Bringing consistency to statutory assessment through online data visualisation
Cumbria County Council has been using InstantAtlas to develop interactive online reports that have been used to support work around statutory assessments. Rebecca Raw is Research, Information and Intelligence Officer within the Performance & Intelligence Unit at the council. Several years ago the team was asked to put together area profiles that could be used by council officers to better understand the profile of local areas. Data was collected and presented in spreadsheets. However, as Rebecca explains: “we found that circulating complex spreadsheets was not ideal”.
“Through our involvement with the Cumbria Intelligence Observatory project we discovered that Cumbria PCT was using InstantAtlas and there was a strong feeling amongst Observatory partners that we should do the same.”
The council bought InstantAtlas Desktop and started work pulling key facts and figures together in order to make interactive reports available online. Reports were produced in three formats: a single map, double map and area profiler. Key facts and figures included: population data; life expectancy; unemployment rates and income data. The idea was to give users an overview of what was happening in each of the county’s wards, with district, county and national comparisons offered alongside. The three reports became known collectively as the ‘Cumbria Atlas’.
Following the launch of the Cumbria Atlas, the team was asked to develop a more specialised set of atlas reports to support statutory work around the council’s Child Poverty Needs Assessment, these reports were known as the ‘Child Poverty Atlas’.
“The Child Poverty Atlas was presented to Cumbria’s policy network and received very positive feedback. Building on this success, we started to work on a new atlas, this time based on statutory work around community safety,” says Rebecca. “At the same time, we also worked with Cumbria Children’s Services to produce a Children’s Centre Footprint Atlas; which examines specific data around each centre and supports commissioning of services.” The team also developed a set of detailed instructions on how to use the atlases.
Meeting the need
The team has found that many people are accessing the atlases online and officers from across from the local authority and partners agencies have begun to use the atlases to inform their work. “We realised quite how heavily the atlases are being used one day last week when our website went down and we were inundated with calls from people trying to access the atlas,” say Rebecca.
“As well as offering instructions online, we also provide a phone number for users to call us for advice on interpreting the atlases. These calls offer us some insight into how the intelligence on the atlas is being used. For instance, we were called recently by a vicar who was using the atlas to find information that he could use for a funding bid for his local ward.” The team has tried to be as accommodating as possible by adding new data sets when asked.
Rebecca says feedback has been supportive and being able to see the relationship between different data sets at the click of a button has been a real eye-opener: “Using the double map format you can look at an issue such as binge drinking and see the correlation it has with health and crime statistics across local areas” says Rebecca. “Partner organisations can see where their priorities overlap and this strengthens the case for working together.”
Having the data presented in an easy-to-access format has also helped the team itself. Rather than having to go back to spreadsheets to find trends, they can see them quickly, which is an enormous help with the day-to-day analysis work that they carry out.
The team is now working on a Health & Wellbeing Atlas to support Cumbria’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and intend to develop a series of atlases to present the outputs of the 2011 Census as they become available.
Other InstantAtlas local authority stories and reports that will interest you
Suffolk Data Observatory - Bringing partner organisations closer together through a shared intelligence platform
Bristol City Council - Giving Bristol and its neighbourhoods access to local data in a visually compelling and easy-to-understand way
Staffordshire Data Observatory - Giving local strategic partners the data they need to make commissioning decisions in a customisable format
Devon County Council - Using a shared online resource to ensure Devon’s strategic partners make evidence-based decisions using the same data
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