Merthyr Food Poverty Data Project: Alpha Update November 2022

Merthyr Food Poverty Data Project: Alpha Update November 2022


We are now over halfway into the alpha phase of the Merthyr Food Poverty Data project. In this phase we are testing a potential viable solution identified during discovery to help solve the issue of officers not being aware early enough of a change in a citizen’s circumstances even though it is recorded, and available, on one or more council systems.

By having access to more timely information, the idea is an officer will be able to make a targeted early intervention that reduces the likelihood of a citizen falling into food poverty.

The alpha has three distinct test iterations:

  • Connecting to data sources
  • Identifying key poverty indicators
  • Ensuring proper use of data.

How things stand

We have seen very promising results from both connecting to the test data sources and identifying a set of key indicators related to the well-being of citizens under council care. For both iterations, officers have said citizens would benefit from them having more useful and timely information, as it puts them in a stronger position to decide if they need to instigate a new targeted intervention. A fast rate of progress in the proper use of data iteration is proving more elusive.

Connecting to data sources

Our project is platform agnostic. However, we needed to pick a data aggregating platform for the alpha. Following investigation, we selected the Capita One Single View product primarily because it seemed the easiest to use for non-technical people, and it had good examples of a range of council systems already successfully connected to.

For the alpha we are aiming to source data from three internal council systems: Capita One Education, Civica Housing, and Northgate Revenues and Benefits. If this test proves successful, for beta, we will examine the benefit of connecting to additional internal systems.

Although not yet fully tested, we have confidence that this iteration will be successful.

Identifying key poverty indicators

The aim of this iteration is to pinpoint and give weighting to key poverty indicators from which we can build a single composite visualisation of a citizen record and a RAG (Red Amber Green) alerting solution to help officers make earlier and more informed decisions.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the council’s tackling poverty working group and channel managers of the three systems provided input. Our main method of elicitation was via a workshop where we considered the use case scenario of families who became homeless in the past 12-months and what information would be most useful for officers to early spot a degrading situation.

The output was nine indicators. Examples include Level of Debt, Dependents Exclusions History, and Council Tax Discount status.

Although not yet tested, we have confidence that if deployed, this iteration has good potential to deliver the desired early alerting.

Ensuring proper use of data

As expected, this iteration is proving to be the most challenging and has caused progress and team velocity to slow markedly. The team has now focused purely on addressing the issues related to UK GDPR. All other activities have stopped.

Working with the Merthyr’s leadership, its Data Privacy Office, and SMEs from Welsh Government, we are working to confirm a lawful basis for collecting and using personal data (Article 6) based on the processing being necessary for officers to perform a task in the public interest.

Another area to overcome is using special category data (Article 9) which in our case relates to the issue category: Data concerning health.

It is looking increasingly likely we will decide to stop this alpha test and instead look at potential solutions to the problem of how best to handle data issues related to officers aggregating internal citizen information for a variety of well-being and other beneficial legal purposes.

Our confidence of solid progress towards an iteration resolution in the next few weeks is low to medium.

We will continue to blog about the project’s progress and any updates. To stay up to date with the latest announcements, sign up to our newsletter.

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