Local authorities encouraged to use local COVID-19 impact analysis reports to aid recovery

University of Liverpool researchers have produced a series of reports demonstrating the local impacts of COVID-19 that are available to all local authorities in England.

The reports – which are free to access – have made use of de-identified, local-level public sector data and are a highly valuable resource for informing local pandemic responses in both the short and long terms.

They are the result of the ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK) funded Local Data Spaces programme which is led by Liverpool’s Dr Mark Green.

The Local Data Spaces (LDS) programme is a collaboration between the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and ADR UK.

The reports – produced by Dr Mark Green and Dr Jacob Macdonald from the University of Liverpool’s Consumer Data Researcher Centre (CDRC) – used de-identified data securely held within the ONS Secure Research Service (SRS). This included data from the national Test and Trace programme, alongside health and administrative data from ONS and local authorities themselves, to understand the spread of the pandemic in local areas and its impact on communities. The data used covers the period March 2020 – March 2021.

The research team co-designed the analyses alongside an initial 25 local authorities to ensure the work was driven by local policy needs. They identified two consistent, core research priorities: broader COVID-19 health impacts and inequalities; and economic vulnerability and recovery potential. From this, they developed a series of 10 reports for each authority, which were then replicated for all local authorities across England.

The reports profile a variety of themes related to the local impacts of COVID-19, from demographic and occupational inequalities, through excess mortality, to economic vulnerabilities. More specifically, the reports cover topics such as local changes to retail and recreation over time; and positive COVID-19 rates by work sector. Local figures are presented alongside national figures to allow comparison to England as a whole, enabling a better understanding of local inequalities related to the pandemic.

Locally focused research and data is clearly in demand; it is hoped that the reports will be used by local authorities and stakeholders as an evidence base on the impact of COVID-19 at a local level, to help inform their pandemic responses. The series of 10 reports for each local authority, in HTML form and accessible offline, are available on the CDRC website for any local stakeholder to download for free.

Dr Mark Green, Lead Researcher at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Geography & Planning, said: “The pandemic has showed the importance of getting the right data into the right hands. Local Data Spaces has helped to open up new sources of data to local authorities that they were previously unaware of.Reports have been used to support real-world policy decisions including the evaluation of lateral flow testing in Liverpool, impacts of the furlough scheme in Norfolk and providing urgent data to SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).”

Dr Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, said: “The Local Data Spaces programme – one of the first ADR UK-funded programmes to focus on administrative data research at the local level – successfully demonstrates the huge importance of access to local-level data and analysis to inform local decision making. The value of the reports for informing understanding of the local impacts of the pandemic cannot be underestimated, and I hope to see them widely used to the benefit of local communities across England.”

The Consumer Data Research Centre was established in 2014 to lead academic engagement between industry and the social sciences and utilise consumer data for academic research purposes. It provides unique insight in to a diverse range of societal and economic challenges in collaboration with a wide range of consumer data providers.

 ADR UK is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation. To find out more, visit adruk.org or follow @ADR_UK on Twitter.