ADR Northern Ireland
Administrative Data Research Northern Ireland (ADR NI) is a partnership between the Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI), comprising Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), which is an accredited processor under the Digital Economy Act 2017. Together they support the acquisition, linking and analysis of administrative datasets, developing cutting-edge research to improve knowledge, policymaking and public service delivery.
The last year has seen some significant changes in ADR NI, not least in personnel. Among many other important appointments, Dr Philip Wales has taken up post as Chief Executive of NISRA, Registrar General for Northern Ireland and ADR NI Co-Director. With fresh insights and vision comes the potential for innovation and creative thinking.
Increasing the range of administrative data for Northern Ireland
NISRA has continued to drive forward data acquisition developments including the delivery of a rich, growing research resource for secondary education – the Educational Outcomes Linkage. Significant progress has also been made on the development of data linkages relating to business, income and agriculture, while the option of secure remote access has been introduced in some ADR NI processes.
Many of ADR NI’s themed datasets are coming to fruition, such as the NI Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection. After an open research competition, there are seven research teams from across the UK undertaking projects based on the Earnings and Employees Study, and Business Data for Research. It is anticipated that early next year, Northern Ireland’s Cross-Government Income administrative dataset will launch and the first update will be made to the recently launched Education Outcomes Linkage. There has also been significant progress on data builds relating to people who are homeless and to prisoners.
Providing new insights on the issues important to society
ADR NI researchers have delivered comprehensive findings on Covid-19 mortality and equality, and disability and employment among other areas. With researchers now able to access all the safe settings following Covid-19 lockdowns, ADR NI’s research agenda has refocused onto wider societal concerns, many of which were amplified by the pandemic. The team’s research findings continue to contribute to policy development and evaluation. Even in the absence of a functioning devolved government, ADR NI has been able to reach wider policy and political audiences, including interaction with a range of All Party Groups and a renewed endorsement from the Permanent Secretary to the Executive Office. This work will be underpinned by the continued development and rollout of the new Northern Ireland Public Data Panel.
Impact takes time – especially on deeply entrenched issues like inequality. ADR Northern Ireland researchers have been investigating factors contributing to educational inequality since 2014, using census data linked to the school leavers survey and the schools census. Looking into GCSE outcomes, the researchers examined factors like socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, gender, and school type. With a sample size of 61,373, it is the largest study of educational attainment in Northern Ireland to date.
The study produced a number of significant results, which helped inform a submission to the Expert Panel on Educational Underachievement, a group established by the Education Minister to examine links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background. The panel used evidence from the study, among other important submissions, to make recommendations for addressing educational disadvantage in Northern Ireland.
This real-world impact relied on linking administrative data from multiple sources. It demonstrates the need for further data, like the release of the ADR NI Educational Outcomes Linkage themed dataset in March 2023. This is the first phase of an ambitious data linkage programme related to education.
The development of this dataset has begun to embed a process of collaboration between researchers in ADR NI and policy and service delivery practitioners in the Department of Education and Department for the Economy. There is significant potential for impact created by this new sustainable research-ready resource, which will continue to grow as new data is added, ensuring its ongoing relevance.
This year, ADRC NI researchers, led by Professor Gerard Leavey, have continued researching the physical health outcomes of individuals with severe mental illness. The study gathered new evidence on the additional health problems and rates of death experienced by this group.
Additional studies within this stream have produced findings on inequalities related to dental and eye health. Working closely with a steering committee which includes members of the voluntary sector, clinicians, and policymakers, this project has developed key evidence that is being taken up by the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency.
With further funding support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the research team has built a community coalition with experts by experience, members of the voluntary sector, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other public bodies. The team held a successful launch of this new iteration of the project, called Challenging Health Outcomes / Integrating Care Environments, in March 2023. Using the evidence developed through the research, the project’s community coalition is developing service and policy interventions for people living with severe mental illness. Professor Leavey’s team is currently applying for further investment to tackle health inequalities.
NISRA-based researchers have published comprehensive insights relating to disability and employment this year. In January 2023, a team published a research report called "Getting into and staying in employment: limiting long-term illness". The work used the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study to look at the employment of those with limiting long-term illness or disability, as self-reported in the 2001 Census. It sought to identify drivers (and quantify their impact on the likelihood) of obtaining or staying in employment by 2011 for those with limiting long-term illness or disability. The study also assessed the difference in the employment rate between those with and without long-term health problems or disability in 2011 (the disability employment gap).
This report aimed to provide important insights into different dimensions of disability and employment. It will be useful in supporting the development of social inclusion strategies led by the Department for Communities, in particular the Disability Strategy and Disability and Work Strategy.