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Leeds City Council uses UPRNs to identify shielding individuals during COVID-19

In March 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, Leeds City Council needed to identify clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people who had particular health conditions, particularly those who needed to shield or be protected from COVID-19.

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Prior to this, there were 18,000 individuals on the CEV list however this list grew vastly to 40,000 in April 2020. The council needed to make a plan of action to support these people.

The solution

Call centres and systems were established to make outbound calls to these shielding individuals. The CEV list contained the address and postcode of individuals but did not contain Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs). Combining UPRNs to this data would make it easier to link to other council information, such as customer contact data. The council therefore decided to link the CEV list to other data sets in the authority.

In the council’s housing data and council tax data, every property had a UPRN. The question was, how to add this data to the CEV list? The Gazetteer Team were able to take the address information from the CEV list and append the UPRN as a manual process to start with. Once a routine had been set up however, a lot of the work was done automatically. In addition, data held about council tax payments were cross-referenced to further refine results, a household paying single person council tax was a proxy for someone who may be living alone.

Once these three data sets (council tax data, housing data and CEV data) were joined together, it was also easier to identify council tenants who might be shielding. During the first lockdown, the housing department’s usual services were stood down to enable a more robust first-line response to COVID-19 needs. This increased the capacity to make outbound calls to individuals who would then receive an initial welfare check and support where needed.

The challenge

The council found that there were some challenges around a lack of understanding about the work amongst some colleagues who lacked knowledge around the UPRN. Over time, after seeing the benefits of linking data together using the UPRN through more accurate contact information, colleagues really began to see the benefit of the UPRN.

On a national level if the data could be linked it would be possible to link the data to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (which is a composite dataset measuring relative deprivation in small areas) and other valuable data sources, to further enrich the intelligence. Additionally, information on ethnicity; wards etc could be used to support particular individuals in ways that best suited them, such as through community leaders.

Lessons learnt

In the first lockdown, residents who were on the CEV lists received letters advising them to stay at home. These residents could also register through the council’s website for a number of support services such as priority slots for supermarket shipping etc. During the first lockdown the CEV list had to be combined to the UPRN, the work done during this time has been applied throughout the second and third lockdowns, resulting in swifter and more efficient targeting of services.

Future plans

One question that came up in the council was how to identify financially vulnerable individuals who are on the CEV list. The council had an amount of money that could be distributed to these people. Leeds Council wanted to be proactive in contacting these individuals rather than waiting to be contacted. The council wanted to make residents aware of the financial assistance that could be offered to them. A problem that occurred with matching data to benefits data was that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) did not use UPRNs. To overcome this, the council used internal council systems such as council tax discount data as this could be combined with the UPRN.

Another project the council plans to begin is identifying young people and children who live with adults who have a history of drug, alcohol abuse (adverse childhood events). Leeds aims to take a population health management approach, looking at what data says about young people and if they can be identified, and what support can be proactively provided, instead of these individuals possibly presenting themselves to mental health services in the future. The idea being that funding from mental health services can be split with proactive interventions.

A further piece of work the council is looking at includes health information in GP practices. The idea being that if the UPRN was incorporated into GP systems, identifying, and locating individuals and providing support could be done in a more efficient manner. Through this it would be possible to link people who may have certain health conditions which affect other people in that household and therefore in the community. To get the UPRN used in NHS systems is a key step for this project.  


Graham Hyde, Intelligence Manager, Leeds City Council, [email protected]