What’s the idea of this research project?

We want to meet North East families, as well as key workers from local councils and health authorities, to find out what people think about Family Civic Data. Authorities want to develop new computer systems for sharing this data so that their staff can make smarter decisions. We want to explore how families think this data should be shared, and design a family-friendly way this system might work.


What is Family Civic Data?

Family Civic Data means personal information about you and your family that is held by the council, NHS, police, social services, schools, government departments, or other agencies. Here’s some examples:

Council housingMedical recordsNames & birthdatesMissing children reportsHealth visits
School attendanceChildcareLiving arrangementsDomestic violenceLibrary usage
Allergies & VaccinationsSocial worker visitsSports centre usageASBOsJob interviews
Criminal recordsChild supportBenefits being claimedYouth offencesRelationships


What will we be asked to do?

If you agree to take part, we’d like to meet with you and your family for 2 to 3 hours, up to three times. We’d like to visit you at your home, but if you prefer, the meetings could take in a public place or at Newcastle University. In each meeting, we would ask you take part in various ways –
firstly just chatting and answering questions about your household or your interactions with North East authorities, but also it might involve drawing, sketching or writing down ideas, or giving comments on video, audio or written material. We might also invite you to do some roleplaying scenarios or play games that explore this space. We really want you to ask lots of questions throughout and talk freely about the topics we discuss and the activities we do. Our aim is that the sessions will be fun, informal and easy to do.


Does my whole family need to be involved?

Ideally we’d like to talk to your whole family as a group, so we can get a wider range of ideas and opinions. At the same time, we have families ourselves; we know that every family is different and this
may not be appropriate – some members of your family may not wish to take part, or might be too young to take part. We’re ready to work with you to find a pattern that fits your family life.


What are the risks?

There are no physical risks to this study, and we don’t expect it to have any mental effects either! You’re free to refuse to answer any question or to ask us to stop a discussion or activity. In all cases you don’t have to give a reason. The only other risks would be the same as you would encounter in everyday life or being in a public place. We’ll try our best to keep you stress-free and safe!


Will this be confidential?

Yes. All information that is collected about you, which might include our notes, things you write down or make during our meetings, and audio recordings of our meetings, will be kept strictly confidential. This data will only shared with other researchers at Newcastle University. Any data shared more widely (for example with government agencies) will be aggregated and anonymised before sharing, so that you and your family cannot be identified. All data will be kept on our secure servers at Newcastle University. Metadata describing data from this research, including your data, will be made publicly available. You will not be identifiable through this metadata, and your data will only be shared with others where they agree to these conditions. For this purpose, your data will be stored for a minimum of 10 years from last request for access under public funding regulations.


Why is this important?

Many families in the North East have challenges with their interactions with civic agencies – this could be someone you talk to about housing or civic order at the council, police officers who you report a crime to, schools that your children attend, doctors or healthcare professionals that are helping your family, representatives of the Department of Work and Pensions that you interact with in a search for work or regarding benefits, social workers that have been assigned to you over a particular problem or family issues, or even parole officers or youth offending teams in the event a family member has been on the wrong side of the law. In fact the more different agencies your family interacts with, the harder it can be for those workers to see the complete and accurate picture of your family. We believe that well-designed computer systems can help people be treated more fairly by authorities – but only if those systems are designed with the needs of families like yours in mind. That’s why we think it’s really important that you get the chance to have a say on how the authorities should share your data, and what you would need from such a computer system.


What will happen to the results of the study?

Anonymised design ideas and insights from this project are likely to be shared with Open Lab research partners, which include North-East councils and other institutions interesting in finding better ways to serve citizens through better handling of family civic data. Our findings might also be published in a scientific research paper. Your names will not be mentioned unless you have explicitly asked them to be. After September, a final report from the study will be available to read. If you’d like to find out more about any findings from the study has finished, you can contact us.


Who can I contact if I have more questions?

If you can’t find the answer to your questions on our About page, Team page or elsewhere in this FAQ, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can contact our main researcher Alex Bowyer on a.bowyer2@ncl.ac.uk, or his supervisor Madeline Balaam on madeline.balaam@ncl.ac.uk or on 0191 2084602.