Chief Statistician’s update: can our social services statistics give better insights?

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Cymraeg

Many people in Wales come into contact with social care each year and it accounts for around a quarter of spending by local authorities in Wales. In 2017-18 over 75,000 adults were provided with services through a care and support plan and nearly 50,000 children were assessed for need for care and support.

Welsh Government collect and report on statistics relating to several aspects of social services activity in Wales. These statistics can be used to inform policy development, support local authority analysis and enable people to understand the quality of social services within their area.

To improve our social services statistics, this blog describes what we are planning to do differently when we publish later this year.

What are the changes?

Instead of publishing several smaller statistical reports, we plan to combine some of the reports into a larger publication. This will give a better picture of activity within social services across Wales and provide more of a narrative whilst drawing out key messages from the data in a meaningful way.

We intend to bring together our information to include data on assessments, provision of care and support and safeguarding activity whilst still meeting the needs of different user groups e.g. children, adults etc. This release will also include high level financial expenditure data and link to relevant performance measures to add value and enable greater insight.

We continue to work on improving data quality and be transparent about any issues relating to the statistics we publish. Hence this report will remain as experimental statistics following data quality concerns over the last few years. Those statistical reports that are badged as National Statistics will remain separate, as will the Performance Measures report and the two reports based on individual level children data.

Why are we doing this?

These changes reflect conversations the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) have had with stakeholders as part of their review into the quality and public value of adult social care statistics in Wales, as well as feedback shared with Welsh Government colleagues. We have also been considering how best to meet the needs of our social care users and the feedback from the OSR reflected much of what we had gathered from our own research and ideas.

Stakeholders have said the statistics could be more accessible and insightful, and the data collected should be more consistent. There are concerns around quality and value, and gaps in current published statistics. Combining releases and drawing in data from other sources should tell a more complete story and help answer more of the questions users of the statistics have.

This also supports more of a focus on improvement in preparation for the revised approach to measuring social services performance which Welsh Government have recently consulted on. As part of this, social services data to be collected from local authorities is being reviewed. Statisticians are actively involved in this review process and the development of new data requirements for 2020-21.

We recognise the impact the recent change in legislation has had on comparability and availability of trend data. We also acknowledge that data collection system changes are impacting on coverage and data availability. Work is ongoing to prepare local authorities for further changes from 2020-21 which includes support to gather data consistently across Wales and development of common reporting mechanisms.

What else will we be doing?

We are working with local authorities to quality assure data and have visited some local authorities recently to get a better understanding of how they process and provide their data to us. We will also be looking at other ways we can make our data available that can complement what we do already such as infographics or dashboards.

We will be working closely with policy colleagues to understand data requirements following the consultation and supporting the development of technical guidance and documentation for data collection in 2020-21.

We will also keep contact with the OSR and work with them to improve on issues affecting our statistics, as well as continuing to work with other social care data providers on further developments within the sector in Wales. More widely, we are starting discussions with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and other UK departments about how we can work together to provide users with more coherence and understanding of social services across the UK.

We would be happy to hear any ideas you have about analysis and dissemination of our social services statistics. Contact us at

John Morris
Head of health, social services and population statistics