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Publication, Part of

Adult Social Care Activity and Finance Report, England - 2019-20

National statistics, Official statistics

National Statistics

Data Quality Statement


This data quality statement aims to provide users with an evidence-based assessment of the quality of the 2019-20 statistical output from the Short and Long Term (SALT) activity collection and the Adult Social Care Finance Return (ASC-FR), reporting against the nine European Statistical System (ESS) quality dimensions.

It provides final 2019-20 information for Adult Social Care activity and expenditure in England on adults aged 18 and over for Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities (CASSRs) - referred to throughout this report as local authorities for ease of reading. The data are derived from the SALT and ASC-FR returns which local authorities in England submitted to NHS Digital.

This data quality statement provides information on the known data quality issues within the 2019-20 Adult Social Care Activity and Finance report and accompanying data, to allow the reader and users of the data to understand any limitations of the data. This section should be used in conjunction with the publication’s data quality summary, report and associated data files which are available at:

The SALT and ASC-FR collections are concerned with adults, defined as those aged 18 or over, and relate to adult social care services. Children’s social services are not covered in these returns, and nor are services provided to adults on behalf of children (e.g. Section 17 payments). Some local authorities are known to continue with children's services for a few clients aged 18 or over; these clients should be included within the adult returns. Most of the data is mandatory however there are a number of voluntary items in the SALT collection.


The degree to which the statistical product meets user needs in both coverage and content

The report covers activity and expenditure for local authorities in England on services for adults aged 18 and over, by service provision and primary support reason. Information on a number of accounting categories is also included such as income from the NHS, grants provided to voluntary organisations and gross and net expenditure. A number of the measures within Adult Social Care Outcome Framework (ASCOF) draw on data from the SALT collection.

Full details on the collections, and the relationship between SALT and ASCOF, can be found here:

The data is used by central government and by local authorities to assess their performance in relation to their peers. It is also available for use by researchers and charities e.g. The Kings Fund looking at local authority performance and by clients and the public to hold local authorities and government to account. It has also been used previously by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for their Annual Performance Assessment (APA), by Age UK, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the National Audit Office (NAO).

Accuracy and reliability

The proximity between an estimate and the unknown true value

The accuracy of the SALT and ASC-FR data is the responsibility of the local authorities who submit the data to NHS Digital. Both returns are aggregate collections taken from administrative systems. As NHS Digital does not have access to the individual records behind the aggregate counts, we are reliant on local authorities to assess their own data quality. A number of local authorities have advised that it was not possible to quality assure data to the same extent as in previous years.

In many instances, assessing reliability depends on local knowledge, as each local authority determines the approach taken in their area. What may be an anomaly in one area could be considered standard practice elsewhere. However, a range of activities are undertaken (outlined in more detail below) to check and improve data quality. Discussions with local authorities have provided useful anecdotal information about distributions and trends.

The submission and validation process for each collection is carried out as follows:

  1. The local authority collates the data for submission in the relevant collection form. This form includes inbuilt validations to allow local authorities to check their data for common issues prior to submission.
  2. Local authority submits data by the mandated deadline.
  3. All local authorities who met this deadline receive a data quality report covering critical validations and providing some derived totals allowing local authorities to confirm their data is correct.
  4. NHS Digital reviews the quality of all files submitted and may provide additional support to local authorities with significant data quality issues.
  5. Local authorities can resubmit data to amend any identified quality issues.
  6. Final deadline for submission.
  7. Following the final deadline NHS Digital will carry out analysis of the quality of final data. Although local authorities cannot resubmit data after this point, they may be contacted for additional clarification or context.

The validation checks carried out throughout this process included:

  • Validations across worksheets to check figures across different tables that store the same data.
  • Checks for missing data items.
  • Checks for instances of recorded activity without associated expenditure and vice versa.
  • Comparing the unit costs with those from other local authorities and flagging outliers.
  • In ASC-FR, quality assurance checks on net current expenditure totals were made against RO3 data submitted to MHCLG, and where differences were noted, local authorities were able to resubmit or provide supporting explanations.  

The final validation stage consisted of looking at the responses to the validation checks mentioned above to see if there are clear instances where data submitted is implausible or local authorities have submitted data not in line with the guidance for the data collection.

We approached local authorities for additional context where outliers or inconsistencies were identified. Not everyone was able to respond and so the data quality summary reflects explanations received from local authorities, either at the point of submission or in response to our follow-up queries.

Common issues local authorities advised us of include:


  • Limitations with case management systems for reporting of some data items, particularly around full cost clients.
  • Several local authorities have mentioned difficulties obtaining and/or quality assuring data from third party organisations such as mental health or carer data.


  • Allocating expenditure by Primary Support Reason (PSR) in the ASC-FR can be challenging as many finance systems are not configured to collect this data.

Full details of issues that NHS Digital are aware of are included in the accompanying Data Quality Summary.

Information on the number of local authorities returning data at the mandated and final deadlines across both collections is available on the completeness tab of the accompanying Data Quality Summary.

Missing Local Authorities

All 151 local authorities submitted a data return. In previous years there were 152 local authorities. However, on the 1st April 2019 Bournemouth and Poole merged to form the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) local authority. The inclusion of Christchurch has also reduced the size of the Dorset local authority.

Therefore, care should be taken when making comparisons over time for Dorset due to such changes; when considering any changes at local authority level in this publication, these have been done on a like for like basis, excluding these two authorities.

Timeliness and punctuality

Timeliness refers to the time gap between publication and the reference period. Punctuality refers to the gap between planned and actual publication dates

The SALT and ASC-FR data collections are undertaken annually, and a report will be published each year. This report relates to the financial year 2019-20 and is being released nine months after the period to which the data relates. Due to COVID-19 and the extra pressures felt by local authorities, collection deadlines were extended this year; for SALT and ASC-FR, this was by an additional month.

This publication has been released in line with the pre-announced publication date and is therefore deemed to be punctual.

Accessibility and clarity

Accessibility is the ease with which users are able to access the data, also reflecting the format in which the data are available and the availability of supporting information. Clarity refers to the quality and sufficiency of the metadata, illustrations and accompanying advice

This publication is now available in HTML, in order to meet the Government Accessibility Standard. Reference data tables are available to download from the NHS Digital website in Excel (.xlsx) and comma-separated values (.csv) format to allow the user access to the underlying data. Also provided through the publication pages are a Power BI interactive dashboard and supporting information to help the user understand the data more.

For SALT, the numbers in the csv and data tables are rounded to the nearest five and data values between 0 and 4 have also been suppressed, for disclosure reasons.

ASC-FR does not collect counts of people and as such is not subject to suppression.

Coherence and comparability

Coherence is the degree to which data that are derived from different sources or methods, but refer to the same topic, are similar


SALT is a statutory data collection to collect Short and Long Term (SALT) support information across England; there are no current alternative sources of this data with which these can be compared.

ASC-FR analyses expenditure by type of service and type of expenditure and income and complies with the 2019-20 Service Reporting Code of Practice (SeRCOP). The SeRCOP guidelines provide details of what should be included within each of the ASC-FR reporting lines. More details about SeRCOP can be found on the CIPFA website at:

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) publish information on expenditure collected from local authorities via the RO3 return. Expenditure on social care can be seen in the report entitled ‘Local authority revenue expenditure and financing England: 2019 to 2020 provisional outturn’ which can be accessed via the GOV website at:

NHS Digital have worked closely with MHCLG seeking to understand discrepancies between figures submitted in the two collections. This year, extra guidance has been provided around how specific items are captured in each return, and additional quality assurance checks have been undertaken on both sets of data. As it is known that different teams often submit the two collections, submitters were asked to liaise with the colleague who fills out the RO3 return, and where there were legitimate reasons for differences, to proactively provide an explanation in the return. Part of the ASC-FR return also includes an RO3 Comparison to help assure local authorities that the ASC-FR is consistent with their RO3 returns.


Whilst there are no changes to this year’s data collections, guidance was provided to local authorities to advise that activity funded under COVID-19 hospital discharge arrangements should be captured in SALT, so long as it meets the definition of care provided under the Care Act and is being commissioned by the LA. As the reporting period for this year’s collection ended on 31st March 2020, this is not expected to widely impact 2019/20 data however users should be aware of this advice.

Trade-offs between output quality components

Trade-offs are the extent to which different aspects of quality are balanced against each other.

For the 2019-20 reporting period, two submission periods were made available for local authorities. This was consistent with last year’s return. Data Quality reports and support were made available to those local authorities who submitted by the first deadline. Local authorities were able to make updates to their data during the validation period.

Due to COVID-19 and the extra pressures felt by local authorities, collection deadlines were extended; for SALT and ASC-FR, this was by an additional month. A number of local authorities have also advised that it was not possible to quality assure data to the same extent as in previous years. Further detail is available in our data quality outputs however it is important to consider this when reviewing this year’s data and changes over time.

Assessment of user needs and perceptions

The processes for finding out about users and uses, and their views on the statistical products

Working Groups were established with the aim to manage the development of both data collections to reflect the requirements of users and policy. The group includes representatives from NHS Digital, Department of Health and Social Care, local authorities, and for ASC-FR, CIPFA and MHCLG.

User feedback on the format and content of the 2019-20 Adult Social Care Activity and Finance report, as well as on the SALT and ASC-FR collections, is invited; please send any comments to

Information about the Social Care collection materials 2020 is available at:

Changes to upcoming collections can be seen in the most recent September letter, available at:

Performance, cost and respondent burden

The data collection process used in this publication is subject to assurance by the Data Standards Assurance Service (DSAS) (previously known as the Challenging Burden Service (CBS)). This is to ensure that data collections do not duplicate other collections, minimise the burden to all parties and have a specific use for the data collected. Further information on DSAS can be found at:

The burden of the SALT and ASC-FR collections has been assessed and approved, and the burden of any changes to the collection are similarly assessed to ensure that they do not create undue burden for local authorities.

Confidentiality, transparency and security

The procedures and policy used to ensure sound confidentiality, security and transparent practices

All statistics are subject to a standard NHS Digital risk assessment prior to issue. The risk assessment considers the sensitivity of the data and whether any of the reporting products may disclose information about specific individuals. Methods of disclosure control are discussed and the most appropriate methods implemented. As a result of this process, finance data is unsuppressed and unrounded whilst activity data is rounded to the nearest five.

NHS Digital aims to be transparent in all its activities. A description of the collection process and any issues with the quality of the 2019-20 activity and finance data are documented in the Accuracy and Reliability section of this data quality statement.

SALT and ASC-FR data is submitted to NHS Digital through a secure electronic file transfer system called Strategic Data Collection Service (SDCS). The submitted files are transferred from SDCS and stored on a secure network with restricted access folders.

Please see links below for more information about related NHS Digital policies:

Statistical Governance Policy:

Freedom of Information Process:

Data Access Request Service:

Privacy and data protection:

Small Numbers Procedure:

Last edited: 24 May 2021 1:03 pm