The Head of Profession’s role in assessing continued compliance with the Code

This is a case study for Principle T2: Independent decision making and leadership.

In July 2016, the Welsh Government’s Head of Profession for Statistics wrote to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to request that the National Statistics designation of its Homelessness Statistics in Wales be temporarily suspended, as some local authorities faced difficulty in providing complete and accurate data following changes to the legislation that impacted the data collection.

Statisticians in the Welsh Government engaged extensively with local authorities to improve data collection practices and strengthen the quality assurance of the data used to produce these statistics. This involved issuing new guidance, holding workshops with local authorities to discuss difficulties in data collections and clarifying definitions and carrying out detailed reviews of individual data collection forms.

Welsh Government’s Head of Profession for Statistics wrote to OSR again around a year later. He set out the actions taken by the statisticians to ensure the quality of data recorded by local authorities and requested an end to the temporary suspension, which resulted in the National Statistics status being restored.

In June 2018, the Ministry and Housing and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Head of Profession for Statistics wrote to OSR outlining planned changes to MHCLG’s statutory homelessness statistics, following the introduction of the 2018 Homelessness Reduction Act.

The Head of Profession highlighted that the change would result in a break in the statistical series, as future homelessness data was being collected on a different basis by English local authorities going forwards. She noted that as similar legislative changes in Scotland and Wales had initially had a negative impact on data quality, new MHCLG homelessness statistics would be published as experimental statistics from the end of 2018, until MHCLG was sufficiently assured about the quality of the new data. The Head of Profession also set out plans to test the new experimental statistics by engaging with users of homelessness statistics to obtain their feedback.

These examples highlight the central role of the Head of Profession for Statistics in assessing continued compliance with the Code and determining the need for statistical developments to reflect changing legislative context and users’ needs. As required by the Code, they also highlight the Head of Profession’s role in reporting concerns they may have about continuing to meet the standards of the Code to the Director General for Regulation.