Annual Review of UK Statistics Authority Casework 2021/22

20 October 2022
Last updated:
20 October 2022

What is casework?

OSR is responsible for managing the Authority casework function, undertaking monitoring to identify and investigate issues raised with both OSR and the Authority.

Our core aim is to uphold the principles of the Code of Practice for Statistics adhering to the pillars of trustworthiness, quality and value.  We ensure that the public use of statistics and data adheres to the basics of intelligent transparency: that they are accessible and verifiable, and not used misleadingly or without supporting data or context.

Our intention with any intervention is to deliver positive change, whether that is an improvement in the production or communication of official statistics, or a more responsible use of statistics in public debate. Our approach is always guided by our interventions policy.

Official statistics are an essential public asset. For the public to have confidence in government statistics, it is not enough that they are produced well. If they are used poorly in public communications, there is a risk that public audiences become mistrustful and frustrated. The UK Statistics Authority (Authority) works to promote, monitor and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics. In accordance with the statutory requirements set by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, we strive to ensure that official statistics are accessible, reliable and that they serve the public good.

We take a broad view of what counts as a “statistic”. For the general public, we judge that it is unlikely that people distinguish between statistics that are formally official statistics and those that are management information, economic models or some other type of government analysis. When a member of the public hears or sees a number, they are likely to expect that rigorous standards have been followed in how it is produced and used. We will therefore make comments when numbers are used by government to support public communication regardless of whether these numbers come from published statistics, internal analysis, internal operational data, or models. The same basic standards – context, sources, access to an explanation of how the numbers are derived – should apply. In short, the numbers should be verifiable, accessible and easy to understand.

There are two main routes to an issue becoming casework:

  • someone brings the issue to our attention
  • we identify the issue (self-generated casework)

By raising a concern with us a member of the public initiates our investigation process. During the investigation process we take a decision on whether we agree there is a concern, or whether we do not share the concern or whether in fact the concern is outside of our remit and therefore out of scope. We will typically engage with the individual, organisation or data producer to which the concern relates. Some correspondence will be published on our website (or the UK Statistics Authority website where a letter was sent by the Chair) and some will be private so will only be logged on our issues log. It should be noted that private interventions are no less effective than public interventions. It is primarily the level of public interest that impacts the decision to intervene publicly.

Where we feel an issue is substantial and/or heavily in the public interest, we are more likely to share our views publicly, for example through a public letter or blog. To increase impact, on the most significant issues we may combine a public letter with a written statement, or a social media campaign. We will also vary the scale and approach we take depending on whether it is our first intervention on an issue, or part of a repeated issue or longer-term campaign. Our Casework FAQ page provides more details on our casework decision making process.

There are some limits to what we will take on as a case to investigate:

  • We will not comment on the use of statistics by the media – there are regulators of the press, broadcasting and advertising. We refer complainants to these regulators where relevant. However, where the media is quoting comments that use statistics, we will investigate this and may make contact with the person who was quoted.
  • We do not seek to verify the facts underlying all key public statements. Instead, we look to clarify what the underlying statistics say, and ensure they are equally available to all.
  • We do not form judgements on the merits of policy arguments. We simply aim to clarify what the underlying numbers say and mean.

We continue to take steps to better manage our casework data internally and increased the information we provide externally throughout the year. We update our quarterly management information on how many cases we have handled in each quarter and the average closure times (median and mean).

To find out more about our casework process and how to raise a concern visit the Casework page on the OSR website.

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