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Doing Data Differently is about seeing the whole picture.

When providing joined-up support to children and families in Scotland, data too often acts as a barrier. For the promise to be kept, this needs to change.

Scotland needs data that allows us to see the whole child, and their family, within context.

It needs a culture that proactively listens to and seeks out information about the experiences of:

  • children,
  • families, and
  • those who support them.

And it needs to treat that information as what matters most, rather than as secondary to the type of information that is useful to ‘the care system’.

It needs joined-up data, that allows people and organisations to see entire journeys and changes over time.

What data is

Data is information which can be:

  • quantitative— made up of numbers.
  • qualitative— made up of words.

It can be used to understand:

  • the experiences of children and families in and around the “care system,”
  • the processes they encounter in the “care system” itself, and
  • the outcomes they face as a result of these.
Arrows pointing up towards a cross.

How might it look if Scotland did data differently?

Isla's story: Showing how data might make a difference

The Promise Scotland shows what keeping the promise might look like by using composite stories.

Isla’s story is one of these. Isla herself isn't real, but what happens to her reflects events which did really happen.

As the video below shows, Isla has had to move around a lot. This means she's had to change schools a lot, which she finds really difficult.

But if data isn't joined up, the "care system" might never put this together. Information about how she's doing in later life might not be linked up to how much she's moved. The fact she's moved a lot might not be linked to the fact that it's changing schools she finds the most distressing.

And the connection between changing schools and being care experienced might not always be obvious.

If Isla struggles later on in her life, this might be captured in outcomes data. It might say that she's found things difficult, and that she's care experienced.

But it won't say why it was difficult, because the links between these facts were never seen.

Isla's story

Doing Data Differently is vital to keeping the promise

Scotland needs data that works for families

The Independent Care Review's report that made the promise ,found that the ‘care system’ collects data on what matters to itself, and not on what matters to the people who live in and around it.

That was true for what matters to these people around:

  • their experiences, and
  • their outcomes.

The report was clear that collection of data can't be the main way that Scotland understands how children and families experience its "care system."

But it's also clear that it's vital for data to improve in terms of:

  • quality , and
  • completeness.

It's also important for it to think about where linking data together can improve accountability. Analysing the outcomes from "the care system" may become easier once certain connections are made.

Arrows pointing upwards, suggesting growth.

Organisations across Scotland face challenges around data

Issues around data are a key challenge in making sure Scotland can #KeepThePromise. They make it harder to:

  • facilitate change, so that it can happen in the first place, and
  • support change, so that it can keep happening once it begins.

Most of the organisations who engaged with the Independent Care Review said they had issues like this, which impacted their service delivery.

They faced challenges around:

  • data collection,
  • data access, and
  • data sharing.
Arrows pointing forwards and upwards, suggesting progress.

But better data can lead to better understanding

The data systems Scotland has now aren't good enough to support:

  • monitoring progress towards keeping the promise, and
  • evaluating the progress that's been made.

This is true at both a local and national level. Data systems aren't capable of supporting progressive transformational change.

And it will keep being true while the "care system" collects data on what matters to itself— and not on what matters to people within it.

Data alone won't solve problems. But it can act as a guide towards what a solution could be.

So to #KeepThePromise, Scotland needs better – and more timely – access to information.

As well as knowing what's happening, it needs to know about why those things are happening.

Dominoes starting to fall, suggesting impact.

What are the key problems Scotland faces around data?

There’s a lack of data on the human experience of:

  • moving through the “care system,” and
  • the impacts which that system has.

Narrow data definitions of the ‘subject’ of the ‘care system’ have led to disconnected data pictures.

Different things that happen to someone in "the care system" are often recorded separately, and not linked up.

When something in a person's life affects something else later on, there may be no way of knowing this— even if data around both things exist.

Different parts of the “care system" don't always share their data, and so may miss ways in which things are connected.

Sometimes, only a very small number of people in organisations are involved with the data they have.

Because of this, both:

  • organisations as a whole, and
  • departments within organisations

May not have a good understanding of what information they hold and use.

Scotland’s data tends to focus on outcomes: what happens to people who have been in contact with the “care system.”

This means it doesn’t focus as much on:

  • processes — how people experience interaction with the “care system”
  • journeys — how people move through it.

In order to have proper accountability and quality standards, robust data on outcomes is absolutely essential.

However, outcome data alone doesn’t say anything about why things happen.

Without any insights into the experiences and journeys that brought people to that outcome, it's hard to know how to change things for the better.

Ideally, Scotland would have one clear picture of data which was held in a single place.

And ideally, a picture like this would contain all data on processes and systems which impact on children and families both:

  • directly , and
  • indirectly.

It would include – but not be limited to – data on:

  • housing,
  • poverty,
  • education,
  • employment,
  • social work, and
  • health.

But right now, no such picture of data exists.

Sometimes, only a very small number of people in organisations are involved with the data they have.

Because of this, both:

  • organisations as a whole, and
  • departments within organisations

May not have a good understanding of what information they hold and use.


Scotland can do data better.

The Promise Data Map

is the first step

in addressing these problems.




The Promise Data Map

Scotland has lots of data about things which directly and indirectly impact children and their families.

But right now, there's no shared understanding or way of finding out:

  • what information is captured across Scotland,
  • how this information is used and shared, or
  • who's using or sharing this information.

The Promise Scotland is creating a data map to help change this— a way to navigate the data Scotland holds.

More about The Promise Data Map.

arrows pointing towards a cross, suggesting a map.