What do we mean by data linkage?

When we talk about data linkage we usually mean the supplementation of person-level data held by one organisation with person-level data held by another organisation. ‘Person-level data’ consist of separate rows (or ‘records’) of data for each person. This is different to aggregate data, in which the data relating to individual people cannot be distinguished.

The process of data linkage includes (i) developing procedures and obtaining agreements for data set holders to share person-level data and (ii) applying methods to merge data sets in a way that recognises and joins data pertaining to the same person.

How is CORC supporting data linkage?

We are supporting CORC members to develop linked data sets and benefit from their use. Example applications include being able to consider the outcomes of cross-sector working, and being able to conduct research on richer data. By ‘cross-sector’ we mean work to support children and young people that involves two or more partners from the health, social care, education or voluntary sectors.

Data linkage enables partners to consider the outcomes of multiple service input, which is arguably the perspective of most relevance to children and young people using advice and help from different parts of the system.

What previous work has been done in this area?

In April 2016 we completed a report for the Department of Health on the feasibility of data linkage at the local partnership level. This was a collaboration between CORC, the Child Policy Research Unit (CPRU) and the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU).