Written evidence from Administrative Data Research Wales (CPM0044)



Background to Administrative Data Research Wales


Administrative Data Research Wales (ADR Wales) is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded partnership between Welsh Government, Swansea and Cardiff Universities with the aim of conducting research using anonymised linked administrative data to provide an evidence base to support Welsh Government policy.  ADR Wales is part of a wider partnership across the UK called ADR UK.


ADR Wales makes use of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank run by Swansea University. 


SAIL is a Digital Economy Act accredited Trusted Research Environment which provides secure access to a huge range of linked anonymised person-based data for research purposes.  SAIL offers a complete solution from data access, through to linkage and levels of technical and analytic support. SAIL uses a range of technical and procedural privacy-protecting techniques, has brought together administrative routinely-collected datasets relating to individuals living in Wales, so that they can be reliably and anonymously linked at the individual level and securely used for research. Birth registration (and deaths data) and other relevant data such as maternity health records (including mother ethnicity and gestational age), child health records (including child ethnicity), primary care GP data (including registration data) and data about children in care are held in anonymised form in the SAIL Databank. SAIL uses the NHS based Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) as its Trusted Third Party to process identifiable data. NWIS maintains the Welsh Demographic Service (WDS) database that acts as a proxy for the Welsh population register, containing identifiable information (such as name, address, NHS number).  Wales is fortunate that it has a wide range of potent data sources in Welsh Government and local government, in its NHS, and in the third sector, a lot of which are accessible for research (for academics and policy makers) through SAIL. This includes data feeds from the ONS – including 2011 Census data at individual and household level which are linkable to other data in SAIL. However, the biggest gap in our knowledge and understanding of the wider determinants of health is information on individual and household level income and place of work held in datasets maintained by the DWP and HMRC.



ADR Wales and DWP


In order to meet our core aim of conducting policy-relevant research, ADR Wales has an ambitious data acquisition programme.  For some time we have been seeking to enable research access to linked anonymised DWP data and to achieve this we have been working closely with our ADR UK partners in the ESRC Strategic Hub and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).



What are the benefits of DWP making their data available for research purposes in SAIL?


The SAIL Databank already holds a vast range of data including health, housing, education, social care and survey data.  The addition of DWP data would be an incredible complement to these existing SAIL data holdings.


Poverty can have a devastating effect on a child’s life, and is associated with lower academic attainment, poorer health outcomes (including mental health) and employment prospects. Availability of poverty data would enable researchers and policy makers to investigate both the direct and indirect impact of poverty on a range of child outcomes.


DWP data would be invaluable for flagging children living in poverty.  This could mean a flag for the household being in receipt of certain benefits / tax credits, or a more sophisticated measure of children in low income families.


At present this is largely only possible in SAIL using proxy measures such as whether the child lives in an area classified as ‘deprived’ or whether the child is eligible for free school meals.  But both such measures have limitations.[1]  A more rigorous measure of poverty combined with the other data already in SAIL would allow detailed analysis into the health, education and other outcomes for children living in poverty compared with other children.


An important determinant of child poverty is the labour market status of the child’s parents.  One of the aims of the Welsh Government’s Employability Plan is to eliminate the gap in working age unemployment and economic inactivity rates between Wales and the UK average within 10 years.  The availability of DWP data would enable a robust evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions intended to improve the employment prospects of those out of work.


The effects of Covid-19 on the most economically vulnerable is of concern to all governments across the UK.  Analysis by the ONS has shown that the Covid-19 mortality rate has been higher in the most deprived areas than in other areas.  Yet to fully understand the impact of Covid-19 on deprived people, individual-level datasets are required.  Although we know children are much less likely than adults to directly suffer adverse health due to Covid-19, there may be many other consequences of the pandemic and associated measures, including on their education, mental health as well as indirect effects on their health e.g. due to their not presenting for medical attention when needed.  Having markers for economic vulnerability at individual-level in SAIL would allow us to explore whether children in poverty are more likely to experience these consequences than other children.


Through our work on household composition in SAIL and access to GIS and data science work on green spaces we are also able to consider the relationship between the disadvantaged groups, health outcomes and access to outdoors and green spaces which are all crucial factors in considering the impact of lockdown on children.


There is evidence that child poverty is a substantial predictor of homelessness.  One of the priority areas of ADR Wales is homelessness, and data acquisition and analysis work are underway in this area.  Having both child poverty and homelessness data in SAIL would allow a robust means of measuring some of the impacts of homelessness.


Although pre-Covid, there is some research evidence that the majority of people entering poverty will exit poverty after a short period of time but that many of them will experience recurrent episodes of poverty and that only a small proportion of individuals will experience persistent poverty (Devicienti, 2001[2]; Fouarge and Layte, 2005[3]). Longitudinal analysis is therefore needed to understand the dynamic nature of poverty. Administrative data is by its very nature longitudinal and can therefore allow analyses relating to transitions in and out of poverty. Bringing DWP data into the SAIL Databank would allow us to explore, in particular, the following policy-relevant questions:



In sum, ADR Wales welcomes the opportunity to work with DWP data to help aid understanding of the experiences of children living in poverty in Wales.



March 21

[1] See, for example, “The Reliability of Free School Meal Eligibility as a Measure of Socio-Economic Disadvantage: Evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study in Wales”, Taylor 2017

[2] Devicienti F (2001) .Poverty Persistence In Britain: A Multivariate Analysis Using The BHPS, 1991-1997., In P. Moyes, C. Seidl And A.F. Shorrocks (Eds), Inequalities: Theory, Measurement And Applications, Journal Of Economics, Suppl. 9, 1-34.

[3] Fouarge, D. and R. Layte (2005). ‘Welfare regimes and poverty dynamics: the duration and recurrence of poverty spells in Europe’. Journal of Social Policy 34 (3): 407–426.