Oct 25, 2022

Local Government Data Management in Practice

Paul William Wilson

Local government sits at a nexus of data. Everything from social care to waste collection, procurement, and council tax collection generates massive amounts of data. This information is sometimes jumbled, difficult to interpret, personal and sensitive. However, it has the potential to be extremely beneficial in assisting councils with making citizen services more targeted and effective, allocating resources to where they will have the greatest impact, saving time in front and back-office processes, and providing insight into the causes and solutions to costly social problems.

When customer service representatives are empowered to resolve more queries on the first contact, citizen services costs are reduced and citizen satisfaction improves. Master Data Management addresses the issue of having the same citizen's records and information spread across disparate back-office systems. It creates and presents a complete and accurate golden record of a citizen; allowing agents to identify the correct person and see all the accurate transactional details they require with greater confidence. Rent, taxes or entitlements are all examples of payments. For "tell us once," changes can also be synchronized across all systems.

Disconnected records make it difficult to determine whether they still require the services or live at the associated address. A unified view of a citizen simplifies the verification of service entitlement. Synchronized data enables councils to identify citizen services that are no longer required and drives significant in-year savings.

Effective management of this data is becoming increasingly important just as multi-agency approaches, for example, in health and social care are becoming more common. The rise of Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs, Integrated Care Systems, and Local Health and Care Record Exemplars necessitate collaboration among councils, health, police, and charities. A shared record set is critical for effective collaboration and driving down long-term service costs. The Health Foundation and the British Medical Association predict a £3.9 billion shortfall in adult social care funding by 2025[i]. Utilizing data in council services design and effectively targeting these services will also be critical to reducing the shortfall.

Every time a resident interacts with their council, data is generated. If those data points are dispersed throughout the organization such as separate record for parking registrations and environmental health complaints, each department will be able to see an aspect of the citizen they are dealing with, but none will have a complete picture of the person behind the data.

This isn't enough. In today's digital world, people expect something in return for granting organizations with access to their data, which is, a better, more personalized service. It’s less likely that people will get the desired experience they expect from their local government if they hand over reams of data only to be passed from pillar to post whenever they call, or if they are faced with missing information when they need to discuss important issues.

Master Data Management (MDM): Use and benefits

Master Data Management (MDM) is both a tech-enabled approach to data governance and a technology which, through applications and APIs, ensures a uniform set of identifiers and extended attributes that describe the core entities of the enterprise, including citizens, customers, and council services.

Through MDM, councils can develop more accurate propensity models, improving insights for debt management teams and maximizing ethical debt recovery. It is also equally beneficial to the citizens. At the initial point of citizen contact itself, councils will be able to gain a comprehensive understanding of citizens' circumstances so that they can help prevent future debt increases and engage the most vulnerable proactively. Providing payment plans and support for those who are unable to pay ensures a long-term tenancy. In addition to preventing homelessness, it also reduces downstream costs.

Fraud and error cost local governments £2.1 billion per year or £71 per household[ii]. Single Person Discounts, tenancy, and Blue Badge anomalies become more visible with a comprehensive view of a household. Councils can be proactive in recovering funds and dealing with fraudulent discount requests at the point of contact. For instance, MDM is being used by councils like Hull to obtain a comprehensive picture of all debts owed by a person or family.

Microland’s eCitizen Accelerator

Microland’s eCitizen Accelerator has MDM integration at its core. It supports integration which unifies and enriches Citizen Service data from connected line-of-business systems and automatically matches, merges, and masters the data. It also drives auto-population of forms and reduces time required for service request submission by up to 50%. With Microland eCitizen accelerator, one of the councils in London could save £1.3 million and gained better insight into SPD anomalies alone.

[i] The Health Foundation (2020); “Response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry on social care: funding and workforce

[ii] Department for Work and Pensions (2022); “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System