Developments across ADR Scotland this year include notable research findings around Covid-19 fines and care-experienced children. The team has held a range of successful events focused on key datasets to promote their wider use, including a suite of Scottish education datasets, Nursing and Midwifery Council data and the potential of criminal justice data. 

Building partnerships to support research  

ADR Scotland has achieved the first linkage between police and health data in Scotland, facilitating significant insights about the underlying health vulnerabilities of those who were fined for breaching the coronavirus regulations during the pandemic. Members of ADR Scotland are working with the new Public Health Policing Hub to develop a programme of research around public health policing. This includes setting priorities for data sharing by Police Scotland.  

In April 2023, Research Data Scotland (RDS) became a data delivery body as part of the ADR Scotland programme. RDS will undertake practical data preparation, manage data updates and help bring together a prioritised set of administrative datasets available for public good research. They have also joined with ADR Scotland to co-deliver a public panel, helping to realise the partnership’s ambitions to expand and enhance this important work. ADR Scotland is committed to working with RDS and others to help improve the Scottish data system as part of the Scottish Data for Research Alliance.  

Innovative ways to generate and share insights

In ADR Scotland’s work around historic data, the team has been pioneering the use of graph rather than relational databases for linked data. Graph databases, a more modern database software, allow researchers to retain uncertainty (such as whether two records belong to the same person). This enables more effective and flexible approaches to research.  

Over the last year, ADR Scotland has experimented with different ways of engaging audiences with their research including infographics, a comic aimed at children and young people, and a podcast series. The DataPod podcast was piloted over summer 2023, exploring violence in Scotland, children’s outcomes and commuting and health.   

Our work on scouting and guides, infants born into care and Covid-19 fines have all been in the media and showcase the range of policy areas our research covers. We are currently developing our geospatial and historical platforms to enable richer research insights in the future. We look forward to working with our delivery bodies including Research Data Scotland to continue to enhance administrative data access in Scotland.

Professor Chris Dibben, ADR Scotland Co-Director

We have made new data available for research and improved our offering to researchers. We are linking more research to emerging policy needs and are on the cusp of delivering major datasets. We welcome RDS into the ADR Scotland infrastructure which is adding valuable contributions to data delivery and helping to remove barriers. Our combined efforts will improve delivery of public services and policies.

Alastair McAlpine, ADR Scotland Co-Director

Stability of patterns in care for children in Scotland

This year has seen the publication of two significant pieces of research into the lives of children with care experience in Scotland. The Born into Care study focused on infants under the age of one who were in care at any time between 2008 and 2021, an update to a previous report. In recent years, the number of infants entering care in Scotland has decreased, with the rate now comparable to the English rate. Rates of infants entering care varied by local authority – this can only be partly explained by deprivation levels. The research also provided insights into the diverse experiences of infants entering care: some return to parents or relatives after a short time; others are adopted, usually before age six; while others move in and out of care throughout their childhood.  

A second piece of research focused on how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the care journeys of children and young people in Scotland. This study explored the impact of the pandemic on three factors: the rate of children and young people entering care and leaving care, and the stability of children’s placements while in care. It showed there was a marked reduction in the number of children entering care after the onset of the pandemic, with the reduction steepest for older children. The research also indicated that children remained within particular care settings for longer periods and left care at a reduced rate.  

The research provides policymakers and others with a greater understanding of the changes taking place within the children’s social care sector, and the research was featured in the media. The longitudinal dataset used is available to other researchers and linkable to other data sources from ADR Scotland, with a Data Explained document also giving further information on the dataset.    

Deaths at home during the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland

Deaths at home increased by a third during the pandemic and have remained at an increased level since. Little is known about the characteristics of the population dying at home during this time. At present, we don't know what caused the shift to home deaths or how home deaths today compare to those before the pandemic. Importantly, the sustained increase of home deaths throughout the pandemic period raises questions about the availability of services, access to both formal and unpaid care, and the quality of care received by individuals dying at home.  

This project aims to understand why the shift towards deaths at home occurred. Researchers are studying the health needs and services used by people who died at home during the pandemic and how they differed from people dying in hospital or care homes, but also from people dying at home before the pandemic.  

Initial findings were published in January 2023, and a short report highlighting the sustained increase in home deaths has been submitted for publication. This apparent long-term change in place of death is giving emphasis to ADR Scotland’s ongoing investigation into how much hospital and service use changed during the pandemic. The team continues to engage with colleagues in government, the NHS and third sector organisations. Their insights and expertise are invaluable in supporting work to inform policy that benefits the Scottish public at the end of their lives.  

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