Data tool allows public access to Scottish deprivation index

It is the most accurate survey of poverty and deprivation levels in Scotland and a vital tool in deciding how public funds are spent.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation helps public bodies decide on funds should be allocated to alleviate poverty. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation helps public bodies decide on funds should be allocated to alleviate poverty. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

Now, for the first time, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) will be made publicly available as part of a Scottish Government commitment to transparency.

Previously only the results of the survey, which is carried out every three years, were published. Now the raw data and code will be opened up thanks to a pioneering project by The Data Lab and the Scottish Government.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

SIMD results were formerly published on a small area level with the information used by organisations, such as the NHS, to inform the services they deliver to areas most in need.

The new “openSIMD solution” offers enhanced access to the raw data as well as the results.

Scottish innovation centre, The Data Lab, developed open source ‘R’ code to calculate SIMD from indicators. This code is now being published alongside the raw data and will allow researchers or interested parties to modify the analysis and come up with their own results or use the data to explore different policy questions.

“This is an excellent example of how making data open and accessible means tangible social benefits can be delivered to the public,” said Jude McCorry, head of business development at The Data Lab.

“It’s about using data insight and understanding for the good of society. We are committed to supporting the Scottish Government in its drive for a more open data approach. It is clear that such transparency will help drive more evidence-based policy decisions. That can only be a positive achievement.”

Chief Statistician Roger Halliday said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the open data agenda and the publication of openSIMD is a valuable extension of our commitment to making data open and transparent.

“By publishing the programming code that creates SIMD, these important statistics are now fully open for anyone to scrutinise and re-use. This has the potential to help researchers and academics better understand the drivers of deprivation and inequality.”

Among the organisations planning to make use of the new data service is Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA), which is run by and for disabled people in the city.

By interfacing GDA’s data with the methodologies available through openSIMD, GDA found that many of its members resided in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas.

Tressa Burke, chief executive of GDA, said: “The more we understand our clients the better we can deliver tailored and effective support to disabled people - they need this now more than ever.

“The data analysis revealed that 70 per cent of our members not only have the daily challenge of living with disability as a result of barriers they face in relation to illness or impairments, but they also live in a deprived area. The analysis we have been able to undertake has informed our delivery of support significantly as we can now better understand what we knew anecdotally from members: that other factors such as education, employment and health affect disabled people and create multiple challenges to be overcome.”