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Following up the census

Census day is over but the collection of information is not done. Field officers are visiting households which have yet to make a return, and assistance is also available at local support centres. Warnings have been issued about scammers purporting to be census officials. Nick Terdre reports.

For Harry Farmer, the census engagement officer for Hastings and Rother, the job of encouraging residents to make a return continues more than three weeks after Census Day on 21 March.

“I am still looking to engage with residents who haven’t completed their census questionnaire yet,” he told HOT. “Household Census Officers are now out in Hastings and Rother knocking on all doors to encourage completion.

“The message now is definitely It’s Not Too Late to complete your census!”

The response in Rother, based on its return rate in the 2011 census, is where it was expected to be, Farmer said. Hastings, apart from the centre of town, is slightly behind the expected return rate at this stage.

Households which have not yet completed the census form will receive a visit from a field officer to encourage them to do so. In these Covid times, the officers will take precautions such as wearing personal protective equipment and will not seek to enter any homes.

Help at hand

There are also dedicated support centres in Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill (details below) for anyone who wants help in filling in the form or wishes to pick up a paper version. Most returns have been made online, the first time this has happened.

The 10-yearly census provides important information on the make-up of the population and the socio-economic conditions in which they live, which helps to shape policies and planning. But to be truly representative, it needs everyone to be counted, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which runs it.

“Census 2021 has gone brilliantly so far,” ONS director of operations Pete Benton said. “The overwhelming majority of people across England and Wales have already taken part and we’ve heard some great stories: from those completing their 10th census to those completing their first.

“But, for us to have the most accurate picture of the whole population, we need everyone to fill in their questionnaire. By doing so you will be helping shape the local services in your community – the bus routes, school places, the hospital beds.”

The ONS aims to start releasing the results in a year’s time. Later this year it will decide in what form the information will be made available.

Debunking the myths

It has also issued a myth buster to debunk common misinformation about the census and warn against scammers looking to take advantage of people who are not fully informed about how it works.

Will census officers fine you on the doorstep? It is a legal duty to make a return, and those who fail to do so can be fined up to £1,000 – but only after proceedings are brought and the matter is heard in court. Anyone trying to demand money on the doorstep or by text, social media message or email for mistakes made in filling in the form is a scammer – call the police. Field officers all carry proper ID.

A common misconception is that students don’t count – but they do. All students need to be included in the census, and they should complete a form for their usual term-time address even if they weren’t there on census day. Given the lockdown, most will probably have been at the family home.

And it’s not only British citizens who have to make a census return – all residents have to be included, whatever their nationality.

Returns are also needed for empty houses – the census covers housing as well as people. Local councils need to know about empty houses. If you own an empty house, flat or caravan, visit www.census.gov.uk to request an access code for a form relating to that property.

And do not worry that your personal data will leak out – it is kept under lock and key for 100 years, the ONS says. It is not made available either to other authorities or to private parties such as landlords.

Any questions can be answered by the local support centres:

Hastings: Hastings Voluntary Action, Central Hall, Station Road, TN34 1NG
Tel: 01424 444010
Email: census@hastingsvoluntaryaction.org.uk
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm

St Leonards-on-Sea: Seaview Project, Southwater Centre, Hatherley Rd, TN37 6LB
Tel: 01424 717981
Email: admin@seaviewproject.org.uk
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm

Rother: Rother Voluntary Action, 47 London Road, Bexhill-on-Sea TN39 3JY
Tel: 014 2421 4524
Email:  office@rva.uk.com
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm

Or you can contact Hastings and Rother’s census engagement manager, Harry Farmer (tel 07452 942 713, email john.farmer36@field.census.gov.uk).

 

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Posted 18:49 Tuesday, Apr 13, 2021 In: Society

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