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 organisations who participate in the 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/Community Outcomes Reporting.

Refer to the Guide to measuring client outcomes for more information.

Case studies

The Data Exchange is delighted to publish case studies submitted by organisations on their ongoing journey for collecting outcomes data.

More information is available on the case studies page.

Benchmarking as a continuous improvement tool

In December 2015, the Department of Social Services released the Data Exchange Benchmarking Discussion Paper. The paper proposes five key principles underpinning benchmarking as part of the Data Exchange. Twenty-five organisations provided a response to the discussion paper questions. Overall, organisations were supportive of benchmarking.

The Department wishes to thank all the organisations that provided submissions to the discussion paper questions. The Data Exchange has carefully considered the themes raised by these submissions, and responses to each of the key feedback areas are detailed in the Benchmarking report on findings.

The Department has incorporated the discussion paper feedback into the planned benchmarking approach and will incrementally develop approaches that are informed by peer-reviewed academic literature and stakeholder consultation. An experimental study is planned to begin in 2018. More details are available in the Developing a benchmarking methodology for the Data Exchange.


The Department takes its privacy obligations very seriously to ensure the operation of the Data Exchange does not contravene the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. 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.

The Data Exchange protects client privacy by ensuring personal information is only collected by the Department for storage in the Data Exchange with a client’s consent where an organisation chooses to use the Data Exchange for its 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 Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and has been released in the interest of transparency and accountability, and to provide assurance to organisations 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, which stands for Standard Community/Client Outcomes Reporting, allows organisations 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 Goals 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 Friedman’s Results Based Accountability:

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

The Translation Matrix helps organisations convert results from commonly used outcomes measurement tools into SCORE.

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

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

Client survey

The Data Exchange client survey pilot was launched in October 2016. After an extensive piloting period, ongoing engagement with pilot organisations and other stakeholders, and consideration of review findings, the Department paused the pilot in October 2017.

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.