This assessment report was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen dramatic shocks to the labour market and placed increased pressure on the welfare system. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has continued to produce its statistics despite significant resource pressures, and we highlight the impact of COVID-19 on these statistics where relevant in this report.
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.
COVID-19 has brought to light users’ interest in information on the characteristics of individuals or households claiming benefits. Solving these data gaps would aid understanding of which groups have been most impacted by the pandemic so that services and policies can be targeted effectively.
Information about the quality of the statistics does not support users’ understanding of the strengths and limitations of the statistics and risks the data being misinterpreted. Signposting between Stat-Xplore (DWP’s interactive tabulation tool) and the DWP landing pages for the statistics needs to be improved to ensure users are equipped to interpret and use the statistics appropriately.
We identified several actions for DWP to further enhance the public value, quality and trustworthiness of the DWP benefit statistics, as described in chapters one to three of this report. Fulfilling the requirements of this assessment will ensure that these statistics can continue to be designated as National Statistics.