OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Local Data Journalism – Care Homes

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The front page of this week’s Isle of Wight County Press describes a tragic incident relating to a particular care home on the Island earlier this year:



(Unfortunately, the story doesn’t seem to appear on the County Press’ website? Must be part of a “divide the news into print and online, and never the twain shall meet” strategy?!)

As I recently started pottering around the CQC website and various datasets they publish, I thought I’d jot down a few notes about what I could find. The clues from the IWCP article were the name of the care home – Waxham House, High Park Road, Ryde – and the proprietor – Sanjay Ramdany.

Using the “CQC Care Directory – With Filters” from the CQC data and information page, I found a couple of homes registered to that provider.

1-120578256, 19/01/2011, Waxham House, 1 High Park Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 1BP
1-120578313, 19/01/2011, Cornelia Heights 93 George Street, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2JE

1-101701588, Mr Sanjay Prakashsingh Ramdany & Mrs Sandhya Kumari Ramdany

Looking up “Waxham House” on the CQC website gives us a copy of the latest report outcome:


Looking at the breadcrumb navigation, it seems we can directly get a list of other homes operated by the same proprietors:

cqc provider

I wonder if we can search the site by proprietor name too?

cqc properieot search

Looks like it…

So how did their other home fare?




By the by, according to the Food Standards Agency, how’s the food?



And how much money is the local council paying these homes?

(Note – I haven’t updated the following datasets for a bit – I also note I need to add dates to the transaction tables. local spending explorer info; app.)

[Click through on the image to see the app – hit Search to remove the error message and load the data!]



Why the refunds?

A check on OpenCorporates for director names turned up nothing.

I’m not trying to offer any story here about the actual case reported by the County Press, more a partial story about how we can start to look for data around a story to see if there may be more to the story we can find from open data sources.

Written by Tony Hirst

September 14, 2014 at 9:55 am

Posted in Anything you want

Tagged with

Accounting for Inflation – Deflators, or “What Does ‘Prices in Real Terms’ Actually Mean?”

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“How much would £85.32 million in 2011-12 prices have been worth in 2007-08?” We see this sort of statement in the news all the time, either in reports about the effects of inflation, or as a way of making historical comparisons, so there must be a simple way of calculating the result.

The answer, it seems, comes in the form of “GDP Deflators“, tables of which are published quarterly (for example, see the UK’s GDP deflators at market prices, and money GDP: June 2014 (Quarterly National Accounts)).

The gov.uk published document How to use the GDP deflator series: Practical examples.

Deflation tables have the following form:


Several examples of common calculations are shown:




The House of Commons Library also publishes a Statistical Literacy Guide – How to adjust for inflation with a little more detail. It also qualifies the meaning of “prices in real terms” as constant prices, that is, prices where inflation has been taken into account (deflated).

The corollary of rising prices is a fall in the value of money, and expressing currency in real terms simply takes account of this fact. £100 in 1959 is nominally the same as £100 in 2009, but in real terms the [nominal] £100 in 1959 is worth more because of the inflation over this period. Of course, if inflation is zero, then nominal and real amounts are the same.

Often we want to express a series of actual (nominal) values in real terms. This involves revaluing every annual figure into a chosen year’s prices (a base year), effectively repeating the stages above on a series of nominal values and using the same base year (year x above) for all. … Once done, changes can be calculated in percentage or absolute terms. The choice of base year does not affect percentage change calculations, but it will affect the absolute change figure, so it is important to specify the base year.

The Commons Library Standard Note also clarifies that the idea that the process of inflating figures relates to the notion of purchasing power – for example, what would a pound in 2005 be worth today?

purchasing power

So what other “everyday economics” terms are there that I don’t really understand? “Seasonal adjustment” and “seasonally adjusted figures” for one.. But that will have to be the subject of a further post.

PS for deflators for other countries, the OECD aggregates a few: GeoBook: Deflators.

Written by Tony Hirst

September 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

Posted in Data

Public Accounts Committee – Armchair Auditors, Dead as a Parrot…

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Seems like the Commons Committee of Public Accounts have just produced their report on “Local government funding: assurance to Parliament” [report PDF] which reads to me like they have no idea what’s going on?!

On the question of how open spending data might have a role to play, the conclusions and recommendations (point 6) of the report were as follows:

The quality and accessibility of information to enable residents and councillors to scrutinise local authorities’ decisions varies. If the local accountability system is to work effectively it is fundamentally important that residents can hold local authorities to account for their decisions. It is therefore vital that residents can access relevant and understandable financial and performance information. The Department’s Local Government Transparency Code requires local authorities to publish data, including details of all expenditure over £500, information on senior salaries and details on local authorities’ land holdings and building assets. However, often this data is presented in a way which makes easy and effective scrutiny by the public very difficult. We are also concerned that the public might be less engaged with decisions on services that are significant in terms of expenditure, but do not affect them directly, such as adult care and children’s services. The Department expects that greater transparency of information will empower “armchair auditors” to hold local authorities to account, but there is no evidence that this has actually happened.

Recommendation: The Department should ensure that local authorities conform to the new mandatory Transparency Code on the publication of data, and work with local authorities to improve performance where shortcomings are identified.

Recommendation: The Department should assess whether the data published under the Transparency Code helps residents to scrutinise the performance of local authorities, and if alternative data would be of more value.

Para 18 of the report describes their consideration of this point:

We considered the new system of accountability when it was set up in 2011. At that time, the Department expected data transparency to empower ‘armchair auditors’ to hold local authorities to account for their decisions. We asked the Department whether it had any evidence that these armchair auditors had actually emerged. The Department said it thought that they had, but acknowledged that it had not actually measured whether this was the case. The Department acknowledged that residents play less of a role in challenging decisions on certain services, such as for vulnerable adults and children. For these services, the Department places greater reliance on the role of inspectors, such as the Care Quality Commission, for its assurance.

It seems that where services are delivered “in partnership”, there may also be a few “issues” (para 19):

Government departments are increasingly funding local services through partnership arrangements which are not subject to the same safeguards of local accountability and transparency as local authorities. The accountability structures for this type of arrangement are unclear. Even where the local accountability system is working effectively, it will not be able to provide departments with assurance over funding they grant to partnerships.

Some partnerships, like Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), operate across local authority boundaries. The NAO’s report found that lines of accountability between local authorities and their electorate could be blurred in LEPs, where one local authority makes decisions on behalf of another. The Department told us the benefit of these bodies is that they can tackle issues that go beyond the boundaries of one local authority area and create incentives for the key economic stakeholders to work together. The Department told us it would produce a separate accountability system statement for LEPs and local growth deals.

The quality of evidence provided about “armchair auditors” from Sir Bob Kerslake, (as Permanent Secretary of DCLG?) also reads like something out of a Monty Python sketch…

Q55 Chair: Austin’s got a question, but first I want to pick up on some issues that have not been covered. When the new system of accountability was introduced, we talked about an army of armchair auditors. Have they emerged?

Sir Bob Kerslake: I think they have at a local level.

Q56 Chair: Have they? ["It's dead"]

Sir Bob Kerslake: I am sure that if you spoke to local councillors, theywould talk to you about the extent to which local residents challenge what they do. ["It's not dead, it's resting..."] We heard about one local resident, Mr Jackson

Q57 Chair: He’s the MP; you would expect him to challenge. ["I took the liberty of examining that parrot..."]]

Sir Bob Kerslake: Well, he’s one of the armchair auditors, I guess, ["of course it was nailed there..."] and I suspect that there are many more at a local level, but it will vary across the country.

Q58 Chair: Have you got any evidence of that? It is one of those hope and pray things, so it would be nice to hear whether it has happened in reality.

Sir Bob Kerslake: We haven’t measured it, but we can, for example, measure the number of people who have put forward requests to take over community assets and things like that

FWIW, I would love to see *any* member of @CommonsPAC show us what an “armchair auditor” could do with a clean and complete local spending dataset, let alone one that’s actually been released! Or perhaps Sir Bob would like to a demonstration…? ;-)

Written by Tony Hirst

September 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Policy

Confused Fragments About Open Data Economics…

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Some fragments…

- the public paid for it so public has a right to it: the public presumably paid for it through their taxes. Companies that use open public data that don’t fully and fairly participate in the tax regime of the country that produced the data then they didn’t pay their fair share for access to it.

- data quality will improve: with open license conditions that allow users to take open (public) data and do what they want with it without the requirement to make derived data available in a bulk form under an open data license, how does the closed bit of the feedback loop work? I’ve looked at a lot of open public data releases on council and government websites and seen some companies making use of that data in presumably a cleaned form (if it hasn’t been cleaned, then they’re working with a lot of noise…) But if they have cleaned and normalised the data, have they provided this back ion an open form to the public body that gifted them access to it? Is there an open data quality improvement cycle working there? Erm… no… I suspect if anything, the open data users would try to sell the improved quality data back to the publisher. This may be their sole business model, or it may be a spin-off as a result of using the (cleaned and normalised) data fro some other commercial purpose.

Written by Tony Hirst

September 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Posted in oh_ffs, Open Data, Policy

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Corporate Groupings in Care Provision – Finding the Data for GP Practices, Prequel…

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For some time I’ve been pondering the best way of trying to map the growth in the corporate GP care provision – the number of GP practices owned by Virgin Care, Care UK and so on. Listings about GP practices from the various HSCIC datasets don’t appear to identify corporate owners, so the stop gap solution I’d identified was to scrape lists of practices from the various corporate websites and then try to reconcile them against GP practice codes from the HSCIC as some sort of check.

However, today I stumbled across a dataset released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that provides a “complete directory of places where CQC regulated care is provided in England” [CQC information and data]. Two data files are provided – a simple register of locations, and “a second file … which contains details of registered managers and care home bed numbers. It also allows you to easily filter by the regulated activities, service types or service user bands.”

Both files contain fields that allow you to identify GP practices, but the second one also provides information about the actual provider (parent company owner) and any brand name associated with the service. Useful…:-)

What this means is it should be easy enough to pull the data into a report that identifies the practices associated with a particular brand or corporate group… (I’ll have a go at that as soon as I get a chance…)

Another thing that could be useful to do would be to match (that is, link) the location identifiers used by the CQC with the practice codes used by the HSCIC. [First attempt here…. Looks like work needs to be done…:-(] Then we could easily start to aggregate and analyse quality stats, referring and prescribing behaviour data, and so on, for the different corporate groupings and look to see if we can spot any meaningful differences between them (for example, signals that there might be corporate group level policies or behaviours being applied). We could probably also start to link in drug trial data, at least for trials that are registered, and that we can associate with a particular practice (eg Sketching Sponsor Partners Running UK Clinical Trials).

Finally, it’d possibly also be useful to reconcile companies against company registrations on Companies House, and perhaps charity registrations with the Charities Commission (cf. this quick data conversation with the 360 Giving Grant Navigator data).

PS more possible linkage:
- company names to company IDs on OpenCorporates (and from that we can look for additional linkage around registered company addresses, common directors etc)
- payments from local gov and NHS to the companies (from open spending data/transactions data)
- food hygiene inspection ratings (eg for care homes)

Written by Tony Hirst

September 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Open Data, Policy

Bloom, Flipped

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Via Downes, I like this idea of Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy Triangle which draws on the following inverted pyramid originally posted here: Simplified Bloom’s Taxonomy Visual and comments on a process in which “students are spending the majority of their time in the Creating and Evaluating levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and they go down into the lower levels to acquire the information they need when they need it” (from Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student In Every Class Every Day, perhaps?)

6700283_origOriginal image

Here’s another example, from a blog post by education consultant Scott Mcleod: Do students need to learn lower-level factual and procedural knowledge before they can do higher-order thinking?, or this one by teacher Shelley Wright: Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy.

This makes some sort of sense to me, though if you (mistakenly?) insist on reading it as a linear process it lacks the constructivist context that shows how some knowledge and understanding can be used to inform the practice of the playful creating/evaluating/analysing exploratory layer, which might in itself be directed at trying to illuminate a misunderstanding or confusion the learner has with respect to their own knowledge at the understanding level. (In fact, the more I look at any model the more issues I tend to get with it when it comes to actually picking it apart!;-)

As far as “remembering” goes, I think that also includes ‘making up plausible stories or examples” – i.e. constructed “rememberings” (that is, stories) of things that never happened.

Written by Tony Hirst

September 9, 2014 at 11:34 am

Posted in Thinkses

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