Looking at data on a screen

Driving data-led decision-making with the Local Needs Databank

By Amelia Smith 28 January 2021 5 minute read

Buttle UK is a grant giving organisation that provides tailored grants for people living in poverty. Buttle UK has shared some of its applications data with us and has a dashboard in the Local Needs Databank. This guest blog by Amelia Smith, Impact and Evaluation Manager at Buttle UK, sets out Buttle’s perspective on the importance of data in decision-making and why it got involved in the Local Needs Databank project. For more on Buttle UK’s work, read our analysis of some of its 2020 data.

The ‘FIND: Local Needs Databank’, also known as Interactive Covid-19 data for charities and funders on the NPC website, is a collaborative data resource. It presents government, Office for National Statistics (ONS) and charity data, to highlight need in local authorities in the UK, with the aim of informing where funds should be targeted to support these needs.

Buttle UK is a grant giving organisation that provides individually tailored grants of up to £2,000 to children and young people living in poverty, who have been emotionally and educationally impacted by a form of crisis (e.g. domestic abuse or neglect). With data capturing the needs of thousands of children across the UK, Buttle UK is in a strong position to collaborate on this databank, demonstrating need and how it has been changing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Local Needs Databank, Buttle UK has a dashboard that shows applications for funding in each local authority, the needs of children and young people within each region (known as ‘reasons for award’ in the databank), and applications by family type (e.g. single parent over 21) within each region. Across all tables, comparisons are made between months during the pandemic and equivalent months in 2019, to show how need is changing during the pandemic. The presentation of Buttle UK data alongside Turn2us data (another UK poverty charity), government data, and ONS data has been invaluable for monitoring need during the pandemic and for enabling us to use this information to target grant giving activities.

Using the Local Needs Databank to make data-driven decisions

The data on the Buttle UK dashboard allows us to make comparisons between applications that have been awarded during the pandemic and applications of the same period last year. It can help us identify areas that have ‘gone quiet’ with regards to applications and monitor why this is the case. Seeing a breakdown of the specific needs of families can also help us to understand whether certain issues are becoming more or less prevalent. All of this data can also be used by Buttle UK to give insight into the needs we are reaching and missing, which can help us identify new frontline support agencies within target local authorities.

This information can be used by other organisations too, to understand areas where grant support is already being provided for children and young people. It can be a useful tool for understanding where to target support with limited funds, minimising gaps and overlaps. The more organisations that provide data like this, the better the picture we can gather on need and support provisions across the UK.

We can also use the dashboards containing government and ONS data to better understand Buttle UK’s activities relative to the needs of our key groups, which aids our outreach decisions. As an organisation with finite funds, it is important that we make data-driven decisions around where to target funding and the Local Needs Databank is an excellent tool for drawing this information together in an easily accessible way. As we are a charity supporting children and young people, and the majority of our applications are from single parent families (which can be seen in the ‘applications by family type’ section of the Buttle UK dashboard), we primarily use the Local Needs Databank to gain information on lone parent households. The main data columns we use on this dashboard are the ‘Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI)’ column and ‘overcrowded lone parent households’ column. We use these resources to better understand local authorities where there is high need in terms of child poverty and inadequate housing, as this is where Buttle UK’s Chances for Children grants can help. We look for a high proportion of children living in poverty alongside a high proportion of overcrowded lone parent households, then compare this to Buttle UK application levels. By doing this, we can see whether there are local authorities where there is evidence of high need, but low application levels. This then gives us an evidence base for engaging in outreach with organisations that support our key client groups in these local authority areas.

For example, extending outreach in London

As part of our Covid-19 response, we have additional funds to spend within London, and are keen to ensure that these funds are used to support areas where there is evidence of high need. As mentioned above, to do this we looked for local authorities with a high proportion of children living in poverty (using the IDACI column on the lone parent households dashboard) and compared this to Buttle UK’s applications during the pandemic (up to the end of September 2020). Take a look at what we found in the images and tables below.

Figure 1: Lone parent households dashboard on the Local Needs Databank, showing data used for Buttle UK’s London outreach analysis.

Lone parents dashboard on the Local Needs Databank

Table 1: Data from the Local Needs Databank showing the top 12 local authorities in London for Buttle UK applications, IDACI scores and overcrowded lone parent households.

Data from the Local Needs Databank showing the top 12 local authorities in London for Buttle UK applications

Table 1 highlights the top 12 local authorities in London with regards to total Buttle UK applications during the pandemic; IDACI, proportion of Lower Layer Super Output Areas (the smallest geographical area data available in the UK) in the bottom 10%; and overcrowded lone parent households. The pink fields on the table represent local authorities that have been identified as having high need in the government and ONS data. This data indicates that 75% of Buttle UK’s top 12 London local authorities by applications during the pandemic are high need areas. The orange fields represent local authorities that have been identified as high need and are not in Buttle UK’s top 12 London local authorities by applications during the pandemic. These are the local authorities in which we are currently prioritising outreach in order to improve application numbers, finding a balance with available frontline organisations in these areas that are working specifically with Buttle UK target groups (e.g. working on domestic abuse, kinship care, estranged young people).

We have already started seeing a rise in enquiries and applications in some of these orange areas, including in Brent and Ealing. This quote from one of the grant officers working on outreach highlights the value of using the data provided by the Local Needs Databank:

‘It has been going well and the data was really valuable. It really helped focus the outreach on the areas most in need … It also threw up some surprises. Kensington and Chelsea was quite high up the list, which was not what I was expecting, and I would not have prioritised that area for outreach had it not been for the data.’

Given the initial success of using the Local Needs Databank to identify target outreach areas, we are now continuing to do this across other regions of the UK where we have available funds.

How your charity can get involved

To consider whether getting involved in the Local Needs Databank is the right thing for you, consider these questions:

  • Do you want to implement data informed decision-making within your organisation?
  • Do you want to collaborate to increase knowledge across the sector?
  • Do you want to increase data maturity within your organisation?

If you answered yes to question one, then the Local Needs Databank is a great tool to utilise as a starting point for understanding need and where to target funding and / or support. It is simply a case of drawing data from the dashboards that are relevant to your organisation, just like Buttle UK did in the example above. If you are not sure which data is relevant or how to interpret the data, you can ask NPC for guidance and assistance by clicking here and they will be on hand to help you get the most from the databank.

If you answered yes to questions two and / or three, then it is time to think about whether and how your data could be incorporated into the Local Needs Databank. At Buttle UK, we are dedicated to increasing the transparency of our work. Additionally, one of our key strategic areas for the next five years is to work collaboratively with other organisations in the sector, to support the needs of children and young people in poverty and crisis, and to advocate for the needs of this group. We saw this as a great opportunity to be part of something that facilitates collaborative knowledge-sharing of the needs and struggles of children, young people and families during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. If you have data available that can highlight the needs of the groups you work with and are keen to collaborate and contribute, introduce yourself here to get the ball rolling.

If you are unsure what you can contribute or have concerns around capacity, don’t let this deter you from getting involved. Being from a small organisation with only one research staff member, we had the same concerns. Initial discussions with NPC highlighted how flexible this databank can be, catering to the needs of individual organisations wishing to contribute their data, whilst also making data accessible to the charity sector and other key stakeholders. We discussed the key data that Buttle UK could provide that would be of interest to the sector, whilst balancing internal time constraints. We collect a lot more data than just the applications, child / young person needs, and family type data presented on the dashboard, but working together, we decided that this is the core data that can provide key insights, without using too much of Buttle UK’s time and resources. We are only required to send over the data, then NPC does all the hard work, transforming it into the informative Buttle UK dashboard on the Local Needs Databank and producing insightful analysis reports like this one on needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have definitely got a lot more out of the databank than we have put in.

To get involved in the Local Needs Databank, click here.

How can your organisation implement data-led decision-making? Read this blog on the @NPCthinks Local Needs Databank and learn how it can help you better target your work: Click To Tweet