Health and Wellbeing Census Scotland 2021-2022: technical report

Technical report for the Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22.

Background to the Health and Wellbeing Census

The original proposal for introducing a HWB Census dates back to 2015, as relevant national and locally commissioned surveys had been set up by individual local authorities and health boards. These collections did not provide sufficient, consistent or timely enough data to support: annual reporting at local authority level to meet current and future obligations; exploration of inequalities within and across local areas; or service improvement activities at very local level. The disparity of sources and approaches to collecting the data meant that there was little potential for using the data systematically to enable national level evaluation of policy initiatives.

An options appraisal on the future of children and young people’s health and wellbeing surveys in Scotland was undertaken to develop a better approach that met survey data users’ needs, reduce the burden on schools and young people, and improve the quality of the data produced. It was also an opportune moment to examine the potential for greater use of data linkage, how data collection is commissioned and managed, and how the transfer of evidence into policy and practice is supported. The purpose of the HWB Census is to make more health and wellbeing evidence available for use by local partners (such as local authorities (LAs), Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs), Alcohol Drug Partnerships (ADPs) and schools); and to streamline and de-clutter the survey landscape to reduce the burden on schools. 

This approach also responds to clear feedback from the engagement with local partnerships undertaken by the Director for Children and Families and Chief Social Work Adviser throughout 2019.

The census provides local and national information on children and young people’s health and wellbeing and the behaviours that affect wellbeing. It also allows local authorities to share its data with the Scottish Government to support the formulation and monitoring of national and local policies, which in turn will drive forward improvements in the outcomes of Scotland’s children and young people.

The approach taken with the HWB Census in Scotland is a new approach with central government working collaboratively with local authorities to support them to gather the evidence they need to fulfil their duties, to compare with other areas of Scotland, and to track progress in improving children and young people’s health and wellbeing. This approach supports consistent monitoring and reporting at all levels from a consistent evidence base. It does this by collecting data once for use by all stakeholders, so reducing the burden and providing consistent evidence to support the improvement across the sector.


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