmonised questions for measuring social capital in late 2019.
|Geography||Leading the GSS Geography Champions network to ensure that GSS Geography Policy is implemented across government.||Consistent standards for geographical data are vital to their value, particularly when they are produced by multiple sources across government.||Ongoing.|
|Migration||Support GSS Migration Transformation Programme. This is an important piece of work led by ONS Migration Statistics
in partnership across the GSS to deliver improvements in migration statistics and put administrative data at the core of evidence on migration.
|User engagement has identified changes in the key user needs for migration statistics, and opportunities for using administrative data to improve the migration statistics evidence base.||Following consultation, the GSS Harmonisation team will agree a workplan with the GSS migration working group by September 2019 for revising the principles for migration, country of birth and citizenship.
Following agreement, the team will publish the revised principles in accordance with the agreed plan.
|Ageing||Leading the UN Titchfield City Group on Ageing work strand on Standardisation and Harmonisation.||Key policy area of interest for UK and internationally.||Research and draw on lessons from organisations who have already harmonised measures and developed guidelines, by March 2020.
Assess levels of current harmonisation or standardisation of data or sources, by March 2021.
|Sexual orientation, sex, and gender identity||Working with ONS gender identity and sexual orientation topic leads to develop harmonised standards for gender identity in surveys and monitoring data.||Emerging areas of public importance and a consistent approach to measurement is necessary.
In their LGBT Action Plan, the Government Equalities Office committed to working with ONS and the GSS to develop monitoring standards for sexual orientation and gender identity for use across central government.
|Publish an initial harmonised question for gender identity, and guidance for its use, by March 2020.
This will be followed by further work to monitor implementation and suitability, and to develop guidance and harmonised questions appropriate to the range of circumstances and modes required by government departments for surveys and monitoring.
|Cultural identity||Working with UK Censuses and Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit to ensure newly developed questions on ethnicity are adopted across government, including in key administrative data sources.
Ensure that recommendations for measuring cultural background reflect changes in the characteristics and perceptions of the UK’s population.
|The Women and Equalities Select Committee recommended that ethnicity data are collected consistently across government, as well as this being a key area of public interest.
New research for the 2021 Censuses will inform how data on ethnicity, national identity, and religion are collected.
|Develop improved guidance to accompany the harmonised questions for ethnic group, national identify, and religion and encourage use across the GSS by September 2019.
Once the content of the Censuses have been finalised, the GSS Harmonisation Team will consult with key stakeholders across the GSS to understand the impact of updating the harmonised questions and guidance.
|Internet access||New questions on internet access have been developed and will be tested to ensure they are fit for purpose.||Changing public use of the internet leads to new demands for how this is measured.||Test and publish harmonised principle by October 2019.|
|Demographics including qualifications||Update harmonised questions in light of recent research and consultation with key stakeholders from across government including the devolved administrations.||These data are collected by surveys and services across government so it is vital that it is done consistently and in line with best practice.||Review and publish new questions by March 2020.|
To find out more please email email@example.com.
This guidance is reviewed every two years.