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.

Client survey

The client survey pilot was launched in October 2016 with the public release of the Client Survey Pilot. Throughout the pilot, the Department received valuable feedback from participating service providers, 30 submissions from organisations in response to the discussion paper, as well as feedback from participants during the recent Data Exchange National Roadshow consultations.

An internal review of the client survey pilot has just been completed, and the results are outlined in the Implementation Review Findings. In response to stakeholder feedback, the Department has committed to extend the pilot while a one-off survey and several options to enhance the accessibility of the survey are evaluated. As a result, full roll-out of the client survey has been moved from July 2017 to mid 2018.

Service providers are strongly encouraged to participate in this ongoing co-design phase of the client survey. Training and support are available for participating organisations by emailing myservicemystory@dss.gov.au. Read a short profile of why one service provider decided to join the pilot.

Client survey background

The client survey is an important component of the Data Exchange framework and is part of the priority requirements which apply to all in-scope programs. The inclusion of the client voice will provide valuable additional information to help tell the outcomes story of how grant funding is used to respond to individual, family and community needs.

Following a period of extensive research, consultation and testing, the survey is now in the pilot and evaluation stage. Participation in the pilot is voluntary for both service providers and their clients.

Once the client survey is fully implemented, it will be mandatory for service providers to offer the survey to eligible clients, in order to meet their Data Exchange reporting obligations. Client participation in the survey will always be voluntary.

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


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.

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.

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.


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: