Strengthening Social Care with Open Data: Making Care and Support Accountable to The People Who Matter Most

An illustration of a computer being built by several people who participate in the social care system.

People receiving care and support commissioned and procured by councils and the NHS cannot see what those service providers have committed to, nor can they participate in holding them to informed account.”

Emma Back, Equal Care Co-op

Note. This introductory article was originally written and published by our partner ODS here to coincide with the launch of the project. We have adapted it to reflect the later time of publication.

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our blog series on the Health Foundation’s Strengthening Social Care Analytics programme. Our pilot project was set up to understand how we might create a shared digital infrastructure for open, accountable and transparent social care.

Our first step was to find out what people want to know about a specific contract. We held four workshops over the course of 2021, with the givers and receivers of care first and foremost participants, as well as commissioners and social workers. Using what we’ve learnt, we will then explore the impact that open tendering and open performance has on the quality of care services for those who matter most – the people getting support, their family members, and frontline workers.

Open Data Services Co-op has been our partner on this project for the past year. This is a lovely, practical instance of two cooperatives working together to use open data to address power imbalances. It’s provided a chance for us to work with a techinical partner to define what data the givers and receivers of support want to be collected, as well as to discuss, analyse and create actionable insights from that data to help the people responsible for developing and providing services. We used participatory design methods, where power is shifted from those that hold the data to those that need to use it to ask questions – and in turn we are now working on the creation of open performance metrics that directly address these stakeholders' concerns. We are doing this using a common data standard called the Open Contracting Data Standard, paving the way for other providers to participate in a shared data model that can be directly attached to contracting information and used to improve social care services.

It's a deliberate shift away from the more common model where social care givers and receivers are a passive source of data to which they have no access. We're aiming to make this area of transparency more effective and accountable, with this project not only acting as an important sectoral pilot for open procurement, but also as evidence that there are better, more inclusive ways to build data standards.

You can find out more about the challenges presented by opaque contracting in social care, and how our work aims to tackle it, in Open tendering and open performance: making care and support accountable to those who give and those who receive care and support.

This project is part of the Health Foundation’s Strengthening Social Care Analytics programme. The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.