The UK Office for National Statistics carried out an audit of data sources and publications that are available to understand equalities in the UK today including outcomes for all nine of the protected characteristic groups covered by the Equality Act in six areas of life. The final report of the audit was published in October 2018.
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The equalities data audit is a response to an increased societal demand in the UK for robust data to monitor equalities. This has been illustrated by developments such as the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s report on the state of equalities and human rights in Britain in 2010 and 2015, the Race Disparity Audit announced by the Prime Minister in 2016, and the launch of an official website on Ethnicity Facts and Figures in 2017.
Against this backdrop, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) aims to improve its ability to address cross-cutting equalities issues more effectively by setting up a Centre for Equalities and Inclusion. The aim of the Centre is to work with other stakeholders to ensure that the right data are available to address the main social and policy questions about fairness and equality in society. The audit is a first step in this process.
The aim of the audit was to take stock of existing equality data sources. It also sought to identify gaps in quality, coverage or timeliness of UK equalities data to enable collaborative action across government, academia and civil society organisations. This will allow the identified issues to be prioritised and action to be taken.
The audit was carried out on the basis of an open call through the website of the ONS (crowd-sourcing), whereby stakeholders from across government, academia and civil society organisations were invited to fill in a spreadsheet.
The audit covered the protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act, namely age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race and ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation.
Applying the EHRC’s measurement framework for equality and human rights, the data were structured along the domains of health, education, justice and personal security, living standards, work and participation.
The audit started with an initial search of relevant sources of official statistics and continued by successive stages of crowd-sourcing for feedback on its content and further input. To ensure its completeness, the audit was distributed initially within the ONS.
The audit was then advertised on the Government Statistical Service (GSS) website. It was targeted at non-governmental organisations with a demonstrated interest in the issues.
For each of the resources listed, respondents were asked to provide information on:
The process was accompanied by a working group including representatives from the relevant branches of government and from academia. Following the recommendations from this group, the audit was enhanced to capture the raw data sources underlying the initial resources provided by the crowd-sourcing exercise.
Researchers added fields to capture harmonisation information and to reflect the extent to which each data source included characteristics on the socio-economic group and people at higher risk of harm, abuse, discrimination or disadvantage. A field was also included to reflect the extent to which data collected on a specific characteristic are self-reported, in line with a fundamental tenet of the human rights-based approach to data.
Finally, the ONS collated the data sources in a database, analysed them and reported on the findings.
Email: equalities (at) ons (dot) gov (dot) uk