Collecting useful data
Option for consideration
Review and revise the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program quarterly data collection
The data reported through the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program is a potentially rich and powerful source of information about the problems experienced by people a disability, the characteristics of people with disability who seek assistance from disability advocates, and the work of disability advocacy organisations. Strong, high quality data can be used to inform systemic advocacy and demonstrate the value of disability advocacy.
In producing the Disability Advocacy by the Numbers report, DARU has observed a number of problems with the data available from the program. While we can draw tentative conclusions from it, these are undermined by under-reporting, misreporting and data gaps. The wording of some questions also makes the data difficult to report and interpret. It is impossible to determine how ‘real’ data trends are, when we cannot determine whether trends are due to data collection errors.
DARU believes the current format and process for data collection is resulting in errors and is generating inaccurate data. It is not maximising the use of the data to inform sector practice and systemic advocacy.
Only data that is consistently interpreted and reported can be used for strong analysis and conclusions. It is unclear in some instances whether the questions are collecting the most relevant information, and whether organisations are interpreting the questions in the same way.
Disability advocacy organisations report being aware the QDC represents a funding requirement and may be taken as a reflection of their work. They desire the QDC to collect information that fairly reflects the work they are conducting.
Disability advocacy organisations also report that data collection is often onerous, time consuming and repetitive due to the number of different auditing processes undertaken by organisations funded by Victorian Disability Advocacy Program.
Some of the auditing processes include:
- HumanServices Standards Self-Assessment report and Quality Improvement Plan
- Staff, Volunteer and Carer file audit tool
- Client File audit tool
- ISO Quality Standards
Some organisations have funding from several sources that also have other reporting and auditing processes that need to be completed. Smaller disability advocacy organisations struggle to keep on top of the administrative burden while providing advocacy services.
DARU believes it would be beneficial to review and revise the Disability Advocacy Program quarterly data collection, and this document provides the a number of suggestions for changing the QDC questions to allow them to be better analysed and produce more rigorous results.
In doing so, priority should be given to collecting data that:
- Is simple and easy for organisations to report correctly
- Measures something important
- Has a clear purpose for being collected
- Is collected at the appropriate frequency
- Maximises the opportunities for analysis
- Is comparable with other data sources
- Can be made available for publication.
In particular, the data collected should be restricted to items that meet all or most of the above criteria. Every additional data-point represents an additional burden on organisations, and extraneous data collection should avoided. DARU notes some data collected is used to report to the Victorian Government and the Australian Institute for Health and Wellbeing.
DARU believes any change should be subject to consultation with disability advocacy organisations.