In support of its work, the Home Office has long been interested in improving the evidence base around integration outcomes for refugees in the UK. The Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) cohort study is a novel collaboration between the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which aims to address this need.
Following the successful conclusion of the pilot in June 2022, we extended the study to link both refugees granted asylum and individuals who came to the UK under one of our resettlement schemes with data from Census 2021 and now, in this latest study, with administrative data from other government systems.
Refugee integration is a rich area for research, but finding robust quantitative data on outcomes, particularly over the longer term, is much more challenging. RIO aims to provide data which will begin to unlock unique and unprecedented insights into the longer-term integration outcomes for refugees.
The data sharing between Home Office and ONS, and the collaboration between their researchers, has already begun to improve our understanding and help to ensure better outcomes for refugees as they attempt to integrate into the UK. This report, built from this cross-departmental working and data sharing, demonstrates how this experimental statistical work can generate real insight.
Alongside this methodology paper, we are publishing the first analysis report of the RIO data on refugees resettled through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). This is the second report of the RIO dataset and uses data from both asylum refugees and the mainly Syrian resettled refugees who arrived in England and Wales between 2015 and 2020. It reveals very clearly both differences and similarities between these groups, and implications for further research, which should help guide other researchers on this topic.
The Home Office and ONS plan to expand the project to incorporate more recent cohorts of refugees and link to a wider range of economic, health and education data. This will test the credibility of these findings when applied to other groups of refugees and help expand the range of outcomes we can measure. As the project develops, we will publish further analysis and plan to make the dataset available to other researchers. It is complex research and results require careful interpretation, reflecting the distinct circumstances and experiences of people who are offered protection by the UK.
Deputy Director of Immigration System Statistics and Refugees Analysis and Insight (ISSRAI)
Home Office Analysis and Insight (HOAI)Back to table of contents
Quantitative data on refugees' long-term integration outcomes in the UK is lacking, largely attributed to an absence of datasets which permit refugees to be identified.
Linking Home Office Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) data to administrative data collected by other government departments and Census 2021 will help fill this gap and provide answers to questions on this hard-to-reach population.
The Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) cohort study was set up to fill this evidence gap with an early pilot linking administrative data to cohorts of VPRS and VCRS refugees (a cohort is defined as a group of people with a shared characteristic moving forward through time. In this case we use year of arrival to define cohorts).
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Home Office have continued to work collaboratively on RIO, further linking cohorts of refugees granted asylum and VPRS and VCRS refugees to Census 2021.
This second iteration of RIO, building on the RIO data linkage pilot, uses a combination of exact, deterministic, and associative matching methods, with clerical review to resolve conflicts to link Census 2021.
When linking to Census 2021, we achieved linkage rates of 69.6% and 91.2% for refugees granted asylum and VPRS and VCRS refugees respectively; this is in part because the asylum refugees have a greater proportion of younger males who are transient and less likely to engage with services.
The difference in linkage rates between the two cohorts greatly emphasises that these are two distinct cohorts with different characteristics and behaviours.
Comparisons of linked and unlinked records show that our linked data are representative of the VPRS and VCRS refugee cohorts.
We linked slightly more females, younger and older refugees granted asylum, but fewer of Sudanese and Eritrean nationality; young adult males are less likely to engage with services, but also patriarchal and African naming conventions make linkage challenging.
We will continue to improve our linkage of refugees granted asylum to Census 2021 by adapting our linkage algorithms to take account of geographical dispersion and African naming conventions.
The analysis presented in this article is experimental and may change as we continue to update linkages.
This methodology article supports analysis published on 27 June 2023 on early integration outcomes for refugees resettled under the VPRS and VCRS.
The future aims of the project are to improve linkage rates, most notably for the remaining asylum refugee residuals, explore probabilistic linkage methods, link new administrative datasets to the cohorts and produce and publish analysis for the asylum route cohort.
One of the Home Office's (HO) priorities is to "protect vulnerable people and communities". To meet this goal and to develop and evaluate relevant policies, the HO is interested in improving the evidence base around integration outcomes for refugees in the UK.
The Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) cohort study is a collaboration between the HO and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Our (RIO) data linkage pilot project aimed to link NHS Personal Demographics Service (PDS) data and HO border systems data to cohorts of refugees resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS).
Following the successful conclusion of the (RIO) data linkage pilot in June 2022, we extended the study to include refugees granted asylum between 2015 and 2020 and have linked Census 2021 for England and Wales to the VPRS and VCRS, and refugees granted asylum.
The (RIO) cohort study will provide unique insights into the integration outcomes for approximately 113,000 refugees resettled under the VPRS and VCRS or granted asylum in England and Wales between 2015 and 2020.
The RIO cohort study covers England and Wales currently, but there are plans to expand this study to Scotland and Northern Ireland and other humanitarian and protection routes in the future subject to data availability, data supplier agreement, data quality and funding.
ONS are exploring the feasibility of an anonymised person-level longitudinal data source for England and Wales, based on Census 2021 and then updated each year to reflect population change (births, deaths and migration). This new dataset is referred to as the Longitudinal Population Dataset (LPD), formerly known as the Census Data Asset (CDA) (see our Census 2021 Data Asset longitudinal data source for population in England and Wales methodology). The vision is for RIO to become integrated into the LPD as a satellite cohort study, allowing comparisons with other population groups, such as the general migrant population.Back to table of contents
There are two main sources of data on refugees which include refugees who arrive in the UK via resettlement schemes overseen by the government, and who have been granted a protection status prior to arrival. The Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) cohort study focusses on those resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). The second are those refugees who arrive here in other disorganised or irregular ways, and who subsequently apply for and are granted refugee status through the Asylum Refugee Route (ARR).
VPRS and VCRS data
The RIO cohort study uses data for refugees resettled in England and Wales under the VPRS and VCRS between 2015 and 2020.
This includes 16,350 people resettled under the VPRS and VCRS. Further data for resettled refugees is available in regularly published Home Office (HO) Asylum and resettlement datasets. We refer to these refugees as Resettled Refugees (RR) in this report.
The ARR data in RIO contain approximately 97,000 individuals who were granted asylum between 2015 and 2020 in England and Wales. This sample excludes those still awaiting a decision on their asylum claim, or those who were denied asylum. ARR are more challenging to link to other data owing to their more dynamic geographic mobility and greater dispersion across England and Wales. Many asylum refugees are young adults, with approximately one-third being female and two-thirds male. The majority of the ARR population in this study are from Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, and Afghanistan. Further data for asylum refugees is available in regularly published Home Office Asylum and resettlement datasets.
The census is undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) every 10 years and is the largest statistical exercise that ONS undertakes, producing statistics that inform all areas of public life and underpin social and economic policy. It asks questions about a person, their household, and their home. In doing so, it provides a wealth of information at small geographies to inform local planning and decision-making. You can find more information on our About census page on the ONS website. The census is a rich data source that includes numerous integration indicators for a point in time, including families and households, housing, education, English and Welsh language proficiency, employment, and health.
HO border systems data
The Home Office border systems data programme was introduced in April 2015 and the (HO) has produced a series of statistical reports on the coverage of these data and its use. It was designed primarily for operational (immigration control) purposes and initially collected data on non-EU nationals departing from and arriving in the UK. As we linked to these datasets previously, more detailed information on how we use the Home Office border systems data can be found in our Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) data linkage pilot methodology.
NHS Personal Demographics Service (PDS) data
The NHS Personal Demographics Service (PDS) data hold demographic details of users of health and patient care services in England and Wales. As we linked to these datasets previously, more information on the data we use from the PDS can be found in our Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) data linkage pilot methodology.Back to table of contents
Following the success of our Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) data linkage pilot, we have extended study coverage to include cohorts of asylum refugees and linked Census 2021. High-quality linkage of resettled refugees to Census 2021 has enabled Home Office (HO) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to publish, for the first-time, analysis based on experimental data on the early outcomes of refugees resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) who arrived in England and Wales between 2015 and 2020.
Asylum refugee data are more challenging to link because of the diversity in this group and being predominantly younger males, more transient, and also less likely to engage with official surveys and government services, as reported in our Quality assurance of administrative data used in population statistics methodology. Lower achieved linkage rates for asylum refugees in this study have strengthened this hypothesis. Initial analysis of residual records (not linked to Census 2021) shows that 3.6% of asylum refugees left or died. Further analysis of HO border systems data may shed further light on refugees' emigration from the UK since grant of asylum. Other possible reasons for not linking administrative data are outlined in our Refugee Integration Outcomes (RIO) data linkage pilot methodology.
We will look to improve linkage rates for the remaining asylum refugee residuals that we could not link to NHS Personal Demographics Service (PDS) data, Census 2021 and HO border systems data. Our focus will be improving linkage on Sudanese and Eritrean names. We will also explore probabilistic linkage methods to expand the number of possible matches sent for clerical review and to expand clerical search to a wider geographical area. This is currently limited to within-postcode.
Future updates on RIO linkage will be published as we link additional administrative data. Our ambition is to also extend the analysis for refugees resettled under the VPRS and VCRS to refugees granted asylum.Back to table of contents
Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 27 June 2023, ONS website, methodology article, Refugee integration outcomes data-linkage pilot: Census 2021 linkage methodology
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