More information for parents, carers or other involved adults about how data is being linked to the survey answers and what measures we take to safeguard this data.

Why are we linking data?

To help Community Planning Partnerships find out if they provide services to the right children, we want to link data anonymously from what we know about the services the local authority provides to a child and the child’s answers to the SALSUS Survey and Children’s Wellbeing Supplement. This evidence collection forms an important element of the evidence base used by the Realigning Children’s Services programme.

Data Linkage


What is the Realigning Children’s Services Programme?

The Realigning Children’s Services (RCS) programme seeks to support local improvement in joint strategic commissioning practice, focusing on evidence collection and analysis and strengthening partnership working across children’s services – from statutory services to voluntary and independent providers of services to children and families themselves.

Until now, evidence for planning purposes has tended to focus on a count of children with particular issues which require the input of services. The number of children counted “in” depends largely on locally held thresholds for access to services and the correct identification of need by practitioners.

The RCS evidence programme aims to collect self-report data on wellbeing and need within the child population, and adding a measure of services used via available Local Authority management information. This will help to assess the extent that current services are meeting local need and provide pointers for future provision.

What is the purpose of data linkage?

The purpose of the data linkage is to create a dataset that is better able to answer questions about the appropriateness of current services for children and young people in the local area. This new dataset will allow better understanding of children’s needs, the level of support children and their families are currently receiving. A single dataset containing information about child wellbeing/need and receipt of children’s services, enable analysis and reporting in support of more effective strategic children’s service commissioning.

What data will be linked?

The following fields will be linked for each child to their survey responses. If a child did not take part in the survey (because the parent did not provide permission; the child did not wish to take part or because the child was not at school when the survey took place) this data will not be shared by the local authority for analysis. No health data is being linked.

  • Not in receipt of children’s services (yes/no)
  • Looked after at home (yes/no)
  • Looked after in foster care (yes/no)
  • Looked after in kinship care (yes/no)
  • Looked after in residential child care (yes/no)
  • On Child Protection register (yes/no)
  • With complex support plan (yes/no)
  • With individualised education plan (yes/no)
  • Type of Additional Support Need (yes/no)
  • Free School Meals (yes/no)
  • Receiving through care and after care (yes/no)
  • Looking for prospective adopters (yes/no)
  • SIMD decile (value)
  • Urban/Rural 8 point classification (value)
  • School

Who is involved in the data linkage and analysis?

ScotCen, an independent research institute has been commissioned by Scottish Ministers to undertake analysis and reporting for the RCS programme as a whole. The electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS) and National Records of Scotland (NRS) will undertake the physical linkage of this management information data with children’s survey responses.

More specifically, NRS will be used to provide the “linkage key” generating anonymous IDs for use on the separate data sources on the back of a unique ID that is used for implementing the survey and is generated by the relevant survey contractors – Ipsos MORI in relation to Secondary school pupils in years S1 to S4 and ScotCen in relation to primary school pupils in years P5 to P7.

The combined anonymous dataset will be analysed by ScotCen for the local authority and its partners in the Community Planning Partnership to help them to take better planning decisions based on solid, detailed evidence of need.

Using a number of different parties in the data linking process who each have a different role, and never have access to all of the information at once, avoids the possibility that results for individual children are made available in identifiable form.

The data linkage process used for this research can be carried out without the use of names and so ensures that the survey responses cannot be ascribed to a particular named child. It is also more cost effective use of resources to carry out the research in this way.

Implications and consequences of not sharing data

Without the data-sharing element of the programme, the local authority and its partners would not be able to arrive at an objective assessment of whether local children are being provided with the right services. The survey results on their own will provide information about the needs and risk and protective factors present in local children, but without the data linkage it would not be possible to say whether services are reaching the right, or all, children with particular needs – crucial information when commissioning local children’s services.

How do we make sure that the data linkage is carried out safely and securely?

eDRIS will match survey results collected by the contractors (Ipsos MORI and ScotCen) with the administrative dataset shared by the local authority. The National Records of Scotland (NRS) will be used to provide the “linkage key” – generating anonymous IDs for use on the separate data sources on the back of a unique ID that will be used to implement the survey and generate the local authority administration dataset.

An automated process will link all the data sets together using the linkage key. At no point will NRS hold any of the administrative or survey data and at no point will eDRIS have access to the original survey identifiers.

This final linked data set will be made available to ScotCen, who will carry out analysis regarding the appropriateness of service provision.

All data transferred to and from Ipsos MORI, ScotCen, NRS and eDRIS will be done via secure File Transfer Protocol. Ipsos MORI, ScotCen and eDRIS practice conforms with the information security management standard ISO27001.

NRS, who does not have access to sensitive data, employs stringent data security standards by using appropriate operational and technological processes and procedures to keep the linkage key safe from unauthorised use or access, alteration, transmission, publication, loss, destruction, theft or disclosure.