OSR has today published a package of reviews concerning UK benefit statistics. This includes a full assessment of Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) benefit statistics for Great Britain and a compliance check of the Department for Communities’ (DfC) benefits statistics summary for Northern Ireland.

There has been heightened interest in benefit statistics during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is great to see DWP and DfC demonstrate their ability to respond and adapt to changing demands by providing real-time insights into the take up of Universal Credit.

Our findings point to a lot of untapped potential in DWP’s benefit statistics. We found a strong need for DWP to engage more proactively with users to understand their needs and ensure the statistics on legacy benefits keep pace with statistics on Universal Credit. Our report suggests a range of improvements that we consider necessary to ensure that these statistics can continue to be badged as National Statistics.

We are pleased to see the close collaboration DWP and HMRC have taken to develop a joint annual publication on the numbers of individuals claiming common combinations of benefits that DWP and HMRC are responsible for. As part of our review, we have written to HMRC to welcome this collaboration and encourage it to ensure that this development can be completed quickly to enhance the public value of benefit statistics.

Our compliance check of the benefits statistics summary for Northern Ireland confirmed that these statistics should continue to be designated as National Statistics. We found several positives in the way that DfC produces and presents these statistics and we welcome DfC’s enthusiasm in exploring the use of Reproducible Analytical Pipelines in the production of its statistics. Our letter to DfC also sets out several ways in which the statistics could be further developed to enhance the public value of the statistics.