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Evaluation : data linkage issues

AICrime reduction matters no. 47

ISSN 1448-1383
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, July 2006

Many crime prevention and criminal justice responses involve interventions with people who are in contact with a number of justice or welfare agencies. CRM 38 and 41 both address evaluation and outline how to set up measures, indicators and outcomes for the evaluation of programs. Intended outcomes of programs may not be manifest in the short term, but seek to prevent involvement in the justice system or to reduce recidivism in the longer term. If intended outcomes can be measured by investigating existing administrative data sets then data sharing and linking can assist agencies to better evaluate their programs.

If data sharing arrangements are appropriate, then data sharing protocols need to be established. The following summarises a UK guide to establishing data sharing protocols (DCA 2003). The guide recommends that protocols must be signed off by senior management before any data sharing is considered. Protocols should include:

  • the purpose of data sharing - including whether partners are obliged to share or simply enabled to do so
  • roles and responsibilities of partner agencies - who will collect, store and disclose personal information. Definitions of all parties' responsibilities are needed
  • legislation - arrangements must be lawful
  • consent - if consent is required, the procedures for obtaining consent within the law must be set out. If statutory powers are used to allow data sharing without consent, this must conform to relevant legislation. Good practice requires an explanation of why these powers may be applied
  • data sharing - an outline of the procedures for data sharing needs to be included. Each partner agency should also describe the procedures in detail within their own codes of practice
  • requests between partner agencies for personal information - partner agencies must maintain accurate records and have information systems to record given or refused consent and all data transfers
  • electronic data sharing and databases - if sharing pooled data it must be clear which agency is the data custodian
  • security - information must be kept safely and securely
  • complaints procedures should be included
  • building awareness through training - all staff must be trained to make lawful decisions about data sharing
  • monitoring and review - reviews should take place regularly.

An example of an Australian data sharing protocol template can be found at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare internet site (http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10021).

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