Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation Team workplan

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Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:25 February 2022
Author:GSS Harmonisation Team
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Strategy
Contact:

harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk

This workplan was published on 25 February 2022. It summarises the plans for reviewing and updating harmonised standards, definitions, and guidance.

It shows the work of the GSS Harmonisation Team based in the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The team have also worked with the devolved administrations and the Cabinet Office Equality Hub to design this workplan. It follows a review of priorities that happened after the September 2021 report of the Inclusive Data Taskforce was published.

This workplan shows:

  • priority topic areas that the GSS Harmonisation Team we will be working on for 2022 and beyond
  • other topics we will work on
  • topics that we are not planning to review yet – this is either because they have been recently updated, or because there is no established demand for work on the topic

We aim to be open and honest about the work we do. We will provide regular progress updates on this page.

Priority areas

Current offer

Our current harmonised standard for ethnicity is based on the questions used in UK censuses in 2011.

We recommend that people choose their own answer to the question about their ethnic group. This is because ethnicity will mean something different to each person.

We also recommend that this standard is used together with our religion harmonised standard and national identity harmonised standard. The questions should be asked in the following order: national identity, ethnic group, religion.

The ethnicity question in the current harmonised standard was reviewed and adapted for the UK censuses in 2021 and 2022. This was because of changes in respondent needs. The census questions were produced by balancing the new respondent needs with the need for coherence and comparability.

Because of this comprehensive work the questions in the UK censuses in 2021 and 2022 are recommended for data collection for ethnic groups at present. But we recognise that user and respondent needs may have changed since the census questions were developed.

Priority activities

Our priority activities for the topic of ethnicity include:

  • reviewing the topic area
  • working with stakeholders and user groups to understand user needs
  • testing possible improvements and changes to the question design, as needed
  • providing guidance about what questions should be used while we are working on this topic area
  • thinking about how any proposed changes to the ethnicity questions will align with the religion and national identity questions

Timescale

Our timescales will be guided by the feedback we get from stakeholders during our user engagement activities. We will provide regular progress updates about these timescales on our website.

We are now working to:

  • agree guidance about what questions to use during our review work – this will be published in spring 2022
  • run research and engagement activities throughout 2022
  • publish the first findings from our research and engagement work in autumn 2022
  • publish an updated online self-completion question by summer 2023 – this will be followed by telephone mode and face-to-face mode questions

Current offer

To collect data on disability in line with the Equality Act (2010) for Great Britain or the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) for Northern Ireland, we recommend using the:

We recommend using both harmonised standards together.

Users can also collect data using the impairment harmonised standard. This will give more information about the things that people can or cannot do. These questions were developed before the UK censuses in 2011.

Priority activities

Our priority activities for the topic of disability include:

  • reviewing the topic area
  • working with stakeholders and user groups to make sure disability standards meet user needs
  • testing possible improvements and changes to the question design for the disability standards

Timescale

Our timescales will be guided by the feedback we get from stakeholders during our user engagement activities. We will provide regular progress updates on these timescales on our website.

We are now working to:

  • run research and engagement activities throughout 2022
  • publish the first findings from our research and engagement work in autumn 2022
  • design draft questions for updating the disability standards by winter 2022 – this will depend on our research and engagement findings
  • publish updated online self-completion questions by summer 2023, followed by telephone mode and face-to-face mode questions – this will depend on our research and engagement findings

Current offer

The long lasting health conditions and illness harmonised standard and impairment harmonised standard can capture data on mental health. But they were not developed with the main aim of understanding mental health. We do not have a harmonised standard for mental health yet. Instead, we have harmonisation guidance for mental health which describes the wider context of the topic.

Priority activities

Our priority activities for the topic of mental health include:

  • working with stakeholders and user groups to understand whether a harmonised standard for mental health is needed
  • developing and testing a harmonised standard for mental health, if it is needed

Timescale

Our timescales will be guided by the feedback we get from stakeholders during our user engagement activities. We will provide regular progress updates on these timescales on our website.

We are now working to:

  • run research and engagement activities throughout 2022
  • publish the first findings from our research and engagement work in winter 2022
  • design draft questions for a mental health harmonised standard by spring 2023 – this will depend on our research and engagement findings
  • publish an online self-completion question by summer 2023, followed by telephone mode and face-to-face mode questions – this will depend on our research and engagement findings

Current offer

Our current gender identity harmonised standard is ‘under development’. It is based on the Census 2021 question for England and Wales. This question was developed from the in-depth engagement, research and testing work that was done for Census 2021.

There is no harmonised standard on the topic of sex. But the Office for Statistics Regulation has produced some draft guidance. It explains what producers should think about when they are collecting and reporting data about sex in official statistics.

Priority activities

Our priority activities for the topics of sex and gender identity include:

  • working with a range of stakeholders and user groups to understand and review user needs – this will use and add to the census research that has already been done
  • understanding what people need from a harmonised standard for sex, for both questions and guidance
  • monitoring and reviewing how the gender identity standard is working
  • changing the gender identity standard from ‘under development’ to ‘final’
  • publishing more guidance to help people use the question – for example, more information will be needed to explain how the gender identity question and sex question interact
  • testing possible improvements and changes to question design as needed

Timescale

Our timescales will be guided by the feedback we get from stakeholders during our user engagement activities. We will provide regular progress updates on these timescales on our website.

We are now working to:

  • publish a review of the gender identity standard and an updated standard with further guidance in summer 2022
  • run research and engagement activities throughout 2022
  • publish the first findings from our research and engagement in autumn 2022
  • publish a timetable for future work in autumn 2022 – this will include activities like designing, testing, and publishing additional guidance

Other topics we are working on

We are also working on several other topics:

The coronavirus (COVID-19) harmonisation guidance was published to support the collection of data on the pandemic. It was designed to make sure data were harmonised and of high quality. We are continuing to review our guidance to make sure it stays relevant and accurate as the situation develops. This is an ongoing activity.

The marital or partnership status harmonised standard was updated in 2020. But user feedback has suggested there may be more user needs that we need to meet. We plan to work with data processors and collectors throughout 2022 to understand more about these user needs. We may update the standard or guidance to address this.

We are working to understand the comparability of the current national identity harmonised standard with the UK censuses in 2021 and 2022. We plan to publish an update to the webpage about our findings in summer 2022.

We plan to publish a short update to the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) harmonised standard in spring 2022. This update will direct users to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2020 rebased NS-SEC.

The Office for National Statistics Social Survey Research and Design team are developing new questions to measure qualifications. We are working with them to bring their questions together to form a harmonised standard. We hope to publish these questions in autumn 2022. They will be added to the qualifications harmonisation guidance so that users have an evidence-based method of capturing qualifications data.

We plan to publish a short update to the information in the religion harmonised standard in summer 2022. This will summarise our findings on philosophical belief. It will also provide more guidance to help people use the standard.

The sexual orientation harmonised standard will be reviewed this year. We will use and add to the research for Census 2021. We plan to publish an updated standard in winter 2022.

We are developing a new harmonised standard for socio-economic background. We plan to publish it in winter 2022. Throughout 2022 we will:

  • work with stakeholders
  • set up a topic group
  • test possible questions with user groups

We continue to lead the Standardisation and Harmonisation work strand for the Titchfield City Group on Ageing. We will produce the first draft of a guide to improve harmonisation of ageing related data in spring 2022. We plan to publish the final draft in spring 2023.

We are working with Welsh Government to agree the first harmonised standard for Welsh Language Skills. We plan to publish this in spring 2022.

Topics not currently planned for review

Some of our harmonised standards have been updated recently or have low established demand for review. We will review the need for work on these topics in 2023. We are open to working on them again in the future.

We are not planning to review the following themes until 2023, unless the topic is listed in this workplan:

Additional Information

We recognise that the GSS Harmonisation Team in ONS are not alone in improving the comparability, consistency, and coherence of government statistics. There is great work happening in these areas across the UK statistical system. For example, in the GSS, there is a separate workplan for coherence of statistics.

The 2021 report of the independent Inclusive Data Taskforce (IDTF) recommended regular reviews of harmonised standards. This workplan sets out our plans and timescales for reviewing and updating the harmonised standards and guidance for the conceptual measures that relate to equality characteristics. When we publish each updated standard we will assess and set the timescale for the next review.

In 2023 we will review the need for further work on harmonised standards that have:

  • been updated recently
  • a low established demand for review

We are open to working on these standards again in the future. This is in line with the 2022 Inclusive Data Taskforce Implementation Plan which sets out harmonisation activities for the wider statistical system. This is covered by principle seven of the Implementation Plan.

We are available to provide advice and guidance to anyone using our various harmonised standards or guidance. You can contact the team at harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

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