The Ministerial PACE Partnership (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) is an alliance of 22 organisations that combine to ensure joined up re-employment responses to redundancy situations. The partnership was set-up in 2009 by the Scottish Government, and the current PACE continuous improvement programme includes a resolution to investigate data sharing amongst PACE delivery partners.
There were four reasons why more data sharing could be valuable:
- To provide a better, more joined up service to both employers and those being made redundant, by ensuring that the partners were able to consider the full range of issues faced by both groups. Associated with this, enhanced information sharing would make the work of frontline staff more efficient and easier.
- To provide better information on the scale and impact of the service
- To understand the nature and trends in redundancies better and so be able to both develop improved preventative approaches and to plan better on the basis of emerging patterns and trends
- Better supporting strategic decisions by the partners through more comprehensive and robust management information.
Rocket Science were commissioned to conduct a consultation with PACE Partners to address the following objectives:
- Ascertain the views and level of commitment of PACE Delivery Partners to establishing a formal PACE data sharing system
- Identify any barriers that may stand in the way of data sharing
- Identify approx. costs for partners to implement data sharing
- Identify any current data sharing arrangements between the PACE Delivery Partners
- Identify what data, if any, is currently held on clients made redundant
- Make recommendations about the feasibility of PACE data sharing and the practical steps needed to implement it.
To address the above objectives, we have:
- Carried out a literature review of relevant evidence
- Interviewed representatives from the partner organisations, and carried out associated collaborative discussions, – both face-to-face, and by telephone/video
- Reviewed the current context in terms of our understanding of redundancies, particularly in the light of the impact of Covid-19
- Presented and discussed an Interim Report.
We consulted with partner representatives on two occasions:
- We initially gathered general views against the objectives
- Having collated and presented the first round of feedback, we then explored the issues arising and tested options and hypotheses in more detail.
This Final Report sets out our overall findings, conclusions and recommendations from the project which spanned the period from November 2019 to July 2020.
The Stage 1 interviews with PACE Partners highlighted overall views on data sharing:
- There was wide recognition of the potential for data sharing amongst PACE Partners
- The partners were generally supportive of exploring data sharing possibilities further
- Some partners queried whether they had access to sufficient or relevant data
- Partners were aware of significant legal and technical challenges to data sharing
- UK organisations like DWP and HMRC saw challenges in facilitating a Scotland-only initiative
- Most partners felt a statutory framework would be a pre-requisite for effective data sharing
- Many partners were unsure what data other delivery partners held that would be useful to them
- Partners weren't sure how data sharing could be reciprocated ie to benefit their organisation
- There was little evidence of partners having specific policies or guidelines on data sharing
- Post-GDPR, organisational attitudes towards data sharing were 'cautious' and 'conservative'
Overall, while partners recognised that there was potential to share more complete information about PACE clients in order to provide a better service, there was some apprehension about the range of challenges that would need to be overcome, and the investment required in terms of time, money and resources. This led many partners to question the value of the data that could be provided or shared.
At the end of Stage 1 it was clear that, faced with a number of barriers, the case for data sharing still needed to be made. For instance, Stage 1 highlighted the importance of DWP and HMRC as the two partners with access to 'all population' level data. However, both organisations identified significant challenges to effective data sharing, in particular around the addition of a redundancy 'flag' on clients on their databases. Other questions to emerge included:
- Would redundancy 'flags' on partner databases mean that more accurate figures for the numbers of those being made redundant could be produced?
- Are current PACE interventions significant enough to justify a significant effort on measurement?
- Is there potential for genuine reciprocity in data sharing?
- Are there grounds for statutory compliance?
In Stage 2 we sought to understand how the information held by PACE Partners could be drawn on to better understand redundancy, its consequences and appropriate responses. This was deemed particularly important at a time of significant change in the labour market, including the ever-unfolding impact of COVID-19. The Stage 2 interviews with partners sought to establish how closely aligned they were with the aims and objectives of the PACE Partnership and to explore the potential for data sharing in terms of the types of data collected. A data sharing scenario was also reviewed in order to discuss the feasibility of a practical data sharing process.
Our desk research on the scope to identify newly redundant people who were at greater risk of long term unemployment (LTU) – who could be prioritised for more intensive early support to get back into work – showed that many advanced economies have such approaches in place and that there was an opportunity to identify those most at risk of LTU (or at least, exclude those at least risk).
An analysis of the data that partners collect from customers/clients/members highlighted that all partners collected basic personal information from clients such as name, address, phone number and email, and the majority also collected additional information on gender and date of birth, while around half collected data on disability and employment status. Only HMRC collected data on National Insurance number, which is often used as a unique identifier for cross-matching in data sharing.
Desk research established the extent to which partner organisations address the issue of redundancy in their work. Overall, this exercise highlighted that, whilst some partners provide general information and advice on redundancy, none has specific aims and objectives relating to redundancy. Feedback in interviews with partners confirmed that redundancy, although recognised as an important issue, does not feature prominently in partners' own aims and objectives, with one partner describing redundancy as, 'not our bat'.
Partners' response to a typical data sharing scenario (see Appendix 4) established that the majority felt this type of scenario offered a starting point for conversations on data sharing in the context of redundancy. Echoing feedback in Stage 1, for most partners the biggest difficulty with the scenario was the requirement to add a redundancy 'flag' to databases. In positive terms, most partners felt data could be provided, most easily in aggregate form, but perhaps eventually (with legal issues addressed) at an individual level. It was also clear that each organisation would need to be approached formally in order to have their specific perspective on data sharing understood and worked through, with this potentially involving different teams and members of staff over a fairly significant period of time.
The literature review highlighted a number of factors that facilitate effective data sharing. In the context of PACE data sharing we recommend that the following issues be addressed:
- People: establish the relevant teams and people within each partner organisation who need to be involved in order to take forward the data sharing agenda
- Technical capacities: find the commonalities, either across all partners, or groups of partners that will allow data to be shared
- Partnership development: win hearts and minds by convincing partners of the benefits eg in general and to them
- Organisational culture: give partners the reassurance that the legal aspects of data sharing are in place and that they are operating in line with GDPR and other rules.
Our Stage 1 consultations highlighted that, with a number of notable barriers identified by partners, the case for data sharing needs to be made. In particular, we recommend the following:
- Key partners: Detailed scoping conversations should take place with representatives from DWP and HMRC to ascertain if their 'barriers' to PACE data sharing can be overcome. Without the commitment and involvement of these organisations, it seems unlikely that an effective data sharing process can be established
- Explain the journey: Partners tended to think about the perfect situation rather than about evolutionary steps ie they focus on the difficulties associated with trying to create a fully functioning data sharing arrangement. A key message for partners is that data sharing can start from zero and build towards 100%, and in that way their own contribution could be smaller (and therefore less onerous) at the start and be built on over time.
- Address key issues: It was clear from feedback that partners were apprehensive about data sharing and also unsure about the benefits. We recommend that the PACE Partnership explore together the benefits, examine examples of reciprocity, and address the need (or otherwise) for statutory compliance in PACE data sharing.
Stage 2 highlighted the value of gaining more detailed insights into patterns and trends in unemployment. This value is seen to be growing: both in terms of understanding the evolving impact of Covid-19 on employment overall, the different sectors and sizes of businesses, and the economic structure in different geographical areas, and more generally on the impact of the '4th industrial revolution' in terms of automation and new working practices. In this context, PACE Partners are willing to explore how they can contribute to a better understanding of redundancy, including a clearer picture of those affected by redundancy and how they can be most effectively helped.
At present, the main barriers to progressing PACE data sharing are based on the assumptions that are being made by partners, for example, that it will be technically difficult; that there will be legal barriers; that partners will lack the time/resources to commit to the process. This report addresses the resolution (from the PACE continuous improvement programme) to investigate data sharing amongst PACE delivery partners. In light of the growing political and policy focus on the employment impact of redundancy, and what data from the PACE Partners could tell us about this, and in order to move forward, we recommend that the PACE Partnership and the data sharing project be supported with some dedicated resources over a 18-24 month period, with an initial focus on combining data and insights to provide enhanced information and intelligence about the patterns and trends in redundancies flowing from the impact of Covid-19. Our conclusions and recommendations will provide the basis for developing a programme of next steps and goals, leading to the creation of an evolving approach to greater data sharing arrangement amongst PACE Partners, starting in Spring 2021, with the opportunity to build a fuller picture over time.