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Community Needs Index 2023

The Community Need Index (CNI) 2023 has been refined, updated and is available exclusively in Local Insight. The CNI serves as a valuable tool for those looking to explore social and cultural factors that can impact upon people’s outcomes in different neighbourhoods.

This blog provides more information on the indicators and how you can explore them in Local Insight.

Contents:

Indicators in Local Insight

We have included four new datasets in Local Insight; the scores for each individual domain and the overall Community Need Index. In each case, a higher score indicates higher levels of community need.

  • Community Needs Index 2023: Civic Assets score
  • Community Needs Index 2023: Connectedness score
  • Community Needs Index 2023: Active and Engaged Community score
  • Community Needs Index 2023: Community Needs score

Background

The Community Needs Index was first developed in 2019 to identify areas experiencing poor community and civic infrastructure, relative isolation and low levels of participation in community life. The CNI has really resonated with policymakers and analysts across central government, local government and civil society organisations. 

The research has contributed to the formation of the APPG for left behind neighbourhoods, has been used to allocate resources for the Know your Neighbourhood Fund and we have worked with organisations to do a deep dive into the Community Needs Index for their area.

Following engagement with key stakeholders and a wider consultation, we are pleased to have refined the index for 2023. We have reviewed the geography, underlying indicators and weighting methodology used. Full details are available in the Technical Methodology Paper.

Comparability between the two iterations 

Following changes to the unit of geography and the indicators included in the measure, the updated Community Needs Index 2023 is not directly comparable to the earlier Community Needs Index 2019.

Previously, 2017 Wards were used as the underlying unit of geography – this is because Wards tend to be centred around existing neighbourhoods and so are often familiar to people. However, with Ward boundaries changing on an annual basis and their size varying significantly, the updated CNI 2023 instead uses LSOAs as the underlying unit of geography. This is because LSOA boundaries only change every 10 years, they are more homogenous in size and are better placed to identify needs in rural areas. Due to this difference in geography between the two iterations of the Index, these measures should not be compared or analysed to show change over time.

When updating the CNI, we reviewed the underlying indicators and, where necessary, updated to the most recent time-point. In some cases, indicators have been replaced by more robust indicators from alternative sources, or new indicators have been added to strengthen the Index and capture a different facet of community need. For full details of the underlying indicators, please see pages 10 – 21 in the Technical Methodology Paper.

Exploring the CNI in Local Insight

You can view both the 2019 and 2023 Community Need Index scores in Local Insight. Since they are not directly comparable, we have not grouped them together in the tool. 

What the CNI can help you measure

The Community Need Index was developed to measure some of the processes that Local Trust had been observing in many of the communities it was working in through the Big Local programme.  These are often peripheral areas with shared characteristics, where residents were consistently identifying lack of spaces to meet and poor connectivity as priority issues, while an active and engaged community was seen as a key ingredient to help affect meaningful change and tackle deprivation. 

The index incorporates community and social challenges which have not been captured in more traditional deprivation metrics such as the Indices of Deprivation (IoD). These include poor community and civic infrastructure and low levels of participation and engagement in the wider community. As such, the CNI is an extremely useful way to measure the absence of an active third sector, well developed social networks and a strong presence of civic assets, all of which help support the social fabric of an area.

How to interpret the values 

The Community Need Index has been formed by standardising and combining 28 indicators under three different domains:

  • Civic Assets
  • Connectedness
  • Active and Engaged Community

Each of these three domains has its own associated score. In addition, the three domain scores are standardised and combined to produce the overall Index score (Community Needs score). Equal weights have been applied to each of the three domains to mirror the approach taken in the 2019 CNI where equal weights were selected to reflect the equal importance of each dimension of Community Need.

When interpreting the CNI, a higher score indicates that an area has higher levels of community need. As with many indices, it is a relative rather than an absolute measure. This means you can compare how your neighbourhood performs relative to other areas. However, you can’t say one area is twice as bad or half as bad as another. The number itself is only meaningful in a relative rather than absolute sense. In the below example, we can see that the Local Authority of Nottingham has a higher community needs score than Birmingham. Therefore, we can say that Nottingham has poor civic infrastructure and community engagement relative to Birmingham.

It is also not possible to compare scores across domains, as each domain is standardised and scaled differently (for example, the Civic Assets scores range from -3.5 to 2.6, while the connectedness scores range from 1.2 to 189.5). Moreover, due to changes in the way indicators have been weighted and combined, as well as changes to the spatial scale used in the standardisation calculations, it is not possible to compare the scores produced in 2023 with the scores in 2019 across the Index or underlying domains.


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