A message from Cabinet Office on the “Better Use of Data” Consultation Launch

We are grateful for your involvement during the extensive open policy-making process on improving public authority access to data for the purposes of improving public service delivery, tackling fraud and debt, and supporting research and statistics. We are pleased to announce that the proposals developed through the open policy-making process have now been published and is now open to public consultation. The consultation document and accompanying illustrative clauses and consultation stage impact assessments can be found at:
We are encouraging views from as wide range of people (and organisations) as possible. Please do take the time to review and share the link with anyone who may have an interest in these issues. The closing date for responses is c.o.p. April 22nd.

Data sharing workshop II | 19 January 2016 | Meeting note

A version of this note for comments is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pRYfeLvr1KIqnPP9ANZyni-r5EID1RuUB1Eozhi6M2c/edit?usp=sharing


Tim Hughes welcomed attendees and explained Involve’s role as facilitator of the discussions for the Data Sharing proposals.

Sue Bateman explained that the aim of the session was to work through the proposals and to understand support and on-going questions or concerns. The views of the Open Policy Making (OPM) group would be reflected back to the Minister for the Cabinet Office as part of further advice on the consultation package and process. The session allowed for participants to voice their views on the proposals that most interested them.


It was agreed that the group continue to abide by principles, but remain open to changing the day’s schedule to run better at a majority of attendees’ behest.

  • Transparency– non-attributed comments but everything will be written up and made available.
  • Accessibility – everyone is open to engage if they have interest.
  • Collaboration- all participants are constructively participating in the process to improve the proposals.
  • Independence – there is no expectation of reaching consensus as an outcome but to know where the areas of broad agreement lie is the aim.

The first half of the workshop focused on the core package of proposals to closely understand the positive points for each, and where the OPM group felt that more work is required.

During the second half of the session, the group considered the new proposals along with the consultation process and next steps.


Each of the leads gave a short presentation to recap the main points and safeguards for their respective proposals. The full proposals paper is available here.

Identified Data

Key proposals:

  • To give the National Statistician the right to securely access identified data for the purpose of producing aggregate national statistics – from public sector bodies, charities and businesses.
  • To securely share data with Devolved Administrations to meet their statistical needs arising out of further devolution.
  • Reaffirm strict penalties for misuse of data
  • Create an obligation for data suppliers to inform/consult with the National Statistician before changing underlying stats collection and transmission systems so as to protect the integrity of official statistics outputs based on these data


  • UKSA’s independence from ministers, and direct reporting lines and accountability to parliament.
  • Standards, a code of practice and ethical principles will be consulted upon publicly.
  • Statistical disclosure controls exist and will apply to these proposals.
  • The National Statistician’s ethics committee will have an important role in evaluating relevant ethical questions.

De-identified Data

Permissive power proposed to:

  • Apply ​to all public authorities, with the exclusion of health and social care providers, to link de-identified data for the purpose of research in the public interest​.
  • In order to use this power, a process for ​the de-identification of data must be followed (removing ​of ​personal identifiers).
  • The legislation itself ​has been drafted with a certain level of detail and ​seeks to strike a balance between transparency of process and robust legal definitions on the one hand and flexibility (using measures such a delegated Ministerial power to amend through secondary legislation) on the other​.

Safeguards include:

  • Use of accredited access facilities for data use.
  • UKSA to govern the accreditation process
  • A code of conduct or similar​ will be published,
  • ​with sanctions for non-compliance by participants including withdrawal of accreditation​
  • Criminal sanctions will apply to individuals and organisations for unlawful disclosure  of data, with a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment, a heavy fine, or both.


Permissive power proposed to:

  • Act across devolved administrations.
  • The piloting of the power will be detailed in legislation and be subject to ministerial oversight and review.


  • A review will take place after three years to determine how well it is working, at which point it could be sunsetted.
  • Public bodies will have  conduct guidelines.
  • Unlawful disclosure rules will apply.
  • A clearly defined process for public accountability will be built into the power.

Tailored Public Services

Permissive power proposed to:

  • Ensure citizens receive the services they need, when they need it
  • The power will enable public authorities to share data to allow better delivery of public services.
  • Power is limited to a number of social policy outcomes, specific objectives will be listed on a schedule.
  • The power will only be used in specific circumstances.


  • There are definitions of when it could be used, ensuring that the objectives are intended only to benefit citizens.
  • Objectives could be amended in a schedule but this would go through an affirmative process, public bodies can be removed or added.
  • A code of practice will exist to detail how this power is intended to be used, including transparency measures about describe intent about how data is used.
  • Use of power must comply with Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act.

Discussion groups

The room split into four groups to discuss each of the proposals:

De-Identified Data discussion

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Proposal builds on existing good practice.
  • Standardises possibility of data sharing (eliminates the “if it’s external then probably not” argument).
  • The proposal specifies ‘public interest’ as a requirement.
  • There are criminal sanctions for misuse of data.
  • There is clear provision for accreditation.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • ​The need for clear and consistent messaging in consultation (language)
  • ​Do we need an appeals process, if not a ​mandatory gateway?
  • Does the current absence of ​health data cause a significant problem​?
  • ​How is ​”​unlawful disclosure” to be interpreted? Should there be a specific offence for “​re-identification​” of de-identified data​?
  • ​A definition of public interest, or public benefit, or how these will be defined, would be helpful.
  • A related point on defining the public interest is whether this would include benefits to private sector, i.e. research which led to increased profits, which could be a potential red line for some participants.

Identified Data discussion

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • The proposals will lead to more robust data and National Statistics.
  • This will remove the need for ONS to make ad hoc data requests.
  • Proposals will aid research.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Clarification is required about ‘obligation to consult National Statistician’, what does this mean?
  • How does this fit with EU data sharing regulation developments?
  • Clarity is required around terminology of data sharing/linking, where are the differences?
  • There needs to be read-across in policy documents between these proposals and the de-Identified strand.
  • How will the relationship with private companies work?


Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • This proposal will help to simplify a very complex legal landscape.
  • The proposal will Improve transparency.
  • Pilots and sunset clauses are sensible (but details need to be fleshed out further).

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • How, when it comes to the evaluation of the gateway and the pilots, can we be sure this is being looked at objectively and counter the risk?
  • Is the three year window sensible? Is this long enough to make a sensible evaluation?
  • We need to be forward looking to new legislation like the GDPR on the horizon.
  • Lots of detail about which organisations, but there could be more information on what they could share, and where the boundaries lie.

Consultation Themes Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Detail required around code of practice
  • Evaluation criteria needs work
  • Exploring more about private company covered in the legislation – what are the safeguards around that?

Tailored Public Services

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Theme about transparency and streamlining the processes – increase the transparency for everyone.
  • Safeguards are well embedded.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • How to define benefits to citizen.
  • Cannot publish the code of practice but should explain what is going into it
  • Future-proofing and accidentally breaking future DPA?
  • Is there work around funding and training for new data skills?

Consultation Themes Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Define what ‘benefit’ means in this context.
  • Detail how best to engage with public both during and after consultation to ensure they are aware of the powers and their intent.

At the end of this first session, Tim asked the group whether they agreed that the identified strand should be brought back into the core set of proposals subject to addressing questions and points raised in discussion, this was agreed.

Subject to addressing issues of detail that had been raised, participants were in agreement with the approach of the respective core proposals.

New Proposal Presentations

After a short break, the room reconvened to discuss the new proposals being reviewed for inclusion in the package.

Debt Presentation

Proposed to:

  • Enable public sector bodies and private bodies who carry out a function on behalf of a public body, to share data for the purpose of better debt management across government,
  • Identify people with multiple debts to government, to enable better repayment structures, provide appropriate advice and support to vulnerable debtors who owe multiple debts, and to help create a more ‘single debtor view’.
  • These debts are legally collectable and enforceable, and all appeals processes and disputes have been concluded.
  • This does not introduce anything new. Public authorities already have the ability to share debt data. However, these gateways are restrictive, often misinterpreted, and are complex and time consuming to use.


  • A schedule will list bodies who can share with one another.
  • Pilots will enable minimal amount of data to be shared and will help to create a single debtor view, must be able to identify vulnerable debtors, and will follow best practice around reclaiming debts.
  • There is a review clause of three years, although concerns have been acknowledged around the process of this.

DECC Proposals

Proposed to:

  • Provide a public service to citizens living in fuel poverty by enabling a wider group of households to receive an automatic energy bill rebate, provided by their electricity supplier.
  • This policy is currently only available to those in receipt of pension credit and takes place every winter.
  • This power would allow an expansion of the policy, allowing energy companies to provide automatic rebates to more people who need it, notably low-income working age individuals and families.
  • It would also allow this assistance to be prioritised for those in greatest need – i.e. those who live in the coldest homes.
  • Recipients could be made automatically eligible for other forms fuel poverty support, such as energy efficiency.
  • The ability to data match would remove the need for the customer to provide evidence, including copies of sensitive documents such as benefit entitlement letters i.e. it would be safer, securer and less intrusive than current methods.


  • A minimum amount of data is involved – no data would be shared outside government except for an eligibility flag to inform energy companies which of their customers are eligible. Steps are also taken to minimise the overall number of customers involved in the data match.
  • Criminal sanctions would be brought against companies misusing data.
  • The scheme administrator, currently Ofgem, would set up strict data protection procedures.
  • The Data Protection Act applies.

GRO Proposals

Proposed to:

  • Introduce a discretionary power that would allow the sharing of records, such as a birth record, with public bodies to ensure they can fulfil their respective functions.
  • The overall proposal is discretionary, allowing for civil registration information to be shared on a case-by-case basis, or in some areas on a bulk basis.
  • This proposal would not change governance of civil registrations or override any restrictions on sharing data of this nature.


  • The introduction of a statutory code of reference developed with the ICO,
  • A Code of Practice to be laid before parliament.
  • MOUs and data sharing agreements would be required.
  • Ministerial notification of data sharing in relation to GRO data is required.

Group Discussion

Attendees were given 10 mins to note points against the various new proposals Tim then summarized for the room in plenary. The room then broke into three tables for further discussion of the proposals. Attendees could choose to discuss the two proposals they felt most strongly about.

Debt Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • The idea that a single communication from a person who understands the entire case to a debtor, in principle, is good debt management.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Most of the proposals are about data in relation to a policy, the problem is that this is the data sharing aspects of a policy that is yet to be made. We do not have a final proposal or policy outline, just a gateway without the debt management proposals to go with it.
  • Criticism that this is not a data-sharing proposal, it is a debt management proposal.
  • Without a centralised debt management system, the data sharing aspects apply to an undefined outcome.

Responses to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • The policy proposal is to enable better debt management across Government, that is fair to our debtors.
  • The power to allow departments to share data currently exist, this power would simply enable a quicker process, and a more joined up approach.
  • It is recognised there are significant problems with the single debtor view, without piloting in the first instance these cannot be worked through to begin delivering benefits to government.
  • Pilots will enable departments to explore different ways that the power could be used, in line with the constraints set out in the Code of Practice.
  • A centralised debt management system could form one of the pilots. This would help identify overlapping debtors and enable recovery in a unified way. This is an objective that the Government, and NAO and many departments have.
  • The macro view of debt and department interactions is required through piloting otherwise we can never get to the point where we have a single debtor view.

DECC Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • It will achieve maximum possible uptake of the benefit by those eligible.
  • Removes the burden on vulnerable groups to actively apply.
  • Better use of limited resources to support young people.
  • Improved access to data for specific purposes.
  • Without this measure, suppliers would still promote energy efficiency to their customers (and the customers of others), but the marketing would be untargeted. This would result in a great many households, including the vulnerable, getting information about offers for which they turn out not to be eligible.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Needs to be more safeguards around onward data usage (to prevent marketing, at least for non-fuel poverty purposes etc.).
  • Need clarification on whether the proposers have considered how this data sharing will potentially interact with the Internet of Things in the future, for example, with the greater use of Smart Meters and what their conclusions were
  • Reasons required that set this apart from Tailored Public Services.
  • What is the role of OFGEM in these proposals?
  • Is there an opt-out mechanism for people who do not want to receive the benefit?

Response to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • These proposals are separate to TPS because they extend to private companies (which is out of scope for the core TPS proposals).
  • It is out of scope for sensitive data to be shared with the private sector using this power.
  • Energy companies would only be permitted to use the eligibility information for the strict purposes for which it was shared – i.e. for alleviating fuel poverty.

GRO Civil Registrations Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • Proposals will offer better services for citizens, and streamlining for some services.
  • Proposal clearly states policy application and how it will benefit citizens.
  • Wider benefits outside of government if used by organisations such as banks.
  • Clear benefits for digitising government services.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Digitization of data is patchy and there will be gaps which need resolving.
  • Will there be an opt-out for individuals?
  • Individual data sharing cases are one thing, but the details of bulk sharing need further detail.
  • There are broader implications of this work in creating a de-facto ID database which need to be mitigated against.
  • Will this work have an inherent increased workload for Local Authorities or will it be covered by central government?
  • Are there links to Verify with this work?

Response to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Data  will be held by central government.
  • Sharing will take place via a data matching process.
  • There are no intentions to link up the records data in order to create an identity database.
  • The purpose of the data share will be specific to the public function of a department or body  and restrictions  on sharing information will continue to be in place.
  • Consent will be required in certain circumstances.
  • There are potential benefits from sharing information wider than government, however this proposal is focused on sharing within government.

High level narrative

Sue shared a two minute summary of the draft narrative in the spirit of the OPM sessions, in order to gather feedback from the group and help ensure future iterations reflect the :

Data is a vastly untapped resource –  with the potential to change and improve our lives and underpinning next wave of digital service reform.

By using information in Government more effectively we can revolutionise the way we interact with people,


  • seamlessly use information better to provide better services every day,
  • develop fit for purpose policy, whilst at the same time reducing costs for organisations and saving money for the taxpayer.


The current data sharing landscape is very complex

Restrictions are often placed on how information government can access from other parts of government, even where it is the greater public interest to share it.

And understanding the application of legislation is difficult – leading to practices that are over-cautious and inflexible, with data untapped or locked away in silos.

There are challenges and barriers in accessing data across organisational or departmental boundaries, often resulting in duplication of data collection and storing, which can be costly to the taxpayer.

While some gateways exist to permit the  disclosure of data between specified public bodies, there are many examples of where they have been created over-cautiously, often significantly limiting what information can be disclosed and to whom.

We recognise that the complexity of the current landscape means it would be nigh on impossible to try and tackle everything – so we have been running the OPM process and set up a consultation look at how we can remove barriers to data sharing within Government in a way that provides a better experience or service for the public.

Better data sharing offers us vast opportunities, in particular around policy development by providing up to date and fuller evidence on issues such as social mobility, economic growth and crime prevention. This consultation forms part of an open policy-making process we have been running together with government and civil society organisations since March 2014.

Our conversations have led to a focus on access to data for the purpose of


  • Better research and statistics -whereby  more complete and up to date information would be a rich source for researchers  to use  and would create a clear and accurate evidence base to inform critical decisions
  • The prevention of fraud and recovery of debt – meaning we can put taxpayers money to the purpose it was intended
  • Providing Tailored Public Services  – providing the right services at the right time – and we would see GRO and DECC proposals as part of this broader strand

Our proposals for new legislation will not give the Government fundamental new powers.

They will provide greater clarity in what can be shared as well as flexibility for government to respond to policy and public needs as they emerge.

Data will continue to be protected, using both data protection principles and safeguards and embedding them into any proposed legislation.

Proposed powers would provide  specific and immediate benefits across government to enable better and more efficient services unlock data as a driver of further public service reform. Furthermore, they will allow government to better understand and develop the right policies to support the modern digital economy and the public


Everyone was asked to stand up and show their levels of support for the narrative.

Feedback from the room:

  • “The proposals fit into the context of the narrative”.
  • “Proposals save money, more effective service delivery, fits with the narrative”.
  • “more enthusiasm and specificity, e.g. ‘this could improve people’s lives in concrete ways’”.
  • “The knives seem to be out for privacy campaigners in this process, no real detail or why/how the benefits work, other than just restating ‘it’s good to share data’, not much has been shared today, across the board, it’s a learning experience, but crucially a sharing experience”.
  • “we’re missing the context that these discussions are taking place,  positive stories like Google flu trends are being used. Other contexts are ignored, this data revolution that is taking place is out of control and everyone is tracked online etc. we are in the age where we are becoming digital profiles, a spectrum is emerging between tech driven authoritarianism on one extreme to citizens having digital autonomy on the other, the state should reflect on this”.
  • “It doesn’t reflect on who we need to consult with, it’s not addressed to the public or drawing out the benefits by conflating too many things and making them unclear, the consultation respondents should have questions like outsourcing, private companies, funding etc. should already be covered in the narrative, of Local Authorities are to give a meaningful response, this should be framed with this view”.
  • “The official stats, de-identified data and some of the GRO things are about research and anonymisation, with lots of detailed safeguards. None of the questions around debt/fraud etc. maybe it would be better to divide up the package between research elements and efficiency elements, more detail is required in the bill about who is going to appeal, who to, and what are the legal rights?”.
  • “Central issue about the benefits of sharing data, but there are lots of additional proposals bolted on and there is a huge amount of things being consulted on. The debt question jars with the public benefit narrative”.
  • “Debt and fraud sound more like research with the piloting and testing of the system, just looking at a legal gateway in itself is not enough for people to decide upon. In some of the areas,  it needs to be made clear that some parts are for policy development and others for different things”.
  • “When this goes to consultation, separate audiences will have specific interests in specific areas”.
  • “There are fundamental areas that need to be addressed, stating what is trying to be achieved”.
  • “Greater clarity is required, as people new to the process are asking questions that have arisen before, this would indicate a lack of coherence and communication with the proposals.”


Sue explained that taking the various proposals through as a single package is partly to ensure that things were brought to the OPM group that were relevant, rather than as single, disparate work strands.

Tim drew the session to a close – asking guests to think about who needs to be engaged in the process of consultation to try and broaden the process out to as inclusive a group as possible.

Suggestions for engagement in consultation:

The following groups and organisations were highlighted by the OPM group as valuable to contribute towards the consultation process:

  • Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)
  • Range of local service providers (e.g. for troubled families)
  • National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC)
  • UCAS
  • Schools (time issues – could go through specific vehicle e.g. UCAS)
  • Catch22, Prince’s trust
  • Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)
  • Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS)

Supplementary Data Sharing Workshop: General Registrars Office proposal | 15 January 2016 | Meeting note

When: 10:30-12:00, 15 January 2016

Where: Conference Room B, 70 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HQ


Session Info/details to cover
Welcome and introductions


Purpose of the session:

Recap of discussion from 6th and what we want to cover today

Quick recap of “principles” for discussion


Presentation of General Register Office Proposals (John Duffy)


Presentation of the proposals, including areas that were not comprehensively covered in the session on the 6th.


High level Q&A


General questions of clarification on the presentation.
Discussion of GRO proposals Discussion of the proposals in smaller groups
Plenary Discussion of proposals Groups to report back to the room on their discussions
Wrap-up and close.


Wrap up and forward look

Introduction from Sue Bateman, Cabinet Office who acted as facilitator, in the place of Involve.

This session was additional to the 6th of Jan and 19th of Jan sessions, to look more closely at the GRO proposals.

A Re-cap of the meeting on the 6th, which covered the main OPM strands of Research and Statistics, Fraud and Tailored Public Services, which garnered support for further development. We also discussed revised proposals on Identified Data and Debt and new proposals from DECC and GRO.

A number of comments were generated in discussion, some of which were incorporated into the pack that was circulated on 14th January; there are some that will require further exploration.

One of the main points we took away from the session on the GRO proposals was a lack of time to get into any of the details and some concerns expressed by a few people that this power would lead inadvertently to a national ID database that we wanted to discuss as a clear principle of the OPM is to avoid the creation of such databases.

This (GRO) session was run to give the opportunity to ask questions and have a more detailed discussion – these will inform the considerations around this policy area and how it fits into the package being proposed and the advice being given to the minister. A note of the meeting will go to the whole OPM group.

The OPM principles were covered as a way of framing the discussions:

Transparency – non-attributed comments but everything will be written up and made available.

Accessibility – everyone is open to engage if they have interest.

Collaboration – constructively participating in the process, there is no expectation of reaching consensus as an outcome but to know where the areas of broad agreement lie is an aim.

John Duffy presentation:

Civil Registration in England and Wales sits within a local authority framework and records are held centrally.

Slide 1 – Civil Registration is where someone goes to their local registration office and provide information which is collected and recorded, obtaining a certificate which are used for accessing services from government partners and service providers. Death certificates are required to close bank accounts etc. Certificates have a role and purpose in society, as the information obtained as part of that process.

Currently there is a complex and dated legislative framework that dates back to 1836.

There is a piecemeal data sharing approach taken to share data between departments, where data sharing is not possible, purchasing of records is required.

Slide 2 – The proposal is to introduce a discretionary power to allow civil registration information to be shared with public bodies for the purpose of fulfilling public functions.

The proposals are looking for discretionary information to be shared with public bodies through a gateway. The intention is to ensure complete transparency over what records are held and shared, providing an outline of the policy and the circumstances whereby information can be shared. Information and data will be shared within the public sector, not beyond this.

Slide 3 – The proposals are limited to England and Wales only, there is no intention to change the way civil registration information is currently obtained or held. There is no intention to link up civil registration records or to create a citizen database.

Slide 4 – benefits of the proposals are:

  • Improved customer experience
  • Improved security
  • Enabling public sector transformation
  • Increasing efficiencies across government

Slide 5 – Safeguards – strict adherence to the ICO data sharing code of practice.

Questions of clarification raised in plenary:

Q: For the data sharing powers to have any relevance will the remaining un-digitized records be digitized?

A: There is no funding to do this, so there are constraints.

Q: What do you have?

A: There are a huge number of records, half of which are digitized. Modern records are digitized by default and older records are digitized due to work around genealogy etc.

Q: Could funding be realised to digitize this information?

A: in terms of the records, they are available in different formats that aren’t on a system yet. There is still an ability to share information where possible. This is about enabling transformation across government, and this power would allow the sharing.

Q: What is the volume of the information that will be shared?

A: there is an opportunity for all records to be digitized on a system.

Q: Public authorities – looking at this in the broadest sense, is there any intention to provide this data to other bodies that have a public mandate such as ONS? For help with the census etc.

A: If the bodies are specified and there were affirmative procedures then the data could be shared.

Discussion Session:


  • For the citizen – partial digitization,
  • Within government – administrative cost savings.
  • Benefits to research/genealogists.
  • Improve protection against ID theft.
  • Could help to make the remaining digitization of paper document happen.
  • Identity fraud and issues around death registration would be improved.
  • Clarifying the legal scenario clear and replete with safeguards.
  • Benefits e.g. ensuring everyone who is eligible for a pension can claim it at the right time.

Concerns/potential issues

  • Handling and comms issues.
  • Patchy digitization.
  • Purpose and necessity as well as proportionality needs to be understood.
  • How will this legislation fit with DPA and future protection legislation without ‘trumping’ it?
  • Potential unintended consequences of onward disclosure between depts.
  • Issue about sharing parts of personal data, how to avoid the mosaic effect.
  • Architectural limitations stopping data being linked, will this always be the case? How do you safeguard against unauthorised disclosure?
  • One thing making an argument for case-by-case sharing, but quite another to talk about bulk data sharing.
  • On the transparency requirement – a public list of records being used would be desirable.
  • Links to Verify programme?
  • Risks around the data sharing, how it would work? What will be in the code of practice?
  • GRO to clarify what type of data sharing would be expected (beyond just a yes/no dichotomy).

Additional Points:

  • In terms of reducing identity theft – this could work if you remove the need for certificates, but with using digital systems this could increase the risk of bulk hacking and fewer, but greater magnitude, of theft.
  • The DPA may not be enough if the legislation removes the principle.
  • Will this process enable the big bulk of records to increase in footprint size?
  • Concrete concern is whether this data could end up inadvertently resulting in a quasi-ID system (i.e. not by design).

Any further questions, please direct to data-sharing@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Event Attendees:

Silkie Carlo (Liberty)

Javier Ruiz (Open Rights Group)

Frances Pottier (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills)

Sue Bateman (Cabinet Office)

Sam Roberts (Cabinet Office)

Firoze Salim (Cabinet Office)

Simon Meats (Cabinet Office)

Jackie Riley (HMRC)

John McIlwraith (DWP)

Jess Adkins (Cabinet Office)

Daniele Bega (HMRC)

Gillian Unsworth (HM Passport Office)

Amanda Hillman (DWP)

David Knight (Department of Health)

Edgar Whitley (London School of Economics)

Judith Jones (Information Commissioner’s Office)

John Duffy (HM Passport Office)

Data sharing workshop I | 6 January 2016 | Meeting note


On 6th January 2016, a plenary meeting was held to review the latest data sharing proposals against the recommendations  of the open policy making (OPM) process to check:

  •      That they fit with the spirit of what was discussed during the year long OPM process.
  •      What could be improved.
  •      Whether there were any aspects of the proposals that crossed any red lines.

The meeting was attended by representatives from privacy groups, civil society organisations and government. The meeting was opened by Rt Hon Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP.


Minister for Cabinet Office’s introduction

The Minister stated his hope that we can continue this relationship and dialogue which has existed for some time now. The data sharing discussion is vital historically. It is comparable to the printing press, which had huge and unpredictable consequences. The collapse in the cost of storing and transmitting data is having an impact on a similar scale.

The Minister stated that in government, we should be smart and thoughtful about responding to the discussion. We should be harnessing progress whilst at the same time  protecting citizens’ privacy. The DPA works well and there is a broad consensus. But as technology develops, the legal framework needs to continue to be relevant whilst protecting the citizen. There was much progress in the last Parliament on modernising rules. But the rules are significantly out of date in many areas, so we need to update them today. We plan to run a normal consultation, but we also wanted to fully engage the wisdom, insight and collective experience of those in the room.

There are three areas of importance:

  1.    Improving research and statistics.
  2.    Fraud.
  3.    Tailored public services.

At the core core is striking a balance between harnessing the opportunities of data and protecting citizens. Ultimately the Minister does not see this as a trade-off. If we get it right we can improve the way data is used and managed, and make sure citizen protected. He underlined how important this is for the government. The end goal is a system that works better for citizens. It is an exciting new area of policy yet to reach full maturity.


Previous OPM proposals: De-identified Data

Simon Meats, Cabinet Office, presented the current version of the proposals for sharing de-identified data for ​the purposes of research and statistics ​(“the de-identified data proposals”)​, part of the set of proposals ​originally explored during the OPM process.

Simon talked through the key areas of agreement that have been covered in the OPM process to date.

​These included:

  • That the power is permissive across all public authorities (with the exceptions of health and social care) to share/link de-identified data for the purposes of research and statistics in the public interest.
  • The use of models of data sharing (recommended by the​ 2012 Administrative Data Taskforce report*) that allow for such cross-linked research to take place whilst maintaining privacy protection for the data subjects by restricting the use of identity data.
  • Oversight through a designated accreditation body for indexers and accredited secure access facilities.

Simon went on to describe how these ​main policy features have​ been reflected in draft legislation. ​There are detailed clauses describing processes in a way that strikes a balance between; transparency and robust legal definition, and flexibility for future -​ proofing. There are also provision for accreditation and commitments to transparency (publishing registers of accredited indexers, access facilities and researchers​, for example).

The modifications that have taken place include:

  • UKSA being named as the accreditation body,
  • Limited delegated power for Minister to amend certain provisions by affirmative process,
  • Unlawful disclosure provision.

The reasons for these modifications are that the UKSA is the only body to fit the criteria agreed through the OPM process, there is a need to ensure legislation can be adapted to cover new processes and that universal protection of data held by all public authorities to share data under this power will provide additional assurance.

The group reflected upon the proposal and were broadly supportive of its inclusion for consultation. The following ​questions​ were raised​:

  • Who adjudicates/arbitrates if a public authority refuses an application to share data under this power​ (i.e. ​​should there be an ombudsman)?
  • What are the potential impacts ​from local authority devolution?
  • What about the effects of organisations leaving the public sector ​ e.g. schools academy programme, with the consequent loss of data sources?
  • ​With reference to implementation – what will/should​ be done to test the robustness of de-identification process​?
  • Is this simply a way of lowering the bar set in s.47 SRSA?

*Improving Access for Research and Policy, December 2012


Previous OPM proposals: Tailored Public Services

Jess Adkins, Cabinet Office, presented the Tailored Public Services (TPS) proposals.

Jess described the myriad of legal barriers which impact on the ability of public authorities to share data between them and identify which citizens are eligible for particular services or benefits, ensuring that the right people receive the right intervention or offer, at the right time.

The TPS power is designed to facilitate data sharing where it would directly benefit service recipients, by enabling authorities to better tailor services; as well as protecting privacy by restricting the authorities and the purposes involved in any particular share quite tightly.

The power is also future proofed to meet data sharing needs of public policy delivery as they change over time.

The key elements of the power are:

  • The power is permissive. Data controllers retain the right to say no to a data share,
  • The power is intended to benefit individuals – the purpose of a data share cannot be detrimental to individuals,
  • Only specified public authorities – not private providers – can use the power.

A separate policy paper was developed in the OPM process, bringing together safeguards that were new with those already existing in practice/legislation. Draft clauses reflect where there is a need for new primary legislation, where existing legislation is reflected it will not be mentioned, and where legislation isn’t appropriate the safeguards will be included in the Code of Practice.

The OPM group discussed the proposal, generating several questions:

  • Who makes the decision that the power is being used appropriately?
  • How can you ensure that any data share is for ‘The benefit of citizen(s)’? Conversely, how do you define ‘not to detriment of citizens’?
  • What are the unintended consequences of TPS data sharing? What is the mitigation/solution to this?
  • How does the power work for ‘direct’ (e.g. face-to-face) interventions?
  • What is the rationale behind excluding private companies? How does this work in public/private service partnerships? Can private sector organisations receive data from authorities to provide services with explicit consent?
  • How are data shares communicated transparently to those whose data is being shared?
  • Does this power lead to data segregation within organisations? (e.g. debt recovery teams using data collected by other areas of the department).
  • Would the power overrule departments’ existing data powers and agreements?
  • Does a family count as an individual for the purpose of processing?
  • How can the term ‘beneficial outcome’ be adequately constrained?
  • Will information-sharing orders be used?
  • Is there a statutory bar for information release under FOI?


Previous OPM proposals: Fraud

Graeme Thomson, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

Previously the group had an OPM session which recognised that government faces substantial problem with fraud, and the process for data sharing is very slow and may take up to six years. However, fraud moves very quickly and it takes too long to get the data for it to be useful. Data sharing could be an answer to this. Government dropped the idea of looking at error in addition to debt as it was decided that there would be too much data and too much sharing required to address it.

This proposal is permissive, not mandatory. A business case will be needed to justify sharing, and it will be used to measure success. The proposal allows for pilots to prove that this data sharing is of value, as the previous OPM process asked for this evidence. If the pilots do not prove value within a defined period of time, they will stop. They will publish criteria for measurement and the outcome of what benefit is. There is also the capacity for minister to shut the whole thing down, and there is a review period after three years. An assessment will judge whether it has been successful and if not will shut down.

There will be a code of conduct and if it is breached, the data will be surrendered. If you breach the legislation you can be taken to court, It includes all public authorities including local government. It’s not clear whether it includes the NHS, more discussion is needed on this.

This project will involve the ICO and external civil liberties groups. ICO anticipate a huge number of requests for data and are considered ways of managing it. They will be starting the project with a team in place to implement. The secretariat will be in Cabinet Office.

The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal:

  • More detail is required on the assessment criteria for the pilot, and what the criteria will be for it to be deemed successful after the 3 year period.
  • There were some concerns that three years is not long enough for projects to be established and prove their value.
  • The measurement criteria needs to be set near the start and a support team set up immediately.
  • Will there be a statutory bar for release under FOI?  
  • Transparency of benefits and measurements and transparency of openness and sharing will be vital.
  • How will citizens be protected from false positives, could greater transparency be an answer?


New/revised proposals: Identified data for research and statistics

Ross Young, UK Statistics Authority, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

This proposal is to open up sources of administrative and other data for the Office for National Statistics for the sole purpose of producing aggregate National and other official statistics. Official statistics are a core part of UK’s information and data infrastructure. Everyone needs official statistics ‐ legislators, policy makers, companies, academics, media, the public. The proposal is good for efficiency, improved official statistics and statistical research, and better decision making.

The powers will enable ONS to share data with the statistical functions of the Devolved Administrations while preventing the use of information for any operational purposes, ensuring information is only used for statistical purposes. In terms of safeguards, the UKSA is independent and reports and is accountable directly to Parliament. ONS has strong track record of security and confidentiality of data. They will reinforce rigorous penalties for the misuse of data.

The groups were supportive of the proposals. The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal:

  • There was support for powers to compel disclosure of information – permissive powers may not allow desired outcomes.
  • How to make the difference between de-identified and identified data intelligible to people?
  • How to guarantee quality and standardisation of the data?
  • Greater clarity is required on how the powers to compel businesses will impact global companies based in the UK.
  • Clarification is required on where indemnity lies in the case of a data breach.
  • Will there be an explicit statutory bar on FOI requests and other legal obligations?
  • What type of data is covered?
  • Transparency should be an integral part of this proposal – i.e. the number of data breaches and failures to comply recorded and published.
  • Clarification is required on who meets the cost of the provision of data?
  • Clarification is required on where the permissive power ends and power to compel starts?
  • What does it mean to say that the National Statistician is “consulted” on changes to systems for collecting data? What power does that confer?


New/revised proposals: Debt

Naomi Hunter, Cabinet Office, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

Naomi stated that they are bringing back the proposal for consideration to align with the fraud proposals. There will be the same safeguards, code of conduct and review period process  as the fraud proposals. The objective is to recover money owed to different parts of government under one payment. This is more affordable for debtors and more effective and efficient at recovering debt.

Currently government has powers to share data regarding debt owed. However, the system for accessing it is bureaucratic and neither timely nor practical. The process can take two to six years. The National Audit Office believes that there was £22 billion owed in 2013 which rose this year to £24 billion. Sharing this data can help government to identify the people who can pay and the people who can’t. There will be different responses to those people

When this proposal was considered before, there were a few issues. The OPM group felt that the key purpose was unclear. In response they have defined the purpose as to help people manage their debt better and pay back the money they owe. In addition, the OPM group identified a need for better terminology, and they responded by creating clear and consistent terminology.

Naomi clarified that the Debt Market Integrator (DMI) doesn’t do anything independently that government doesn’t mandate.

The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal.

  • The group felt that not enough detail or clarity was provided on the revised proposal to consider it thoroughly.
  • How is the ownership of shared debt viewed, given that it seems to focus on individual debt?
  • It is unclear whether the legislation will only support a pilot of this project.
  • Are corporations subject to this data sharing or only individuals?
  • Will data be shared with private sector companies such as Experian?
  • Attendees had concerns about the quality of the data being shared and noted that there is a lack of persistent identifier in the data – which may cause issues in relation to projects pertaining to debt.
  • Attendees saw identifiable data elements as a potential red line for citizens.
  • The group felt that debt assessments need to be linked up and that it doesn’t make sense to centralise information.
  • There were concerns about the Debt Market Integrator (DMI). As a joint venture, will government’s position be as the supplier or the customer?


New/revised proposals: GRO Civil Registration Data

John Duffy from the General Register Office presented new proposals for the sharing of Civil Registration data.

The data in scope is the registration of all births, stillbirths, adoptions, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships. John explained that the data is governed by a complex and dated legislative framework that dates back to 1836. Civil registration is a devolved function in the UK with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own registration services.

The General Register Office (GRO) supports the delivery of local registration services that are delivered by 174 local authorities and retains all centralised records – 270m dating back to 1837. Records are held in a variety of formats.  Approximately half are digitised.

Civil registration information is only shared where there are statutory gateways in place.

Current legislative gateways have been built up over time, in a piecemeal manner, in response to individual requests for registration information.  Examples include:

  • Police and Justice Act 2006 – Provides for death registration information to be shared with private bodies for the specific purpose of preventing, detecting and prosecuting fraud offences,
  • Immigration Act 2014 – provides for information to be shared for immigration purposes.

The GRO is aiming to enable wider use of registration data without requiring primary legislation each time a new requirement emerges; remove requirements for paper certificates, therefore reducing the opportunity for fraud in relation to forged certificates; increase the integrity of data across government systems; providing benefits for citizens who would have greater choice over how they access government services

Restrictions on sharing civil registration information within government will continue to be constraining unless additional powers are put in place to extend information sharing.

GRO would benefit from getting to a position where they have:

  • A discretionary power that allows civil registration information to be shared with public bodies for the purpose of fulfilling public functions,
  • Restrictions on sharing information to continue to apply where there are prohibitions – e.g. linking gender recognition records,
  • Secretary of State control over the sharing of GRO data.

It is proposed that a number of safeguards would be introduced, including:

  • Strict adherence to the current UK legal framework including the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act,
  • Ministerial notification and agreement on data sharing provisions relating to GRO data,
  • Completion of Impact Assessments, Data Sharing Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding,
  • Adherence to data sharing principles and a developed criteria for considering requests to access information.

The subsequent discussions with the OPM group generated the following questions and comments.

  • Can case study examples be generated?
  • What is the implementation plan when not all GRO data is digitised?
  • Is there a consent element to these proposals?
  • Distinction is required between service and sharing of a dataset.
  • Data is currently openly available but not in bulk.
  • Why is this data only for the public sector?
  • Why is death data not already completely openly available?
  • What’s the purpose of sharing marriage data?
  • There are potential issues around the collection and recording of marriage data.
  • Using this data as a means of verification seems justifiable.
  • Clearer benefit analysis is required to justify the proposals.
  • What does this proposal extend to (birthday, marriages, deaths – anything else)?
  • Will this power be used to:
    • Verify individuals?
    • Nationality/immigration status?
    • Provide access to services?
  • How is it different to National ID? Using the same justification as for Verify.
  • Data is big, complex and nuanced, could this lead to accidentally creating a national database?
  • Is this effectively creating a national register?
    • It’s not centralised and the linkages are not there to create an identity database.


New/revised proposals: DECC assistance for fuel poor citizens

Alan Clifford from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) presented on proposals to expand the automatic provision of direct energy bill support for citizens living in fuel poverty. This type of assistance is currently provided each winter under the Warm Home Discount scheme.

Each winter, approximately 1.4million pensioner households receive an automatic discount off their energy bill. This is possible because energy suppliers can ‘match’ some of their customer records with DWP to identify who is eligible without the customers’ prior consent.

The policy is delivered in a way that:

  • Ensures eligible customers get support automatically.
  • Ensures that vulnerable customers don’t miss-out.
  • Is simple and low-cost to administer, so helps to keep everyone else’s bills down too.

DECC stakeholders from all sectors have called for more use of this type of data matching to facilitate the provision of assistance to fuel poor citizens. It’s tried, tested and demonstrably safe.

Currently many recipients of fuel poverty support are not actually fuel poor, so DECC want a way to prioritise those with the most pressing need – i.e. households in the coldest homes and lowest incomes:

There are already powers (s.131 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012) to extend automatic provision of assistance to some non-pensioner households. This includes recipients of means-tested benefits.

But there are two important gaps:

  • No power to include those on tax credits, which are some of those facing the most severe levels of fuel poverty.
  • No power to use the Government’s housing stock data, which would allow the coldest homes to be prioritised.

The proposed permissive power would enable Government to use HMRC tax credits data, housing stock data (e.g. that held by the Valuation Office Agency), and other relevant public sector datasets. It would dramatically improve the targeting of finite resources, meaning that the Government helps more fuel poor citizens sooner. The power would use the same tried-and-tested approach and safeguards as existing Warm Home Discount (WHD) data matching process.

The discussion raised the following questions:

  • Why does this practice not share attribute data (rather than full data sharing)?
  • Why this specific policy area? What about all the others?
  • What do poverty groups think of this?
  • How would this work with tax credits data (as structured around individuals not households)?
  • What stops energy providers from musing this data for their own purposes (e.g. marketing services to fuel poor customers)?
  • Is there a link to schools and academy data?
  • What will flagging data be used for outside of government? Is there potential for private companies to use it to pitch/market products?
  • What are the red lines/unintended consequences of the data sharing?
  • Are there opt-out mechanisms for the discount?
  • Could this data be used by academia/private sector in a safeguarded environment?
  • In terms of future proofing, if successful is there scope for a private sector role in Tailored Public Service proposals?
  • Safeguards are required to ensure energy companies do not misuse the data – irrespective that the data shared is just a flag as that offers considerable insights to an energy company.


Final Plenary session

In the final plenary session the group was posed two questions:

  1.   What do you need from the Cabinet Office to be able to contribute to the 19th January follow up session?
  2.   What’s the overall steer?

Attendees had the following reflections:

  • More detail is needed in advance of the next session.
  • There could be too many proposals now and this is a big risk.
  • Send paperwork in advance. Paperwork should include anything that is being presented on the day, even the material which is already published online. Paperwork should be circulated at least 5 working days in advance.
  • Need a clear definition of safeguards and the details. What exactly will they be?
  • On 19th January need to think of ways to communicate these proposals to the public, and be able to explain clearly what it means in practise.
  • There needs to be greater clarity on how these proposals will actually work: where responsibilities lie and who makes the decisions on data sharing in these proposals.
  • There needs to be greater clarity on the ways in which proposals are different to each other.
  • Should be a greater explanation of the extent to which there have been thoughts about permissions and penalties.
  • Need to know about the transparency across the piece. Will there be something which articulates this clearly?
  • Something like an appendix on the website which defines terminology. Need evidence of consistency as terms are being used inconsistently currently.
  • The narrative on this set of seven proposals is missing. If they’re going to hang together in one consultation, there needs to be a narrative.
  • Need examples. If this legislation passess, what will be possible but what will still not be possible?
  • There needs to be clarity on the very simple questions of what data, to who, why and how
  • There needs to be some consideration of the impacts at local level and the need for training for local staff. This legislation won’t change the problems they have. Don’t want this to come to a grinding halt if the legislation doesn’t go forward.

Attendees requested the email address of one point of contact to email suggestions. Sue Bateman gave her address.

Invitation to data sharing sessions in January 2016

Many of you were involved in the year-long open policy-making process on data sharing proposals, which concluded before the General Election. During this process we looked at policy proposals to improve public sector access to data for the purposes of:

  • supporting better research and statistics to enable better evidence-based decision making on the modern economy and social issues;
  • combating fraud against the public sector and reducing debt with government; and
  • ensuring that public services are delivered to those who need them, when they need them, by better targeted delivery.

Since the conclusions of the process were made available at www.datasharing.org.uk earlier this year we have continued to develop the proposals in the spirit of what was agreed, on which we may go to public consultation in late January/February 2016. In advance of this, you are invited to attend two sessions in January, to:

  • Update you on our work since
  • Review, improve & feedback on the proposals
  • Help shape the upcoming consultation

The first session will take place on 6 January and the second on 19 January. Both sessions will run between 10am to 2pm in a venue to be confirmed in Central London.

We appreciate that the Christmas and New Year period will place many demands on your time, but we would be grateful if you could make time to contribute your views to this important matter and set a placeholder in your diaries. We will send you an agenda and discussion papers shortly along with confirmation of the venue. We expect a lot of interest in the event, so please let us know as soon as possible if you would like to attend.

Cabinet Office Data Sharing Team

Please RSVP for the sessions via the following links. They will cover different issues, so ideally we would like participants to attend both:
Session 1, which will review the data sharing proposals: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/data-sharing-workshop-i-tickets-19952384118
Session 2, which will review the possible public consultation: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/data-sharing-workshop-ii-tickets-19952324941

Concluding plenary workshop with Francis Maude | 10 March 2015 | Meeting note


On 10th March 2015, a plenary meeting was held to conclude the data sharing open policy process, attended by representatives from privacy groups, civil society organisations and government.


Peter Lawrence (Cabinet Office) introduced the session and gave a recap of the policy process so far. The open policy process has taken place over the past year. It was established due to the recognition that the complexity and potential controversy of data sharing means it could not be developed behind closed doors. The policy process set out to find and build consensus, but where consensus could not be found it would seek to understand the disagreement.

He summarised where each of the strands had got to. This is outlined in the Conclusions policy paper.

Progress of the strands

Simon Burall (Involve) introduced the next session. There are issues still to be resolved across the three strands, but the policy process has reached an area of rest. Participants were split into groups to discuss the strands and given the task of describing what the state of rest looks like. Specifically, each group was asked to discuss what had been banked (i.e. where agreement had been reached); what is still to discuss, and what the different options are.


Tailored public services


  • It’s for social policy objectives
  • It must demonstrate the benefit to the individual.
    • Not punitive intent
    • This is to be used if can’t get informed consent
  • Make an offer to identified people
  • Process transparent
  • Social care and health ‘are in’

To discuss

  • Onward sharing of information. Departments – Partner – Onwards?
  • Good business case – 1 local authority + 1 department
    • How to replicate to be cost effective?


  • Explore “fall out” findings further
    • Safeguarding
    • Fraud
  • Consent/data relating to deceased
  • MyData – individuals hold own
  • LEPs – where in definition of “bodies”


Research & stats


  • Fundamental scope of 3 distinct sub strands (ONS; Trusted Third Party de-identified;HMRC) including how they fit together (coherence)
  • Getting HMRC to same starting point as others
  • Broad power for all public authorities to disclose to each identified data for research and statistics was a step too far
  • Agreed on the need for, and the terminology on, a power for all public authorities to to disclose de-identified data to accredited safe havens using trusted third party indexers for accredited research purposes to accredited researchers
  • Bodies delivering health and social care – appropriate they have separate treatment and get no new powers in the de-identified strand
  • Any requirement for consent would be unworkable for this strand.

To discuss

  • Trusted Third Party governance and control
  • Need for sanctions in de-identified strand?
  • Identified strand: are any of the alternatives to Parliamentary scrutiny of Information Sharing Orders for ONS acceptable?
  • Impact of European Data Protection Regulation
  • Definitions in the legislation still not agreed:
    • Public benefit
    • Public interest
    • Public body
  • Flexibility and future proofing.
    • Scope? Is there scope in the future for data from health bodies to be included in the powerShou
  • Need to make the case continually for the powers
    • Evidence
    • Communications
    • Public engagement
  • Conversations beyond legal barriers


  • Next steps – White Paper
    • What structure?
    • Do all strands belong in the same bill?
    • Would any legislation move forward with ONS power, HMRC power and de-identified power?
  • Fit with other legislation e.g. new EU Data Protection Regulation
  • Funding
    • Governance bodies
    • Of data shares
  • How much of the policy should be in hard legislation and how much included in statutory or non-statutory guidance




  • Most agree error is complex and not suitable / proportionate for data sharing solutions
  • Agree that fraud is a significant problem, which needs addressing
    • Fraud is a cost everyone
  • Pilots provide the opportunity to to better understand tolerance level / cost effectiveness of proposals
  • Survey / feedback to understand citizens views of data sharing
  • Essential that appropriate privacy safeguards are present in proposals
  • Feedback mechanisms built into pilot proposals
  • Consensus on PIA / DPA principles

To discuss

  • A number of representatives from the public sector felt there was greater evidence / certainty of value of data sharing than set out in the paper
  • Data is a facilitator for decision making, not the solution itself
  • Evaluation / what does success look like?
  • What are the tolerance levels for fraud?
    • Cost effective
    • Evaluation is linked to the level, quality of analysis,data cleaning, etc.




  • Best approach is to rely on consent if possible
  • Only rely on compulsion (i.e. legislate) if absolutely necessary
  • Clarified definitional issues

To discuss

  • How will DMI work in practice
    • Openness (FoI)?
  • Will local authorities be included?
  • Is DMI an opportunity to promote best practice and “level up” approach to debtors
  • Prioritisation of debts
  • Tension between benefit to individual and efforts to “get the money in”
  • Sharing with private sector? Individuals have debts with a number of different organisations – private & public
  • Balance success between collection and intrusion
  • Safeguards
  • How to get full picture when some debts not in DMI
  • How to separate success of DMI as a project/initiative and the data sharing aspects
  • Overlap between DMI and statutory debt solutions (e.g. bankruptcy, DRO, etc.)

Reflections from the Minister

Having heard summaries of the group discussion, the Minister for the Cabinet Office reflected on the process. There is a potentially large public benefit to be gained from data sharing, but it is a contentious area with potential risks, and needs to be done in a measured way. There would be no better way to raise suspicion than conducting the policy process in a closed way. Participants had taken part in something groundbreaking – a genuinely open policy making process. He recognised the time and energy that participants had given.

Reflecting on the Tailored Public Services strand, he commented that one of biggest challenges of supporting troubled families is data sharing. Actual and perceived barriers hamper government’s ability to help people. There are two key issues – joining up data and joining up money. Both need to be joined up as close to the individual family as possible, so it’s not about creating big databases. He highlighted the importance of working out the settling point [between opportunities and concerns].

On Research and Statistics, the Minister commented that there are a huge range of issues that we don’t understand, but we have the data that might help us understand. Again he concluded it was about finding the settling point.

Regarding fraud and debt, the Minister stated that there are lots of misperceptions about where data can be shared already. Much of what is needed is about clarity – finding a way through the current patchwork of gateways. On debt he commented that government is not very good at collecting money from those who won’t pay, and not very sensitive to those who can’t pay. Data sharing could help distinguish the two, and support a more humane interaction with those who need it.

To conclude, he highlighted that data sharing is an issue that most new governments don’t want to touch. They get frustrated and see the need for it over time, but then it’s too close to an election. There is no party politics in this and a real opportunity to take forward in early stages of next government.


Q – Why has the role of individuals owning and controlling their data been out of scope for this exercise?

A – Partly because you have to limit things because it could be a conversation you have for ever. Gov.uk’s work on this is now in live beta testing.

Q – Is there scope for civil society organisations to engage on the Debt Market Integrator?

A – Absolutely yes.

Q – What cross party support is there?

A – A lot. All main parties have had recent experience of government and understand the issues.

Q – Potential White Paper – is it overly complicated with strands structure?

A – Good question with no perfect answer. Issue is the simpler you make it, the more all encompassing you make it. It needs to be simplified, but not at cost of benefits we can take from doing in a more complicated way.

Q – It’s been helpful to have a strong but open leadership from Cabinet Office. Would like to build on that post election.

A – Credit to the team. It’s not a comfortable way of doing things. Credit to team for embracing. We now understand what the prize is.

Next steps

The Minister departed and the conversation moved onto the next steps. Groups were formed around four issues for consideration.

Policy & white paper

  • Creating White Paper that’s accessible and engaging. Rational.
  • Difficult to understand across the strands. How do we describe strands. Alternative:
    • Tagline: Reprocessing data for public good.
    • Two themes – administrative (things that have positive impact on individual) – statistical (no impact on the individual)
  • Using examples and case studies.
  • Identifying cultural as well as legal issue.
  • Scrutiny processes that work in a cohesive way.

Citizen engagement and consultation

  • Who are we trying to engage with? How to get representative groups?
  • Meaningful engagement.
  • Need to ensure not hijacked by particular groups.
  • Clarity about intention and outcomes.
  • Need to understand public attitudes and what individuals think is important.
  • Different strands using for operational purposes and others not.
  • Sharing consensus points.
  • Simple messages that resonate with public
  • Need to engage public through case studies and examples – can’t engage in abstract.
  • E-petitions will gather lots of feedback. Need to think of digital forms of engagement.
  • Red lines: Don’t renegotiate – consult – on banked ideas. But will be a question for the next government. But…
  • Can’t guarantee that will be sacrosanct, but will need to be substantial case for change. New evidence, etc.


  • Complex message – and different messages on different strands. Essential to use plain and jargon-free language.
  • Need a communications strategy. Stakeholder analysis and segmentation to tailor messages.
  • Need to have good examples that resonate with people.
  • Important to get champions from outside of government.
  • Being clear about the public benefits and risks – so can have mature conversation.
  • Using the right channels at the right time.
  • Can expect negative media attention – need to put consistent and clear message out.

Devolved nations and regions

  • Lots of discussion going on about devolution – need to make sure that we’re engaging those areas with discussions
  • Control over aims, rather than data. Some data can’t be owned by devolved areas.
  • Joining together contacts in devolved regions. Using networks and assets.
  • Future proofing. Establishing trust.

Closing remarks

Simon Burall (Involve) recognised the time people had given up to participate and thanked the Cabinet Office team for their role.

Peter Lawrence reported that the Cabinet Office team would take on the points they’d heard in the meeting. Over the next few weeks the will start to pull together into a draft White Paper, which a new government can make a decision to take forward if they wish. The Cabinet Office team will have to go quiet during the pre-election purdah period, but will talk to people again when they can .

When there’s a new government, there will be something robust to give to them, with options for next steps. One of the key questions is how to engage the public in this conversation.

Conclusions of civil society and public sector policy discussions on data use in government

Since March 2014 civil society organisations, privacy groups, officials from a number of government departments, academics and representatives from parts of the wider public sector have been collectively discussing how government can be made to be more efficient and effective through its use of data. The core focus has been to enhance the availability of high quality research and statistics from administrative data; prevent fraud and help citizens manage the debt they have with government; and ensure the right services are offered to the right person at the right time.

A paper outlining the conclusions of this open policy process has now been published, available here: http://datasharing.org.uk/conclusions/

The findings and recommendations set out in this paper will inform future work in the area, which may involve further consultation. Please direct any comments you have on the paper to Sam Roberts <<sam.roberts@cabinetoffice.gov.uk>> and Firoze Salim <<firoze.salim@cabinetoffice.gov.uk>> at the Cabinet Office, preferably by the end of 18th February 2015.