Assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics: Scottish prison population statistics

13 January 2023
Last updated:
12 January 2023

User engagement

1.5 The statistics team has an open dialogue with users and engages with them through a variety of means. When it first published the new statistics (as experimental statistics), it used both quantitative and qualitative methods to gather user feedback. A user survey helped the team collect basic information about users, their satisfaction with the content and format of the statistical bulletin, and ideas for future development of the statistics. The survey was followed up with a series of workshops with known users and users identified through the survey, to discuss how the statistics might be developed to better meet user needs and to identify user priorities. The results led to some immediate changes to the content of the statistical bulletin and the team is currently planning what further changes may be needed to meet additional users’ needs. The team also engages directly with some academic and charity users by attending and presenting at workshops.

1.6 This proactive and well-structured set of user engagement activities has enabled the team to identify key users and stakeholders of the statistics, understand their needs, and develop the statistics. This level of engagement has been well-received by users: users told us they are happy with the team’s openness, visibility, and responsiveness. It is good that the team intends to publish the findings and actions from the user survey and workshops. This demonstrates transparency about user engagement activities and how user feedback is being acted on. The team told us that certain user needs that were identified are outside the scope of official statistics and may be better met through different means or outputs. The team is working with other analysts in Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Services (JAS) and SPS to explore how such unmet needs may be addressed.

1.7 The statistics team has a strong working relationship with Scottish Government policy teams. Policy teams were very positive about the analytical support they receive from the statistics team and the relevance and importance of the statistics for their work. Policy teams consult the statistics team on all data-related matters and handle the data with honesty and integrity.

1.8 The team can build on this successful engagement by broadening the types of users it engages with. A wider range of users brings a wider range of perspectives, which may provide additional ideas for developing the statistics. The team may also like to consider setting up a forum for more regular engagement; several users told us they would welcome such an opportunity.

1.9 The team is currently reviewing oversight arrangements for the statistics. To date, the production of the statistics has been overseen by a working group comprising Scottish Government statisticians and analytical leadership, and representatives from the SPS. The aim is to develop a wider advisory board to help steer the ongoing and future development of the prison population statistics, with a focus on outputs. The team told us it would like to set up the group in advance of the next annual publication in November 2023 and is looking for external stakeholder representation beyond SPS. We support the creation of an advisory board, which sounds like a good forum for engaging with users and other stakeholders to drive continued improvement of the statistics.

1.10 The team also intends to develop and implement a formal user engagement plan, which will be published on the Scottish Government website. In the meantime, the team said it will continue to work closely with various user groups. It is good that Scottish Government is being transparent about its user engagement plans.

1.11 The statistics are promoted in a range of ways, including an email alert via Scottish Government’s ScotStat mailing list, a news release, and posts on the Scottish Government Justice Analysts Twitter feed, all of which are authored by the statistics team. The news release for the 2019-20 statistical bulletin was clear, accurate and impartial, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on prisons. Several users told us they like the use of Twitter to publicise the statistics.

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