Evaluation through data linkage of the impact on child outcomes of place-based services for families and children in disadvantaged communities

Stream: Big data and social policy
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 1.25 pm – 2.25 pm


This is one case study in the ARC Linkage Academies Special Project: The Use of Big Data for Social Policy – Benefits and Risks. The case study rationale is that Australia spends millions of dollars each year on services for children and families in socially disadvantaged areas, but almost nothing is known about the collective impact on child wellbeing of community- and school-based programs. This case study explores the technical feasibility and legal and ethical appropriateness of linking multiple datasets from state and Catholic primary schools and education department records; state-funded intensive family support services; and Commonwealth funded services such as Communities for Children. The case study method is semi-structured interviews with 12 experts knowledgeable about the research, policy, technical, or ethical aspects of large cross-sectoral data linkages. Interview transcripts have been uploaded into NVivo, with a priori codes derived from the interview questions forming the main code tree structure. Codes derived inductively from the data comprise the second level. The coded interview data is being analysed in depth, using an interpretive methodology. Early results encompass mainly technical and policy issues, including: the barriers to linkages created by ‘siloing’ of Commonwealth and state data; making data more linkable would improve inter-operability between agencies, especially those that work with vulnerable groups; in disadvantaged communities there is a problem of unknown dimensions with the duplication of services for some children, while others ‘fall through cracks’ despite high need; and Australia needs to build better modelling capacity in the analysis of big data.


Ross Homel (Presenter), Griffith University
Ross Homel. AO is Foundation Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. He is particularly interested in the prevention of youth crime and related problems at the community level.

Judy Rose (Presenter), Griffith University
Judy Rose is a family sociologist with skills in both qualitative and quantitative methods. She is a research fellow in the Griffith Criminology Institute and a Lecturer in the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Arts, Education & Law.

Ilan Katz (Presenter), UNSW
Ilan Katz joined SPRC in 2005. His research interests include evaluation of complex interventions, parenting, child protection, youth justice, prevention and family support, children, families and communities, comparative child welfare systems, migration, race and ethnicity.

Sama Low-Choy, Griffith University
Associate Professor Sama Low-Choy is a senior statistician at Griffith University in the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Arts, Education and Law. She supplies advice and direction for researchers across the social, behavioural & environmental disciplines including grappling with the challenges presented by big data arising for example from learning analytics, social media, online surveys and large linked databases.