Neil Sheldon has taught at The Manchester Grammar School for 40 years. He is a Chartered Statistician and Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. He has been an RSS Guy Lecturer since 2007. He is also course leader for the Certificate in Teaching Statistics offered by the RSS Centre for Statistical Education
Since proposed reforms of the welfare system were announced two years ago, we have regularly heard reference to Universal Credit, the new benefit set to replace six of what are currently the main means-tested welfare benefits and tax credits. But without a sense of how levels of existing claims have changed over time, how many people are claiming in each authority, the age profile of claimants etc…without having access to DWP’s data, it’s been hard to gain a big picture sense of the impact the new benefit would have. The government’s Open Data initiative is beginning to turn this around.
Last week, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) launched ‘People and Households claiming Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and other benefits’ a consultation on proposals to change the way its statistics are collected and disseminated. The consultation sits alongside the introduction of the new credits and payments and ties in with the government’s White Paper on Open Data which states that departments will “get more data into the public domain and make sure that data is trustworthy and easy to use”.
DWP managers plans to use what users tell them to shape DWP statistics through to 2017 and beyond. The consultation document includes a series of proposals on which views are sought. Key amongst them is how to further develop Stat-Xplore, an online interactive data analysis and visualisation tool that allows users to explore benefit data and see results in the form of interactive charts and graphs which they can navigate, download and share. DWP sees Stat-Xplore as a key tool in modernising DWP’s statistical output (see the DWP Open Data Strategy).
For now Stat-Xplore only contains data on housing benefit claimants but there are plans for it to soon cover Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment data. Also data on those affected by the Benefit Cap once it is introduced. These, and other statistics, will be produced monthly and published three and a half months after the reference date. The intention is to enable Stat-Xplore users to create their own sets of data and compare official claims data by date, local authority, parliamentary constituencies, regions and claim type.
If you would like to feed in your views of Stat-Xplore, the deadline to get back to DWP is 24 April 2013. If you have wider views on open data, share them via this website or via the RSS’s StatsUserNet website