Industry voice: The London borough has harnessed the unique property reference number for improvements in protecting vulnerable children and fighting fraud
As with many local authorities, Camden has been grappling with problems that derive from longstanding difficulties in its data management.
These have included maintaining the information needed to protect vulnerable children, the illegal sub-letting of council flats, ensuring the accuracy of its register of voters, and keeping track of exactly how many homes are within the residential buildings in the borough.
But it has developed a solution, the Camden Residents Index (CRI), which draws on the unique property reference number (UPRN), a unique identifier for every addressable location in Great Britain. The UPRN is created by local authorities, held in their local land and property street gazetteers, and managed nationally by GeoPlace, a joint venture between Ordnance Survey and the Local Government Association.
It also provides a key element in identifying a property and piecing together relevant data to provide an accurate picture.
The council developed the CRI in 2013, using a master data management platform to create a single, consistent view of the borough’s residents and the council services they use. It uses sophisticated probabilistic matching techniques to link records from different business system together to produce a single ‘golden view’ of the citizen and the household.
A key feature of this is that the UPRN helps to underpin the algorithms in the system. Many of Camden’s business systems are integrated with their local land and property gazetteer (LLPG) so that the citizen addresses their CRI system receives often comes with their UPRN.
Sanja Milojevic, a senior business analyst for Camden’s Shared Digital Service with Islington and Haringey, says that in addition to providing a single view of an individual citizen, the CRI integrates records into a household view, which is pivoted around the address.
This provided benefits in the use of its Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for vulnerable children, which has drawn on the index to identify any changes in the composition of relevant households. This is important in helping them to monitor the factors that contribute to risks to children.
“It can give an overview of services used at a household level, and it helps practitioners, such as the MASH team, to learn about the household composition. For example, showing if a new adult has moved into a household where there is a vulnerable child known to social services – one of the recommendations following the tragic Baby P case.
“It can also be used for fraud identification.”
An example of this is in eliminating the sub-letting of council properties. The CRI makes it possible to match one type of data against another, such as whether the name registered as the tenant of a council property differs from that of anyone using its services and giving the same address. It can provide the clues to identify where the system is being abused.
Camden has obtained results, identifying 23 cases where there are strong signs of illegal sub-letting. Given that every property returned to council housing stock saves an average of £18,000 per year, this could amount £414,000 if all of the 23 are discovered to be fraudulently sub-let; and the system will identify more cases over time.
Similar gains have been made in reducing school admissions fraud: the CRI has been used to identify cases where an application has been made from a false address and helped to ensure that the places go to children from the correct catchment area.
It achieved benefits in other areas. The Electoral Services team used the CRI to validate 80% of the data from the electoral roll, compared with just 50% achieved by the Department for Work and Pensions, which usually validates the council’s electoral data. This has helped it to maintain a more accurate register of electors in the borough.
The UPRN has also been useful for generating business intelligence reports. It neatly links up with administrative and statistical areas, such as local authority wards and the Office for National Statistics’ ‘lower super output area’, making it possible to feed data for the addresses into reports on the areas.
This has enabled the linking up of local datasets on the use of services with open national datasets to provide additional insights.
Camden has been one of the more ambitious councils in the country in its use of data, but its achievements with the CRI, with the UPRN playing a central role, can be repeated by others as they have their own local land and property street gazetteers and access to the AddressBase national dataset. It shows that core source of data about a property can provide the foundation for a series of initiatives in data matching, and help to solve a wide range of problems at local level.
Milojevic sums up: “Using the UPRN means that we can match records with greater success. The aim of the golden record is to cherry pick the best data from different sources and assemble a record based on what we believe is the best data we hold, and the UPRN is one of the top ones.
“It is also an essential tool for cleansing and de-duplicating data held in source systems. We are putting a huge effort into improving the quality of data across the organisation as this will lead us to being able to provide better services to our residents.”
How can councils take advantage?
- Technology delivers value through being scaled, data delivers value when it is linked and it is shared.
- Connect your data by using UPRNs. They provide an easy way to match records.
- Once records are matched people can more easily see, analyse, and understand patterns and relationships.
- The data is already yours; the know-how is available. Connect the data jigsaw to see the bigger picture.
For more case studies and information on how to better connect data for better outcomes, click here