Avoiding duplication errors

Option for Consideration
  • Ensure that people are only counted once, in the most relevant category, and are not counted again in subsequent reporting.

The current way data is collected leads to the same thing being counted multiple times. This means that the data cannot be summated to give an overall total, making the data less useful.

This can occur in different ways:

  • Data for the same person being reported in multiple reporting periods, for example, a person receiving services over an extended period will have their gender, age, location, and disability type reported multiple times during a year.
  • People can be counted in several categories in the same report, for instance, they may experience a single problem which is reported multiple times in numerous advocacy categories

If people appear multiple times in the same data set we cannot ‘add up’ the numbers to get a meaningful total for the year. For this reason, much of the data is reported as an ‘average per quarter’ figure in Disability Advocacy by the Numbers, as while the data is true for a single quarter, it is not true for a longer period. If these data were added together, some people would be counted more than once, meaning they would be represented more heavily in the data than other people. Similarly, if some people are counted in multiple categories, they will appear multiple times in the totals, making their characteristics more prominent than other people.

In some cases, allowing multiple answers or repeat reporting may cause confusion for services, who may interpret questions differently. For example, some organisations may allocate each case to a single advocacy topic, while others may allocate a single case to multiple advocacy topics, creating inconsistencies in the approach to reporting. Multiple reporting requirements are likely to introduce more errors into the data.

Reporting people multiple times makes the administrative burden of reporting more onerous, as organisations have to report on more people in each report, requiring review of more case files or analysing larger samples from organisational databases.

To ensure people are only counted once, the questions can be changed so that people are only recorded once, such as when they first contact a service. Similarly, reporting could ask that people be allocated to the ‘most relevant’, ‘primary’ or ‘main’ category relating to their circumstances, rather than to any or all that apply.