How did OSR respond to casework issues?

In 2020/21, we built on the developments of the previous year to continue to evolve our approach to casework. For example, given the numbers of issues raised with us relating to COVID-19 we more often looked to draw together our action around similar cases. While we continued to respond to concerns in the usual ways, we also more often used written statements and blogs. This enabled us to share our position and views on issues with a wider audience. This also helped by providing a reference document to point to when similar concerns were raised with us, and may have reduced the number of individual enquiries and complaints on issues where our position was already in the public domain. 

We also increased our informal engagement with statistical producers to influence positive change at the working level. Particularly in relation to the new statistics and outputs linked to the pandemic, we understood that these were being produced under extraordinary circumstances and at great speed, and our traditional approaches to casework may not always be the best way to influence change and support those working in this difficult environment. While we still wrote formally where this was warranted, we significantly increased our informal engagement with producer teams to support output development, discussing issues and expectations, and making recommendations for improvement. We also applied this approach to our other regulatory work, carrying out rapid reviews of new outputs to assess their compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. The overwhelming response from producers was welcoming and they felt it led to better outcomes.  

During the pandemic, we used our resource flexibly to manage the sharp increase in casework. We streamlined our processes and temporarily restructured some of our teams. This enabled us to share the casework burden across a wider range of staff.   

We have also taken steps to better manage our casework data internally, and increased the information we provide externally throughout the year. We update our issues log weekly, which provides a snapshot of the cases we are investigating, and also publish quarterly management information on how many cases we have handled in each quarter and the average closure times (median and mean). Internally, we have also been focusing more on the impact of our casework, including where we have made significant impacts on statistical production. This helps us learn from our experiences and adapt our approach going forward to deliver the best outcomes from our casework. In 2021, we conducted an internal review of lessons learned from our work during the pandemic so we can continue to improve our key workstreams, such as casework, going forward.  

Improvements to our processes have contributed to quicker closure times in 2020/21 than in the previous year (10 days, down from 13 in 2019/20) despite the significant increase in volume of casework handled.  

We expect to see a reduction in the number of cases handled in 2021/22 compared with 2020/21, but still higher than the 109 cases handled in 2019/20. In Quarter 1 of 2021/22, we opened 39 cases. We also expect to see an increase in the average response and closure times due to the wider variety of cases we are seeing raised with us, which require more bespoke analysis. Our Issues Log and quarterly management information are both available via our Casework pages.

Table 3: Median days to reply or close a case by year

Year Median time to reply Median time to close case 
2016-17 23 [data not available] 
2017-18 21 [data not available] 
2018-19 25 20 
2019-20 13 13 
2020-21 11 10 


During 2020/21 the pandemic has led to our highest volume of casework to date. We have met this challenge with improved response times and some of our most high profile public interventions. Most importantly though, our casework has given us valuable insight into the issues which concern the public and expert users of government data and statistics. This has allowed us to use a variety of approaches to make the case for improvements and support the role of data in public debate. We will build on the lessons from this period to continue to drive improvements to data and statistics produced and used by government in future.  

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