Monday, 28 March 2011


Why you may be confused by the census form

Millions of householders across England and Wales are expected to have completed 2011's census form on Sunday in order to return them by the 6th April deadline. Skip related content
It is a legal requirement that every home fills one out as it is designed to provide a picture of today's society for the government and local authorities in order to target resources more effectively. Since national census day has passed, it is important to understand the risks of leaving your form untouched. Anyone unwilling to complete one on paper or online will not be able to dodge the system as census officials are currently monitoring every household. Those who refuse to complete the census face a £1000 fine and criminal prosecution.
Despite the stringent completion rules in place, the 2011 census is also facing criticism over the confusing nature of some of the content inside it, ultimately affecting the accuracy of it. If you haven't filled yours out yet, here are five reasons as to why you may be left scratching your head while filling out the questionnaire.

1. Blank questions
According to those following '2011censusinfo' on Twitter and online census chat forums, the question that is baffling English people the most is number 17. On the English census form, the box appears to be left blank, stating, 'This question is left intentionally blank. Go to 18.'
One perplexed Twitter follower tweeted: "Underwhelmed by the recent UK census form (I had to read it twice to understand it) Why is Question 17 left blank in ALL the Person forms?"
Speaking with Yahoo! UK News, a spokeswoman for the census at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) defended the omission, saying: "On the English form it is left intentionally blank, but on the Welsh form it says 'Do you speak Welsh?' The reason why it is left blank is to keep consistency across all the forms as we only have one scanner. If we had two different scanners, it would be more costly."

2. Correct date to fill it in
Census respondents were told to complete the questionnaire on 27 March. Yet, people all over England and Wales claimed to have filled out their forms more than two weeks earlier.
To clear things up, the form could have been filled in before, on, or just after census day. Some UK universities agreed with the ONS to allow their students to fill the forms out early and return them before breaking up for Easter. If you have not returned your questionnaire by 6 April, a census collector will call to your house after that date to offer any help you need.

3. No space to put middle names
Another point raised by respondents was the lack of space to disclose a middle name. Prior to 2011, the 10-year census used to be an important resource for people tracing their family history and researching genealogy.
Now, for confidentiality reasons, ONS has said that they will not share your personal information with any other government department or organisation. The information you provide is only used for statistical purposes and names are not used in any published statistics from the census. The questionnaire only asks for first and last names to help ensure everyone is included.

4. Missing options
Elderly recipients of the form were also puzzled by Question 26, The Telegraph reported. Seven different options relating to their employment were included, but none of which included a category for 'retirement.' The person filling in the form then has to answer three more questions - including "were you actively looking for any kind of paid work during the last four weeks?" - before recording that they were retired.

5. Final destination of forms
If you're wondering if automated payment machines receive census forms, you would be right. A form was reportedly posted to a car park ticketing machine at Dorset's Moors Valley Country Park. Addressed to the 'The Occupier: Pay on Foot Shelter', the machine now faces being prosecuted - with a fine of up to £1000 and a criminal record if it fails to fill in the form. To the amusement of staff at the park, they joked about what to put as its job, language and religious beliefs.
In response to the mix-up, the Office of National Statistics explained to Yahoo! UK News: "In a small number of cases the Royal Mail or Local Authority coding will be wrong and a form will go to a non-residential address but these are often difficult to spot amongst the 26.5 million addresses without a field visit. On balance it is more important for the accuracy of the census that we count all residents so we always err on the side of safety and send forms to all properties."
Click here to fill in your 2011 Census form online
For advice on how to fill out your form, telephone the Census 2011 helpline on 0300 0201 101

Written by Gaby Leslie

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