Policy Guidance

The Data Exchange Framework outlines the key concepts and policy approach underpinning the new program performance reporting requirements. This document was developed in 2014 as part of a co‑design process with service providers from a broad range of programs across the Department of Social Services.

The Data Exchange Protocols document is referenced in all Data Exchange in‑scope grant agreements. It is a comprehensive guide outlining program performance requirements in the form of a practical support manual, aiming to achieve a consistent implementation of how data is collected. The Data Exchange Protocols can assist users to integrate their reporting requirements into their existing service and administrative practices.

Measuring Outcomes

The Data Exchange shifts the focus of performance measurement from outputs to more meaningful information about service delivery outcomes.

Outcomes information is collected in two ways; directly from clients as part of client surveys and from service providers who choose to participate in a Partnership Approach to provide additional outcomes focused information as part of their grant agreement requirements.

In both circumstances, outcomes are collected using a concept known as SCORE which stands for Standard Client Outcomes Reporting.

The importance of data quality

Given that the Data Exchange framework was set up to support organisations to achieve stronger client and community outcomes, a core requirement of the system is to ensure that the data we collect can be relied on to support the design and evaluation of our programs.

High quality data is consistent, complete and reliable, providing a powerful tool for planning, decision making and evaluation. Quality data allows organisations to gain valuable insights into their own service delivery models, and so achieve better outcomes for their clients.

Further guidance on how to capture key data items is available in the following document:

The importance of data quality

Benchmarking as a continuous improvement tool

The Department released a Benchmarking Discussion Paper for consultation between 12 December 2015 and 1 April 2016. The paper describes the intended collection and use of benchmarking data to help foster community awareness and innovation to improve wellbeing for individuals, families and their communities.

Valuable input received from service providers and other interested stakeholders during this period is being considered as part of the development of the benchmarking functionality within the Data Exchange which is expected to be released in late 2018.


The Department takes its privacy obligations very seriously to ensure the operation of the Data Exchange does not contravene the Commonwealth Privacy Act. Consistent with good privacy practice, the Department’s approach has been to implement its privacy obligations by design, that is, to build effective privacy controls into the policies, procedures and systems of the Data Exchange.

In this way, the Department has been able to protect client privacy by ensuring personal information is only collected by the Department for storage in the Data Exchange with a client’s consent where a service provider chooses to use the Data Exchange for their own client management purposes. The Department’s application of best practice data de identification and aggregation methods, including its use of the statistical linkage key for data matching, also ensure that a client cannot be identified or re-identified when the Department produces information for policy, program management or research purposes.

The Privacy Impact Assessment confirms the Data Exchange is operating in line with the Privacy Act and has been released in the interest of transparency and accountability, and to provide assurance to service providers and other stakeholders about the privacy protections in place to support the Data Exchange.

Please refer to the ‘Collecting Person information’ section of the Data Exchange Protocols for more detailed information about privacy, consent and notification arrangements in the Data Exchange.

A Privacy Brochure has also been made available to provide to clients, to help them easily understand the privacy arrangements as outlined in the Data Exchange Protocols.


SCORE allows service providers to measure outcomes flexibly, using a range of self-selected service specific tools and methods —but importantly SCORE is underpinned by a sophisticated program logic that allows these outcomes to be viewed in a consistent and comparable manner. In other words, SCORE measures outcomes in ways that are proportionate, relevant and rigorous.

There are four different types of outcomes measured through SCORE, using a simple 5-point rating scale:

  • Client Circumstances SCORE
  • Client Goal SCORE
  • Client Satisfaction SCORE
  • Community SCORE

The program logic that underpins SCORE as part of the Data Exchange organises the full range of performance reporting data into ‘chapters’ that tell the ‘story’ of how grant funding is used to respond to individual, family and community needs. This logic describes the extent of how this investment produces positive changes that ultimately contribute to the achievement of promoting individual and family independence, resilience, participation and the wellbeing of the Australian population. Each ‘chapter’ is linked to performance indicators that focus on a particular question drawing on the headings from Freidman’s Results Based Accountability:

  • Are we achieving what we expected?
  • How well is it being done?
  • How much is being done?

The Program Performance Story (Outcomes) is also discussed in more detail in Section 3 of the Data Exchange Framework.

A Translation Matrix has been developed to assist service providers in converting results from commonly used outcomes measurement tools into SCORE. The translation matrix was developed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and includes nine tools commonly used in the Department of Social Services’ Families and Children program.

Organisations that do not have an existing outcomes measurement tool can choose to use the SCORE Likert scale as an interim tool to measure outcomes for their clients. To assist these organisations in applying SCORE as part of their everyday business practices, the Department has developed a version of SCORE that explains the domains and Likert scale from a client’s perspective. This extra resource, Using SCORE with clients has been made available to assist service providers in understanding the intent of this outcomes measurement framework.

Further guidance on the use of SCORE is outlined in the following documents:

Client survey

The Data Exchange client survey pilot was launched in October 2016 with the public release of the Client Survey Discussion Paper. The discussion paper was released to provide information about the survey, encourage participation in the client survey pilot and seek feedback about the implementation. Submissions in response to the discussion paper were requested by 31 March 2017. The Department received 30 written responses, which have informed the Implementation Review Findings.

The pilot has now paused, and the Department wishes to thank all participants for their invaluable contributions. As a result of the combined efforts of a diverse range of service providers from across Australia, the Department has now reached a stage where this valuable feedback will be considered and incorporated into future developments for the client survey.

More information about the client survey will be announced in future Data Exchange updates.

General enquiries on the client survey may be directed to myservicemystory@dss.gov.au.