Councils get faster data insights to boost their COVID-19 recovery

By Deven Ghelani | 26 July 2020

Despite taking the brunt of spending cuts over the years, local authorities have continued to provide essential services and support to residents, including people newly impacted by coronavirus. Councils have worked on the frontline of this ongoing crisis, sometimes as the last line of support for those who have no one left to turn to.

Local authorities now face unprecedented strain on finances and massive loss of revenue. With deep roots in the communities they serve, councils are well-placed to understand the challenges their residents face. Councils need to pre-empt the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, whilst also addressing the immediate needs of residents.

Prevention is better than cure

To weather the pandemic, there is much value in investing in prevention now rather than in intervention when crisis hits. Proactively identifying and targeting support to people who need help the most has never been more important.

We know that over £10bn of benefits goes unclaimed. Now more than ever councils need to connect those who are newly vulnerable with the benefits and employment support they’re eligible for and, in doing so, prevent crisis and promote a faster economic recovery. 

Administrative data is the future of effective social policy, and timely data insights are essential to help councils deliver proactive and reactive support services locally.

The future is uncertain for councils and residents, but data insights can help

With so much economic uncertainty on the horizon, data insights are more important than ever to help councils with their COVID-19 recovery planning, and to track changing living standards through this crisis. Looking forward to 2021, all councils with administrative datasets have the ability to identify and engage vulnerable residents before they reach crisis point, predict their overall council finances and prepare action plans to support their residents. 

New funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, will give councils real time monthly updates on living standards to tackle poverty faster. 

Policy in Practice has secured funding to automate the secure transfer of household level administrative data to councils’ Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT) platform. As well as increasing the frequency of updates, the processing time is reduced from six weeks to less than six days.

Leading local authorities use the platform to identify and target tailored support to people on low incomes by connecting them with benefits and employment support. 

LIFT models the combined impact of changing central and local government policies on individual households, helping councils to understand the cumulative impact of policy changes on each of their low income families. It can track the effectiveness of interventions, and deliver on public health goals by tackling the social determinants of ill health, including isolation and poverty. The data is crucial to councils who use it to identify and engage households who are now financially vulnerable because of coronavirus.

Councils can boost COVID-19 recovery with data insights 

The new support from Innovate UK lays the foundation for a data-led response to the challenges created by the pandemic - challenges that we know are disproportionately affecting people on low incomes. 

Policy in Practice is helping leading local authorities in the UK to unlock insights from existing datasets to get support to people early, before crisis hits. The funding from Innovate UK will speed up the time it takes to process and analyse data, so that all councils can act fast. Households hit by the crisis deserve nothing less. 

To find out how councils can benefit from new Innovate UK funding contact Policy in Practice on 0330 088 9242 or  

Deven Ghelani is the founder of Policy in Practice, a policy-led software analytics company

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