Working across the devolved administrations

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:24 February 2017
Owner:Inter Administration Committee
Who this is for:Members of the Government Statistical Service (GSS)

Producers of Official Statistics across the UK government and Devolved Administrations are all responsible for producing better statistics. We need to work together and allow time to gather, and consider, the views of people in other administrations. This guidance aims to help producers of Official Statistics consider how best to involve other administrations.

Devolution is about transferring some powers of central government to local or regional administrations. It puts decision-making power closer to the citizen so they can have more say over issues that affect their life. Other powers are retained by the UK Parliament, and the distinction between them can be complex.

If you are working on an area that is devolved, you need to be aware of how this affects the statistics you produce. More information on what policies are affected can be found on each of the devolution settlements for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Even when not devolved, colleagues should consider devolution as part of best practice. Consider any effect your work may have on different administrations and engage as appropriate. Opportunities for research, joint-working, and sharing learning across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) will only be possible with regular engagement with your devolved counterparts.

You can find central guidance about devolution on GOV.UK. You can also access a devolution toolkit on GOV.UK to help you take devolution matters into consideration in your work.

Devolution Good Practice for statistics

Devolution must be considered when working across the GSS. By working with colleagues across departments and governments we can produce better statistics that ensure policy makers are well informed on various topics. This benefits everyone in the UK.

The UK government signed the Concordat on Statistics with the Devolved Administrations to set out how producers of Official Statistics across the UK will work together to:

  • prioritise statistical needs and reach consensus on the statistics to be produced
  • produce coherent or comparable Official Statistics in a way that represents good value for money
  • exchange data and other information
  • consult with each other on areas of shared interest
  • co-operate on matters relating to professional standards and statistical staff

This applies equally to statisticians within the Devolved Administrations as well as those within UK departments.

What this means for you

It is important that we think about how to involve colleagues from other departments and administrations in our work. We should also consider how activities in one administration of the UK affects other areas.

Devolution good practice checklist

Devolution can affect all stages of statistical production. This checklist is not exhaustive but aims to help you work more effectively with our devolved counterparts. You should:

  • work with other administrations and departments, be open and communicate regularly, especially those with a devolved interest in the topic you are working on
  • check what geographic details your output relates to – think about whether any additional breakdowns would be useful for other administrations
  • ensure you understand the context for different geographies – think about the most important messages for different nations and regions, and consider international contexts too
  • consult users across the UK when you are designing outputs and data collections
  • harmonise data where appropriate
  • alert other administrations to upcoming publications that contain country level data and seek any appropriate permissions
  • tell users where to find comparable statistics if they are available
  • share data securely, where appropriate
  • allow enough time for quality assurance with other administrations – this can, and often should, include access before formal pre-release to statisticians in other administrations
Be proactive throughout your work – consult and engage with colleagues in other administrations early in the process and not the day before, or on the day, that you plan to publish.

Good practice case study

To help inform the Independent Review into the State Pension Age, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) developed some analysis of healthy life expectancy by administrative geography and socioeconomic position. Their analysis resulted in the publication of a new statistical bulletin on Health Expectancies at Birth and at Age 65 in the UK. The publication was based on 2011 Census data.

Initially, this analysis covered England only, but on consideration it was felt the publication could be improved by extending the examination across the whole of the UK.

To do this, ONS contacted Public Health Wales, NHS Health Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) to find out:

  • what health expectancy statistics were already produced
  • whether any existing statistics included the expanded health states needed by deprivation strata and administrative geography

The team discovered that there were no existing statistical publications that covered this information. The ONS developed plans to provide a comprehensive set of health state life expectancy statistics for local areas in the UK and by each Devolved Administration’s measure of deprivation, in consultation with the National Records of Scotland, Welsh Government and NISRA. The team asked for future input from each of these departments for quality assurance and commentary before publication. They also asked for the statistics to be published by local area level.

By working together, the departments were able to publish the first set of health state life expectancies across all local areas in the UK.

The publication prompted the ONS to expand its regular health state life expectancy release to cover all local areas and health boards in Scotland and Wales.

It also prompted the creation of a UK Health State Life Expectancy Group. The group meets quarterly and has cross UK membership. They have been asked to work together on the publication of these statistics in the future.

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