Currently, in the UK, most organisations in the public sector, whether it be local authorities, health, housing, police, fire or voluntary have a form of directory that is used to store and list local services. In each locality, directory content is often duplicated across the public sector. 

There is a need to consolidate directories to bring about consistency and quality of data whilst reducing maintenance costs. Data in consistent formats can more easily be shared between directories.

Open Referral UK has defined a standard structure for the interchange of data related to services delivered by local authorities, community groups and other organisations. Open Referral UK’s work is an extension of the international Open Referral standard. This was designed by iStandUK and builds on an earlier spreadsheet standard that iStandUK defined in 2017.

The Standard has online guidance and a Github repository. The repository holds resources, a sample service directory and service finder open-source application. There’s a growing community of software suppliers supporting the standard with data feeds and tools which consume the data, as shown here.

Work by the Local Government Association and the Local Digital OpenCommunity project has helped build the standard. They will continue to provide technical and managerial guidance to increase its adoption.