Seven main barriers have emerged to local government sharing data on vulnerable groups with central government, according to a report published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing Communities (DLUHC).
It commissioned the paper from software development consultancy Softwire to support the Better Outcomes through Linked Data (BOLD) programme, which is led by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and aimed at finding ways to link and improve data to support vulnerable people. The effort is aimed specifically at reducing homelessness, substance misuse and reoffending, and supporting victims of crime.
Titled Barriers to data sharing between DLUHC and local government, it says the main barriers are: concerns over legislation and legal issues, with a need for more guidance; limited resources and funding, especially among smaller councils; logistical challenges such a lack of IT system integration and a need to collect and clean data; concerns over privacy; a lack of clarity on the benefits of national data linking; low engagement between central government and smaller councils; and uncertainty over the relevance to council employees’ roles.
It concludes that there are potential beneficiaries of data sharing outside DLUHC and makes a series of recommendations.
One is to communicate data initiatives at the right level, through emails, face-to-face meetings and workshops, so the correct people are involved at the right stages. This should be accompanied by articulating the benefits of data sharing, and clearly defining the responsibilities around data sharing agreements.
The others are to ensure reciprocal data sharing and improved communication around outcomes; raise the efforts to improve logistics and systems to programme level; and conduct further research for additional insights.
The report is based on desk research, a series of workshops and interviews with key DLUHC stakeholders and employees of 11 local councils across England. The department said the findings will help to tackles the barriers in data sharing and feed into policy.
Writing in the foreword, the DLUHC chief economist and director for analysis and data Stephen Aldridge, says: “DLUHC remains committed to exploring solutions to enable better data usage and communications across central and local government.
“We are committed to continuing to develop our evidence base on the causes of and solutions to homelessness and rough sleeping, working with other government departments, local councils and expert advisers and charities across the sector to facilitate change.”