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Public sector data sharing to transform service delivery, says government

The government sets out to transform how data is shared across public sector bodies as part of a commitment to improve public services

The government is aiming to transform service delivery across the public sector by bringing in new legislation to allow for data sharing as part of the Digital Economy Bill.

Besides provisions for broadband access rights and new protections for consumers online, the Digital Economy Bill, which was put before parliament on 5 July 2016, contained a number of clauses aimed at changing how it goes about storing, managing and using data.

The government said by changing the way it used data to improve public services, it could help transform interactions with citizens and help reinforce a “world class” digital infrastructure. It said current practice around data management meant it was missing valuable opportunities to help people and wasting taxpayers’ money.

“We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey.

“The UK has always been at the forefront of technological change, and the measures in the Digital Economy Bill provide the necessary framework to make sure we remain world leaders.”

The changes to be introduced cover a number of aspects of data management. Firstly, the government plans to allow public authorities to share personal data with other public authorities in carefully defined contexts to improve individual welfare.

Elsewhere, the government hopes to improve access to civil registration data – registers of births, deaths and marriages, for example – to stop itself from sending unneeded and potentially distressing letters to deceased people, and make processes easier for users.

Another key aspect of the data sharing plan will be to detect and prevent losses experienced due to fraud, and provide new mechanisms to detect and collect public sector debt – which the government believes currently stands at £24bn. It will also help individuals better manage their own debt by providing a means of support.

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Finally, it will make it easier to use citizen data for research purposes, allowing the government to generate official statistics that are more timely and meaningful.

“These measures are designed to give public agencies the ability to share data, which is already held, where there is a valid benefit to doing so,” said the Cabinet Office in a statement.

“This includes automatically providing direct discounts off the energy bills of people living in fuel poverty, which will help them keep their homes warmer during winter.

“It will also identify families with multiple and complex problems that are receiving support from multiple public agencies and would benefit from the Troubled Families Programme.”

The Cabinet Office said proportionate and secure data sharing would give government the facts and figures it needed to develop and deliver appropriate policies and services to the right people.

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