Dear Paul

Confirmation of National Statistics Designation for Personal Independence Payment Statistics for Northern Ireland produced by the Department for Communities

We have reviewed the actions that your team has taken to address the requirements in Assessment Report number 355: Personal Independence Payment Statistics for Northern Ireland. On behalf of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, I am pleased to confirm the designation of National Statistics for these statistics.

These statistics are valuable to a range of users across the advice and charity sectors, as well as within the Department for Communities, in improving understanding of how Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are performing and their role in social security reform.

The team responsible for producing the statistics has responded very positively to the Requirements of our report. We are impressed with the actions the team has already taken to engage directly with users and its counterparts in the Department for Work and Pensions. These regular meetings will support the development of PIP statistics and should enable greater coherence between PIP statistics for Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It is also good to see the additional information on data quality and methodology to support users’ understanding and use of the statistics.

We have included more detail about our judgement in an annex to this letter. I, or my team, would be happy to talk to you or your colleagues through any aspects of this letter or Code compliance more generally.

National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value and is something to be celebrated.

I am copying this letter to Siobhan Carey, Chief Executive and Registrar General, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, and Sharon Brady and Peter Wilgar, the responsible statisticians.

Yours sincerely

Mary Gregory

Deputy Director for Regulation


Related Links:

Assessment of Personal Independence Payment Statistics for Northern Ireland (produced by the Department for Communities, Northern Ireland)


Annex: Review of actions taken in response to Assessment Report 355: Assessment of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Statistics for Northern Ireland (NI), produced by the Department for Communities (DfC) 

Requirement one: To enhance accessibility of the statistics, the statistics team should:

a) Improve signposting between charts in the bulletin and the data tables which they correspond to.

b) Make it clearer what other breakdowns can be found in the data tables and draw out insights in the statistical bulletin where appropriate.

Actions taken by DfC to meet the requirement 

  • The PIP bulletin published in August 2021 includes a number of new references added by DfC, to signpost specific tables. 
  • Extra information has been inserted in the Page 1 introductory text of the bulletin, outlining the Supplementary Tables. Specific figures in the bulletin are also supported by signposts to specific tables. 

OSR’s evaluation of evidence 

The changes made by the team have improved the accessibility of the statistics and made it easier for users to find the full range of breakdowns available. 


Requirement two: To maximise use of the statistics and ensure their development is informed by users, the statistics team should:

a) Participate in user forums coordinated by the operations team, so that it can engage directly with users to discuss priorities for developments.

b) Work closely with a range of users to understand their data needs and the type of insight they require.

c) Work with data suppliers to identify potential solutions to filling data gaps.

d) Publicly set out plans for addressing users’ need and provide a clear explanation where gaps cannot be addressed.

Actions taken by DfC to meet the requirement 

  • In June 2021, members of the DfC team attended, presented and answered questions at a Disability Consultative Forum meeting. The forum coordinated by the NI PIP Operations team consists of key stakeholders and representatives from voluntary and charitable organisations with an interest in the disability sector. DfC PIP statisticians will attend this forum going forward. 
  • Attending the Disability Consultative Forum has provided the opportunity to develop further relationships with users, some of whom have now had further direct communication with the producing statisticians. In addition, a branch-wide user group is in development that will pool resources for greater engagement with users of all benefit statistics published by DfC.   
  • DfC has included links to Statistics User Survey on the PIP Statistics website, and in the ‘Further Information and Feedback’ section on page 8 of the PIP bulletin publication and ‘Notes’ section of the published Supplementary Tables. 
  • Interactive tables are being developed for use by users within DfC, with the hope that these will be made public with appropriate data protection measures in place. 
  • A regular quarterly meeting has been set up with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) PIP analysts to discuss coding and methodology; to address data gaps between the publications, and any other developments on both sides. The latest meeting was held on 23 August 2021, following which some detailed methodology has been shared.   
  • Two new web pages have been launched and linked on the PIP statistics website addressing users’ need. The first is PIP statistics – changes to published statistics, providing specific information on changes/additions to the published statistics and includes details on future planned changes/additions and absence of particular breakdowns. The second is PIP statistics – data quality and methodology, providing information on the data quality assurances and the methodology used to obtain the published statistics, with explanations regarding limitations. 

OSR’s evaluation of evidence 

We are impressed with the range of initiatives DfC has introduced to address this requirement. It is great to hear that the team has increased its direct engagement with users and its counterparts in DWP. These regular meetings will support the development of PIP statistics and should enable greater coherence between NI and GB statistics. It is also good to see the increase in information about the team’s user engagement across the webpages, demonstrating a transparent approach to sharing development plans. 


Requirement three: To reassure itself and users of the quality of administrative data, DfC should expand the information on data quality within the bulletin and tables, highlighting any limitations or issues that were identified through the QAAD framework.

Actions taken by DfC to meet the requirement 

  • Data Quality and Methodology web page has been created and links included on the PIP Statistics website. This web page provides details on the data source, data quality management actions and the creation of data table structures for administrative use as well as limitations of the processes involved.  

Future actions: 

  • A brief summary of information provided in the Data Quality and Methodology web page, and links to the web page, will be included in the ‘About These Statistics’ section of the PIP published bulletin and in the ‘Notes’ section of the published Supplementary Tables from November 2021. 

OSR’s evaluation of evidence 

We are pleased to see the additional information on data quality and methodology to support users’ understanding and use of the statistics. We welcome the plans to include a short summary of this information within the bulletin itself from November 2021, so that the information is not missed. 

Requirement four: To enhance the coherence and quality of PIP statistics, DfC must build strong links with the responsible statisticians in DWP and establish regular engagement with DWP, to discuss issues and priorities for developments.

Actions taken by DfC to meet the requirement 

  • A quarterly meeting has been set up with DWP PIP analysts (see requirement 2). 
  • Plans to enhance the coherence between DWP and DfC PIP statistical outputs are in place. A new table has been included in the Supplementary Tables since August 2021 that can be directly compared with DWP figures. To keep users aware of the plans and changes including future inclusion of corresponding tables in published statistics, the PIP statistics – changes to published statistics web page was launched in August 2021. This contains details and explanations on additions to the published bulletin and supplementary tables and provides details and explanations for planned additions or changes. Additionally, this web page also includes a link to the Statistics User Survey. 

OSR’s evaluation of evidence 

As noted for requirement 2, it is great to hear that the team has strengthened its engagement with its counterparts in DWP. The inclusion of a new supplementary table that can be directly compared with DWP figures is a positive step towards achieving greater coherence between the PIP statistics for NI and GB.