09 Apr 2020

Can we find answers to coronavirus questions in location data?

Guest blog: GeoPlace's Gayle Gander explains how the UPRN helps front line delivery staff deliver public services to those who need them.

Written by Gayle Gander [pictured on the right], Head of Marketing at GeoPlace

Spoiler: the answer is yes.

COVID-19 is a threat to us all, so it’s never been more important to use high quality, granular data effectively. That’s how we find out who needs help most, where and how and the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) might be the most important piece of information in any data-equation.

The UPRN is being used by the data analysts who create the insight, the policy makers who use the business intelligence, the managers who target resources and the people on the front line delivering public services to those that need them most.

GeoPlace is working with several public bodies including the Welsh government, helping them to share an authoritative list of vulnerable people – securely – with local supermarkets, so that deliveries can be prioritised with confidence.

Hackney Council has become an exemplar regarding COVID-19 – the ICT team has used the UPRN to get clarity on the make-up of their communities, pinpointing which local residents are most vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of this devastating illness.

In a crisis, some people simply want information about what’s happening and support in keeping their morale up – mental and physical health always go hand in hand. For others, there’s a need for specialist medical care or increased levels of support services. To deliver on both requirements, local authorities, blue light, and local health services need to make targeted, joined-up, efficient and effective plans.

A live view of most at-risk residents was compiled and released by the council’s data team – HackIT.  Combined datasets revealed 12,500 households in Hackney were ‘particularly vulnerable’, and 25,000 workers could be in the same category in terms of the pandemic’s economic impact.

The underlying data showed where those individuals live and if they are known to other services such as social care, making it easier for all council services to work collaboratively on providing the right support, at the right time, in the right place.

The way in which the data was compiled also serves to protect personal details; it minimises the risk of error or duplication; it provides targetable locations – using the UPRN to provide pinpoint accuracy – and it does all of this in a way that makes information easily shareable among key support services.

This clarity was achieved by bringing together a complex cluster of datasets, such as electoral registration, housing benefits, council tax data, adult social care, children’s and families’ services, and those who get assistance with bulky waste collections.

All of these datasets shared two commonalities: they could be interpreted to provide vulnerability flags at a household level and they all included a reference to location. By using the UPRN to correlate the underlying data, locations of vulnerable people in the community were identified with confidence.

The UPRN enables the sharing of personal information in confidence, thus maintaining privacy. This means the emergency services, the police, social services, and not for profit agencies can all work together more efficiently, while at the same reducing the risk to beneficiaries – ‘vulnerable individuals’ in particular. 

Because it never changes, the UPRN is an incredibly valuable point of reference. It’s an asset in its own right. Embedding UPRNs in any kind of dataset makes it easier for organisations using different data to link those datasets, confidently:

  • UPRNs guarantee which property or object is being identified
  • UPRNs makes it possible to identify a property without needing to use personal data
  • UPRNs deliver interoperability – they are easy to share and, of course, unique.

Many public authorities and organisations are putting all of their energy into responses that will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 – so if you need help with matching data to addresses, or are curious to see how the UPRN could help in your response - contact GeoPlace at [email protected].