Connecting data for a seamless grants service

Grants - a key item in the Government’s support toolkit - have come sharply into focus in the past few years.

Covid-19 could have brought ruin to many organisations if it wasn’t for special funds set up to help them through the pandemic. The same is now true of financial assistance packages amid fuel price inflation.

In 2020-21 alone, the Government allocated grants worth £258bn: a 119% increase from the £118bn awarded in the previous year. 

Due to the raised profile of grants many parts of government are now more actively engaged in driving forward improvements in their administration. This is both adding value and building efficiency. 

Ensuring the design and delivery of grant administration for better outcomes across government is a key strand of activity for me and my team. To make this happen, I champion and practise Agile delivery. 

Anyone familiar with the Digital Service Standard - and if you’re not, give it a read - will know the first step is about understanding users and their needs. This is a core belief for my team.

Our User Research sessions are invaluable for improving the user interface and customer journey. We keep hearing from those involved in grant-making that they want access to better data and a more seamless journey. That’s quite a sweeping statement, so let’s break it down.

Making grants in six stages

The process map below shows the six recognised stages of grant-making. We’ve found that data can sit in siloed services at different stages of the process. This means users jump between different services, ‘swivel chairing’, and either input or collect data that already existed. It creates inefficiencies and increases errors. 

A big challenge but a key priority for me this year is to help connect the data throughout this process. The Data Standards Authority signals some good ways to do this. We have already taken steps to share metadata using our Spotlight due diligence tool. This helps us tackle fraud and errors effectively. 

The next big step in our strategy is to link the pilot Find a Grant/Apply for a Grant service via APIs to our existing grants systems: Spotlight, and the Government Grants Information System.

The benefits to data quality, processing and - ultimately - the citizen experience will be huge. It’s a lot to take on but exciting and, dare I say it, a fun time to be working in grants!

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