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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

First digital census on the 21st March

Speaker: Gaynor Thompson-Clarke

Gaynor Thompson-Clarke, Census Engagement Manager for Calderdale, gave an informative talk to the Todmorden u3a on the 2nd March alerting members to the forthcoming first digital census on the 21st March. It is digital, but as Gaynor pointed out, it can still be paper or even telephone based if it is required.

The census is a survey that started in 1801, to much derision and suspicion, with one MP from York stating that it was an, "Instrument for to extract taxes" and exalting his servants to show any census enumerator the "discipline of my horse pond". Fortunately, things have improved and we recognise that as it happens every 10 years it gives a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales, so that all kinds of organisations can use the information to help better provide the services we all need, including transport, education and healthcare.

The questionnaire will be available in 49 languages in England and 17 in Wales, although there are further language options available on request. Whilst the census is digital, it is not digital only, as there are a range of options which can be used to access the completion of the census in whichever way is suitable.

Everyone should receive a postcard saying that the census is on its way, and then a census pack will arrive. Although the census day is 21st March it can start being completed online as soon as the pack arrives. It will take about 10 minutes to complete the census online, the shorter time being facilitated by the routing which makes the process much quicker. As the information is being inputted it is being saved and so you can go back to it if needed, but if your unique code is mislaid then a new one has to be requested, and any information put in will be lost.

There are a series of support services to help people complete the census if they have any difficulties. There are public contact centres and a comprehensive telephone support service which offers automated and personal options. Trained agents can complete questionnaires for people over the telephone, although this service is not suitable for households of more than two people.

A comprehensive website is available, which is compatible with most assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifying tools. All information is available in the easy read format and there are supporting videos in sign language for the deaf, as well as a braille offering for the blind. All census information must be completed in English and large print versions of the forms are available if desired.

People often wonder what the benefits of completing the census form are, and many don't realise that it is a valuable source of information for all sorts of organisations, from the world wildlife fund to church organisations and supermarkets, as well as historians and genealogists.

If the census form is not returned, five formal reminder letters will be sent from March 22nd onwards. If none of these are completed, census officers may visit home addresses to see why they have not been completed and to offer help. The maximum fine for not completing the census is £1000. In the past fines have been issued for mockery, when in 1911 one citizen included a cat in his household (aged eight, married, mouser), and of course occupations have always been a good source of humour with the authorities, if you can separate truth form falsehood, as in 1891 some genuine occupations were stick polisher, castrator, fancy man, feather wife and devil!

Over the years new questions have been added. In 1991 the obsession was with ethnicity and central heating, with of course religion always causing consternation. The 2011 survey revealed 390,127 declared adherents of the Jedi religion. This year there are two new questions about gender and sexuality, which are not compulsory to answer and a question concerning ex-service personnel, so veteran support can be offered as required. For something that will take only ten minutes to complete there seem to be a lot of potential benefits in the future.

The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting by Zoom will be on Thursday 18th March 2021 at 1.45 p.m., open to all fully paid-up members.

Our presenter for March will be Georgina Ferry with a talk entitled, 'Women in Science: From Diamonds to DNA'.

Not yet a member? You can attend one talk free by requesting an invitation to this zoom event. We're always delighted to welcome new members.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Many thanks to Michael Astrop for this report


Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb - click here

See also:

HebWeb News 2012: Census results show increase in Calderdale's population

2021 Census and help for local residents

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