Frequently asked questions

 

Why have I been chosen to take part?

How families are selected

To visit every family would take too long and be too costly, so we have selected a number of families at random from amongst those who receive Child Benefit. We have taken special care to ensure that, taken together, all the families and children we have chosen are representative of all families and children of a certain age living in Scotland. The study looks at the experiences of children in all areas of Scotland.

Who has taken part in the study so far

  • We started in 2005 with two groups of children: around 5,000 babies born between June 2004 and May 2005, and around 3,000 children aged just under three years old born between June 2002 and May 2003.
  • In 2010/11, we selected a further group of around 6000 babies born between March 2010 and February 2011.
  • Most recently, in 2017 we selected a further group of around 1,500 children born between June 2004 and May 2005, who are aged around 13. These children have been invited to take part in interviews alongside the group of children the same age who were recruited to the study in 2005.

In total, around 15,000 children from all over the country have taken part in Growing Up in Scotland (GUS). Each child and family that has been selected is an important part of the overall picture. Therefore, if a family cannot take part for any reason, they cannot be replaced by another family.

You might find that some of your neighbours will also have been invited to take part, or they might already be involved in the study. This is because we have randomly selected certain areas on which to focus, including your neighbourhood. The areas we have chosen are right across the country, so that when all the interviews have finished, we will have collected information from people who live all over Scotland in the full range of different neighbourhoods.

 

Why is the study important?

GUS provides information in relation to a range of different areas of relevance to the lives of young children and their families, such as:

  • Childcare and issues relating to work/life balance
  • Parenting and family life
  • Child health and development
  • Parental health
  • Access to, awareness of and use of services for young children and families

The results from the study help departments across the Scottish Government to be aware of the issues facing families in Scotland today, and to develop policies which will work to address these issues. They also help the government to check that policies are working well and, if not, how they can be changed for the better.

One of the most important things about GUS is that it is uniquely Scottish. A lot of studies look at the UK as a whole, but this study only includes children and families in Scotland.

By providing us with information about your views and circumstances, you are helping the government to act and make improvements for the people who most need them. So you will be doing a favour for the whole of society and – possibly – for families in similar circumstances to your own. 

 

Why the survey is needed

GUS provides information to assist the Scottish Ministers to fulfil their duties under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.   

The study makes a key contribution to understanding the factors which protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people across a wide range of domains, and to assess how effective government policies are in achieving this objective. In addition, the study helps to promote awareness and understanding of the rights of children.

Evidence provided by GUS also supports the duty of the Scottish Ministers to promote the improvement of the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland.  Under education related legislation Scottish Minsters have a number of duties in relation to school education, and GUS helps fulfil these duties by contributing evidence to improve the educational experience and outcomes for children and to reduce inequalities.

 

Is the study confidential?

Yes – your answers will be treated in strict confidence and with full respect for your privacy, in accordance with data protection legislation.

We take great care to protect the confidentiality of the information we are given. The study results will never be in a form which can reveal your identity and will be used for statistical research purposes only. When we report the results from the study, we will be looking at patterns of responses across the population as a whole – not at the responses of individual people. No information will be released from the study that could identify any individuals or families.

 

What happens to the information I give?

Unlike other surveys that you may have taken part in, the information you provide is not used to help companies sell their products or for marketing. Rather, it is used to help the government understand life in Scotland and to design policies which aim to help people.

Social research, like GUS, is governed by strict guidelines and codes of conduct which protects your identity and the answers you give. For example, we are not allowed to say to anyone whether or not you have taken part. Because you are protected in this way, there is no need to worry about any of the answers you give; we will never pass this information on to anyone in such a way that you can be identified.

There are two types of information collected by the study: survey data which contains individual level survey responses but does not include any information that identifies individuals; and contact information for families who take part in the study.  These two types of data are held separately.  ScotCen Social Research, who is contracted by the Scottish Government to undertake the study, hold both types of data.  Copies of the survey datasets are also held by the Scottish Government and the UK Data Service.

Occasionally we need to share your contact information with a small number of specially selected and approved agencies where it is necessary to carry out the contractual requirements of the study. This is limited to companies who provide printing and mailing services – who print study documents and send letters on our behalf – and companies who provide data capture services – who scan any paper questionnaires and convert the information into an electronic format.

You can be assured that taking part in the study will not lead to junk mail or any other unwanted contact. The research team will send a newsletter once a year and a thank you letter for taking part. That’s it!

 

How long is my information stored for?

All survey responses are stored securely and confidentially under the terms of data protection legislation.  The survey datasets contain individual level survey responses but do not include any information that identifies individuals. Contact information for families who take part in the study is held separately.   Both survey datasets and contact information for participating families will be stored by ScotCen Social Research for as long as it holds the contract to conduct the survey.  Survey datasets are also held by the Scottish Government and the UK Data Service indefinitely. This retention is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is still appropriate to hold the data.

 

Who uses the data and findings?

Policy makers at the Scottish Government use findings from the study to plan services in the future, so you have a real chance to make a difference to policies affecting children in Scotland. The results of the study will enable the government to develop policies to address any issues raised, and to check that policies are working well – and if not, how they can be changed for the better. By carrying out studies like this, the Government is offering you a chance to make your views count. In this way you could make a difference to policies affecting children in Scotland.

The data are also made available – via application and under strict controls – to people in the wider research, policy and practice community, such as universities, local government and charities, so that additional research can be done. In this way, we hope to ensure that the most is made of all the data collected. It also means that people with a wide range of perspectives on Scottish society can offer their own interpretations of the data.

Click here to find out who has been using findings from the study

 

Who is carrying out the study?

The study is being carried out by ScotCen Social Research on behalf of the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government employs researchers who use GUS data to make sure policy makers are fully informed of what life in Scotland is really like for children and young people and their families. We also work in collaboration with a number of academic researchers who are experts in research on children, young people and families.

ScotCen Social Research is part of NatCen Social Research, Britain’s largest independent, non-profit social research institute. We carry out many important research studies for the Scottish Government, UK government departments, research councils, voluntary organisations and charitable foundations. All of our interviewers abide by a code of conduct and register with the local police of the area in which they are interviewing.

 

 

What does taking part in the study involve?

This year’s interview

If you have been chosen to take part in GUS your name and address is given to an interviewer from ScotCen Social Research who will get in touch with you to arrange an interview.

The interview will take place at your home at a time convenient to you. The interview will last 1-1.5 hours. The interviewer will ask you some questions and enter your answers into their laptop. Taking part is very straightforward and the interviewer will be able to answer any questions. With your permission, your child will also have the chance to be involved by completing a short questionnaire, taking part in some language exercises and having their height and weight measured

In addition, if you have a partner and you live together, we would like him or her to complete a short paper questionnaire. Your interviewer will send this to you in advance of the interview. Please ask your partner to complete the questionnaire as soon as they can. Once completed they can simply insert the questionnaire into the sealable envelope provided and give this to the interviewer when he or she comes to visit. If you haven’t received a questionnaire but think you should have, please talk to your interviewer who will give you a copy.

Being part of a longitudinal study

An important part of GUS is that it is ‘longitudinal’. This means that we follow every family every few years to see how people’s circumstances change. This makes the study unique as it provides the government with information on how family life is changing over time and the effect that different policies appear to be having on people’s lives.

This makes it especially important that the families we have selected continue to take part also after the first interview. If families are unable to take part, we lose important information on whether their circumstances have gotten better or worse, or whether they feel local services have improved. As a result, the government will have less information about how its policies are working for everyone.

What if I want to withdraw from the study?

We very much hope that you will enjoy taking part and will continue to do so in the future. However, your participation in the study is entirely voluntary and you can withdraw at any time, without telling us why. If you do wish to withdraw from the study, please contact us by emailing gus@scotcen.org.uk or by calling us for free on 0800 652 2704.

 

What is data linkage?

Data linkage is the process of adding together different types of information about individuals from different sources. For GUS, with your permission, we link your survey answers with selected administrative data. Administrative data is information which is routinely held by your local authority or other public bodies such as the NHS. This might include, for example, information about school attendance or dental health.

‘Linking’ the information you give us in the interview with this other information helps us build a more complete picture of your child’s life, and makes the information you share even more useful.

You can find out more information about data linkage by watching this animation:

What types of data will you be linking to?

Health records

The National Health Service (NHS) holds routine medical and other health records on all patients who use their services. To increase the value of the data you provide we would like to link your GUS survey answers to your child’s NHS health records. If you are the child’s biological mother we would also like to link to your answers to your maternity records. These are held by the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland.

If you agree, your survey answers will be linked to your child’s (and, where applicable, your) NHS health records in relation to:

  • hospital attendance (both inpatient and outpatient)
  • A&E attendance
  • immunisations (vaccinations)
  • pre-school and primary school health checks
  • dental health
  • the child’s birth
  • maternity records

Education records

The Scottish Exchange of Educational Data (ScotXed), part of the Scottish Government’s Education Directorate, hold data on education records. To increase the value of the data you provide we would like your permission to link your GUS survey answers to your child’s education records.

These records hold information both for individual pupils and for the whole school. If you agree, your answers will be linked to your child’s education records in relation to:

  • attendance and absences
  • attainment (e.g. exam results)
  • subjects taught and classroom set-up (e.g. the number of teachers)
  • additional support needs and measures in place
  • free school meal eligibility
  • level of English/Gaelic

 

How does the process work?

As part of your GUS interview, you will be asked to provide consent for us to link to your child’s health and education records. If you are the child’s biological mother we will also ask for permission to link to your pregnancy and birth records. You can choose to consent to both of these types of linkage, some of them or none of them.

You will be given a consent form to read and sign, with a copy for you to keep, which explains the type of data that is collected, the purpose that it is collected for, how we control access to this information and how to withdraw your consent if you change your mind 

This is how the linkage process works for health records:

  • If you agree to health data linkage you will be asked to provide a few pieces of information that can be used to identify your/your child’s records.
    • To link your child’s health records, we will need your child’s name, gender, home postcode and date of birth.
    • To link your health records (if you are the child’s biological mother), we also need your name and date of birth.
  • We’ll pass this information to NHS Scotland who will use you/your child’s details to find your records, and match them with the information you have already given us.
  • After the data is matched, all of the information that could identify you – including your name, postcode and date of birth – is removed. This leaves only a numeric identifier which is never stored alongside the health or survey information.
    • NHS Scotland only use your personal details to identify your health records, and commit to storing your details securely and not sharing them with anyone else.

This creates incredibly valuable data for researchers who are trying to understand more about differences in children’s and mothers’ health.

This is how the linkage process works for education records:

  • If you agree to education data linkage you will be asked to provide a few pieces of information that can be used to identify your child’s records, including their name, gender, home postcode and date of birth.
  • We’ll pass this information to ScotXed, who will use your child’s details to find the relevant information in their records. ScotXEd will then append their information for your child using a numeric identifier. The information from ScotXEd will not be stored alongside your child’s details.
  • ScotXEd will not have access to the other information you have given us, only to your child’s details.  ScotXed only use your personal details for this purpose and commit to storing your details securely and not sharing them with anyone else.
  • ScotXEd then returns the information to us. Once we receive the information from ScotXEd we use the numeric identifier to match this up to the other information you and your child have given us.

This creates really useful data for researchers who are trying to understand more about differences in children’s education.

To take part in the study you do not have to give permission to data linkage. This is your choice and will not otherwise affect your participation.

 

What if I move home between interviews or my contact details change?

Please complete this change of details form or email us at gus@scotcen.org.uk.

 

What happens if I agree to be contacted about further research?

In the future, the Scottish Government or another organisation may want to conduct further research about children and young people and their families. If you are willing and give us your consent, your name, contact details and relevant answers you have given during the interview will be passed on to the Scottish Government or other research agencies for this purpose, with the permission of the Scottish Government. This information will only be released for statistical and research purposes carried out by reputable research organisations and your confidentiality will be protected in the publication of any results.  Any information passed to any other organisation will be treated in accordance with data protection legislation and will not be used for any purposes other than further research about children and young people and their families.

 

How to contact us

If you have a question which is not answered here, please contact us by emailing gus@scotcen.org.uk or by calling us for free on 0800 652 2704.

Additionally, if at any point you are unhappy with any aspect of your involvement in the study, you can lodge a complaint using these details.

If you would like further information regarding how your information is used, please contact Ganka Mueller at the Scottish Government at Ganka.Mueller@gov.scot.

You can also contact the Scottish Government’s Data Protection Officer at DataProtectionOfficer@gov.scot

If we’re not able to resolve your complaint, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, whose details can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

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