As part of our commitment to make the UK the most digital nation in the world, government has introduced the Digital Economy Bill to Parliament.
The bill will help us build world-class digital infrastructure and transform the way in which government and individuals are able to interact. Part of this will be to change the way government uses data to improve public services.
Valuable opportunities to help people are often missed because of the way in which government stores, manages and uses data. This means we are falling behind on the services we are able to provide, and wasting public money.
New clauses proposed in the bill will support local bodies deliver services based on local needs. They have been developed by closely working with public sector groups, civil society organisations and others as part of a 2 year open policy making process. There was also an 8 week public consultation earlier this year.
Proportionate and secure sharing of information will give government the facts and figures needed to develop and deliver policies and services to the right people at the right time, whilst ensuring that data is kept safe and secure.
The main changes being introduced are aimed at:
- Allowing public authorities to share personal data with other public authorities in specific contexts in order to improve the welfare of individuals, for example the Troubled Families programme.
- Improving access to civil registration data like births, deaths and marriages, so that public authorities do not send letters to people who have deceased and to make processes easier for users.
- Helping to detect and prevent the losses government currently experiences due to fraudulent activity each year.
- Providing new mechanisms to detect and collect public sector debt, that currently stands at over £24 billion in monies owed to government.
- Helping individuals to manage their debt by providing a means of support.
- Making it easier to use data for research purposes so that official statistics are more timely and accurate.
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. This includes automatically providing direct discounts off the energy bills of people living in fuel poverty, to help them keep their homes warmer during winter, and identifying families with multiple and complex problems, who are receiving support from multiple public agencies and would benefit from the Troubled Families Programme.
Each clause includes safeguards to protecting data, including through the Data Protection Act, and will ensure that data is shared appropriately and proportionately in the public sector.
It is this proportionate use that will enable government to make the most of technological and data advances, and improve the way that public services are provided: particularly to those who need them the most.