Communication with data suppliers

Communication with data suppliers is vital. Effective relationships with suppliers should be based on detailed written agreements (such as in a service level agreement or memoranda of understanding), including change management processes, to ensure that statistical needs are considered when changes are being made to the administrative systems and documented data supply arrangements.

When multiple data suppliers are involved, producers should ensure that they have a good understanding of the approaches adopted across the sector to ensure consistency in recording and quality levels.

Producers should also determine whether specific data quality indicators are relevant and can be provided by data suppliers. ESS quality guidelines highlight a number of quality indicators relevant to administrative data:

  • Data completeness – are required data variables supplied?
  • Over-coverage – are units outside the target population included?
  • Unit non-response – are there whole units with no (usable) information?
  • Item non-response – are particular variables missing information?


Communication example


Health and Social Care Information Centres (HSCIC) Social Services Activity and Expenditure Statistics

The operation context

Requests for social care help are made to Councils with Adult Social Service Responsibilities (CASSRs) who carry out assessments to determine the appropriate care planning and services to be provided to individuals.

Care workers, social workers, care managers, and council administrative workers use operational databases for the day to day management of social service users’ care plans. A care record is created for each service user and carers when they are assessed for social services. This is a record of the individual’s needs and any services they require access to, known as a ‘care plan’. These records or care plans are maintained and updated when care packages for users are reviewed and changed.

The statistics

HSCIC publishes a suite of statistical reports on adult social care in England. This includes the National Statistics, Social Services Activity (Activity), which presents the number of referrals made to CASSRs, and the number of people receiving assessments, reviews and services funded by CASSRs. HSCIC also produces the National Statistics, Personal Social Services Expenditure and Unit Costs (Expenditure) which provides information about the money spent on adult social care by the social services departments.

HSCIC operates under the authority of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This broadened the role of HSCIC, and established it as an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body. Following a social care data review, HSCIC has changed its social care data collections, implemented from 2014-15. These include a new Short and Long Term (SALT) Return.

Communication methods

Each year HSCIC consults CASSRs about changes to the data returns and then confirms the arrangements for future collections in annual and quarterly letters to the Directors of ASSs.

During its programme to replace the adult social collections, HSCIC circulated a monthly newsletter among councils to share ideas and examples of solutions through case studies from councils.

It also seconded LA staff members to work on the implementation programme. These staff members led a number of the projects developing the new returns, bringing their expertise and local understanding to the development of the new data collections.

HSCIC used webinars to discuss the new data collection with local authorities. This enabled HSCIC to receive direct feedback in a cost-effective and timely way about the issues being faced in introducing the new collection.

Katharine Robbins is the lead statistician for HSCIC’s adult social care and says:

‘For about three years, I have chaired a comms group. Some of the things that have been essential to the current collection of the new data sources are:

  • Daily maintenance of a contact list through a Customer Relationship Management system to ensure that we contact the people in post. We also closely monitor bouncebacks and the sign up to various things to identify where a council may have pressures due to staff gaps.
  • The ongoing monthly newsletter, and the need to restate key points to pick up new people or people who missed the last one. We are also using new software to monitor how many people read the newsletter and techniques to increase this.
  • Stakeholder groups for each return who meet regularly by phone, and annual feedback surveys for the returns which are discussed in the group and published with action plans.’

Katharine is happy to speak with anyone who would like to know more about their work in developing this new data collection and in managing relationships with her data suppliers. Please email Katharine at: