What we’re doing


We developed and published a joint policy paper in February 2015, which was developed into a joint White Paper. This outlined proposals for the conditions under which data sharing should be allowed and the safeguards that should be in place.

The paper mapped the areas of agreement and disagreement between and within the civil society, expert and government groups involved. It therefore includes some proposals where there is broad consensus and some proposals where there are competing ideas.

The paper and proposals focus on immediate policy issues where government currently controls personal data. Wider issues that require further exploration in future will be collected throughout the process.

This work concluded in March 2015 with a meeting of the open policy making network and the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

The open policy making process was reconvened between December 2015 and February 2016 to review the suitability of data sharing for the three original purposes, in addition to looking at three new proposals not in the original process.

The Better Use of Data in Government consultation looking at all the data sharing proposals ran for 8 weeks from 29 February to 22 April 2016. In the spirit of the open policy making process, the Cabinet Office decided to open up its approach to analysing consultation responses to external challenge. This resulted in the formation of an External Advisory Group involving selected representatives from civil society and academia. The Group’s working process and key recommendations to the Cabinet Office can be found here.


Original open policy making process

Step 1: Policy process scoped out and agreed – March to April 2014

The process is scoped out and agreed by government, civil society and experts. See: http://datasharing.org.uk/2014/04/03/planning-the-open-policy-process-31-mar-2014-meeting-note/

Step 2: Working groups develop proposals – April to September 2014

Working groups begin on the areas of Research & Statistics; Fraud, Error & Debt; & Tailored Public Services for Individuals. As working group discussions progress, the suitability of this division of components will be evaluated.

Each working group will:

  • begin by agreeing the intended purpose for data sharing in that strand (e.g.  the problem it is intended to solve)
  • identify the scope of what can realistically be achieved within the time constraints of this process
  • explore the scale of problem that data sharing is being proposed as a solution to
  • review evidence of the current barriers to data sharing
  • review evidence of the risks of data sharing
  • review evidence of public views on data sharing
  • explore different options to solve the problem (including data sharing and alternative options)
  • explore the safeguards that are required and their proportionality
  • identify wider issues outside the scope of the group
  • make proposals for the conditions under which data sharing should be allowed and the safeguards that should be required

Step 3: Interim policy paper developed – October 2014

Working groups come back together to develop the individual strands into a cohesive policy paper. This paper is co-drafted by government departments, civil society organisations and experts, with the Cabinet Office taking a lead. This paper is published, setting out the interim findings of the open policy process.

Step 4: Concluding policy paper developed – November to March 2015

Working groups continue to develop the detail of each of the strands. This is developed into a policy paper outlining the conclusions of the policy process, including where policy proposal where consensus has been found and policy options where disagreement still lies.

Reconvened open policy making process

Step 1: Working groups review original and new proposals – January 2016

Working groups review and develop the original three strands (Research & Statistics; Fraud, Error & Debt; & Tailored Public Services for Individuals) and review and develop three new proposals:

  1. data sharing to support better management of debt owed to government
  2. data sharing to assist citizens who are living in fuel poverty
  3. sharing civil registration information to assist public bodies to fulfil their functions

Step 2: Consultation events and the External Advisory Group report – March – July 2016

A final version of the Better Use of Data in Government policy proposal was opened to the public for consultation from 29 February to 22 April 2016. Working groups fed back into the consultation at a series of events. A nominated External Advisory Group involving selected representatives from civil society and academia offered a set of recommendations for the analysis of consultation responses.

Last updated: July 2016



The default position will be for all documents relevant to the process to be open, unless there is a strong case for restricting access. All documents produced during the process should be presented in a clear and intelligible way in order that any interested individual may be able to follow progress.

Meeting notes will be taken at each meeting, capturing the main discussion points and decisions taken. Meeting notes will include a record of all who attended the meeting, but no comments will be attributed to specific individuals (i.e. Chatham House Rule will apply).


The process will be open to anybody with the interest and expertise to engage. Involve will be responsible for engaging civil society organisations and experts in the process. The Cabinet Office will be responsible for engaging government departments and agencies in the process.

As far as possible, meeting times will be set well in advance to enable attendance. A series of meetings will be held in regions around the UK to broaden engagement beyond London. As far as possible, all meetings should allow for remote participation.


The process will depend on mutual honesty and trust from all involved. All groups will be expected to engage constructively in the process. Issues should be raised as early as possible in the process. In cases where there is significant disagreement, Involve and the Cabinet Office Data Sharing Policy Team will play a mediation role.

All participants in the process will remain independent and there will be no expectation of consensus being found on all issues. However, working groups will work towards achieving the highest level of agreement that can be found on an issue (i.e. levels 1 or 2 outlined below).

Agreement may be sought at a range of different levels:

  1. Agreement on approach & detail
  2. Agreement on approach but alternative proposals on some detail
  3. Alternative proposals but agreement on the pros & cons
  4. Alternative proposals

As a joint policy paper, a parallel sign off process will take place in government and the civil society network.

Last Updated: 11 March 2014