What could be done to improve the evidence?

A number of options are available for improving national information on children’s wellbeing. These options are not exhaustive, and different options will meet different information needs.

Enhance existing data sets

Many data gaps can be filled by enhancing existing data sets. The several potential approaches for this include:

  • adding flags or data items to data sets for specific population groups or geographies, for example adding a flag to child protection data to identify children who have been victims of family or domestic violence
  • adopting appropriate sampling techniques to ensure survey data can more accurately represent smaller population groups, such as culturally and linguistically diverse children
  • adding new questions to capture data related to a topic not captured elsewhere.

Safely share and link data

Data linkage can be used to combine data from 2 or more sources, while preserving privacy, to tell a much more powerful story than would be possible from a single source.

By combining information from multiple data sets, it is possible to improve understanding of:

  • how children transition between key developmental stages and their outcomes at different stages of their life
  • the pathways children take through different services and the points where intervention would be most effective
  • the relationships between risk factors, protective factors and outcomes, which interventions are most likely to provide positive outcomes, and which indicators can be used as predictive tools for monitoring
  • how children’s wellbeing or service use differs among different population and geographic groups, where data on a specific population group may only be available in 1 data set.

Revisions to existing national child indicators

The key national indicators for child health, development and wellbeing, which include the Children’s Headline Indicators, underpin this report.

In 2006, the 19 priority areas of the Children’s Headline Indicators were endorsed by 3 ministerial councils. One ministerial council focused on health, another on education, and another on community and disability services. There is scope for a comprehensive review of these areas and the indicators to ensure they reflect contemporary information needs.

Indicator development

Linked data sets provide the opportunity to develop and report new, more comprehensive, indicators which provide additional insights into children’s wellbeing. For example, information on potentially vulnerable households could be gained by linking Centrelink data to other sources relating to vulnerability; such as data on homelessness or hospitalisations. Similarly, linked longitudinal data could be used to measure the proportion of children in child protection who go on to be involved in the youth justice system.

New data collection

In some cases, establishing a new data collection may be required to capture information on topics for which data are not available, or could not be collected by enhancing existing data collections.

Child-focused data platforms

Demand is increasing for locally-relevant data about children which spans multiple aspects of their experience. There is potential to take the sort of data presented in this report and build on it to produce a layered national data and reporting platform to support collating, presenting and sharing people-centred data about children, across multiple domains and according to place or location. This would inform a wide range of information needs on children’s wellbeing in Australia.