Spotlight on the Better Outcomes through Linked Data (BOLD) programme

Millions of people in the UK have complex needs and could benefit from the right support, but they often do not get all the help they need. This is because the data relating to their needs, and the services they use, are highly fragmented.

The Better Outcomes through Linked Data (BOLD) programme is led by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and was set up to find new ways of connecting data. The programme aims to remove barriers to linking and sharing data across government. By doing this we will:

· improve our understanding of what interventions work

· help develop more evidence-based policies

· help to redesign services to benefit the public

Our aims

BOLD aims to link data across government to bring new insights to inform policy and transform services for vulnerable individuals and people with complex needs. It concentrates on the four main areas of:

· supporting victims of crime

· reducing reoffending

· reducing substance misuse

· reducing homelessness

BOLD is ‘bold’ in its vision and ambition. It aims to make progress in data linking and insights. It uses innovative data linking software called ‘Splink’, which has been developed by the Ministry of Justice data linkers. The software is used as a basis for linking data across organisations.

Our team

The BOLD team is multidisciplinary and includes around 60 analysts, policy specialists, data engineers, strategists and project specialists from several organisations including:

· Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC)

· Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID)

· Public Health Wales (PHW)

· Welsh Government

· Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC)

· Ministry of Justice

Recent developments

The first BOLD data share between MoJ, DHSC and OHID has now been set up. Statistics indicate a significant number of vulnerable people are not making it into the drug and alcohol treatment system. This includes prison leavers, people on probation, and people who have drug or alcohol dependencies. For the first time, we will be able to test this to understand whether this attrition in the referral pathway is accurate. We will also be able to see what the socio-demographic factors associated with a successful referral are. This will help provide insights to an important part of the cross-government Drugs Strategy.

Our Victims pilot project is aimed at linking data at local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)level. The programme concentrates on adult sexual violence victims, and it aims to provide a unique insight to the victim journey through victims’ support services by linking voluntary sector data It will also help provide insight into the victims journey through the Criminal Justice System (CJS) for reported crimes. This will help us re-design services to help improve the victim journey.

Our first Reducing Reoffending pilot project will provide operational staff, such as probation officers, performance managers and probation directors, with more information on the services an offender is receiving after release from custody. The existing process relies on probation officers manually collecting this information. This is not only resource intensive. There is a risk that decisions could be made using incomplete information about the needs of offenders. The pilot will show which offenders are accessing multiple services without the need for manual collection. The tool will help probation officers make meaningful decisions based on the individual needs of the person, which will help reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

BOLD has started work on several projects concentrating on information governance and public engagement in partnership with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), part of Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Currently a public engagement exercise is being undertaken. Through this we hope to:

· understand the effect different governance mechanisms have on trust

· improve and refine our use cases

· inform how we communicate to wider public

Our engagement with our data subjects will be an important part of this project. This includes data subjects such as homeless people, offenders and victims of crime. We want to gather information to understand their view on what BOLD is aiming to do.

Future work

We are keen to share our learning and experience. In autumn 2022, we will launch the ‘BOLD Insights Series’, which will start sharing and disseminating the technical, strategic, and analytical insights we are gaining through our experimental projects. To enable this, we have set up a new knowledge management system which has started to capture our learning.

BOLD is a three-year programme that is funded by the Shared Outcomes Fund. The programme will end in March 2024. We are keen to bring together an analyst community that is engaged in data linking across government to share learning. If you are interested in knowing more about BOLD or sharing your own experience on similar data linking projects, please contact Nisha de Silva, the Programme Director of BOLD by emailing Nisha.desilva@justice.gov.uk or BOLD@justice.gov.uk.