Feasibility study into a new case level homelessness data system for Wales

There are two main sources of information on homelessness in Wales collected by Welsh Government: aggregate data from local authority housing teams, and an annual rough sleeper count. These data sources provide some insight into the scale of homelessness in Wales, however their potential for research to evaluate policy and practice is limited by their aggregate nature.

For several years there have been discussions about making a shift towards individual-level data recording and reporting of local authority housing data, whilst there is an increasing interest in linking between different data sources in order to engage in more research and evaluation. This project therefore had the intention of contributing to the feasibility assessment of introducing a new data collection for local authority housing team data in Wales.

The specific aims of the feasibility project were to: assess the current housing team data collection practices across the 22 Welsh local authorities; engage stakeholders to explore the homeless sector’s opinions on a new data collection; and examine alternative approaches to data collection. The outcome of the project was a series of potential designs for a new homelessness data system in Wales.

Key Findings

  • There was a degree of inconsistency in data collection practices across local authority housing teams in Wales, including what data were being recorded, on who, and how the data were being stored, potentially due to a lack of centralised guidance on how data should be collected.
  • Though the focus of the feasibility study was initially on local authority housing team data, the homelessness ‘data landscape’ in Wales encompasses a range of potentially useful data sources, including housing specific support grants and wider public services data. Linkage between these sources could enhance understanding of the scale of homelessness in Wales.
  • The sector saw few positive aspects to continuing the aggregate collection of local authority housing team data, with opinions being favourable of collections that enabled national data linkage and use of ‘live’ data in order to guide (case) planning and decision making.
  • A review of 53 international examples of data collection system identified eight areas which need consideration when designing a new data system: the systems aim and purpose; the data architecture model that facilitates the systems aim; possible mechanisms to support the roll-out of the new system; a governance structure fit for purpose; ensuring data quality; the ethical and legal issues around individual level data collection and linkage; mechanisms for sharing/moving data that ensure legal and ethical obligations are being maintained; and how data are to be accessed.
  • Four potential system designs are proposed, ranging from a re-organisation of current collections to break down data siloes, to the complete integration of ‘live’ homelessness data across Wales to guide decision making.

Author: Dr Ian Thomas (Cardiff University)














This report can also be viewed in a double-page spread format.


Date: September 1, 2020 9:00 am



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