Census forms are in the post and should be with residents of Bidston & St. James in the next few weeks. For the first time Census forms can be filled out online on the Census 2011 website. In fact, the government prefers this method as it saves time deciphering people’s handwriting. Each Area Forum has had a presentation on the Census. Members of the public have had various common questions which I will attempt to answer here.
1. Is filling out a census form compulsory?
A. Yes, it is. The legal requirement to complete a census return, for England and Wales, is set out in Section 8 (1) of the Census Act 1920 and in the Census (England and Wales) Order 2009, Census (England) Regulations 2010 and Census (Wales) Regulations 2010. People can be fined up to £1,000 for not completing it. However, there is help. As well as help and guidance online, the census can be provided in many languages (if English is not your first language), audio tape, large print and other formats (eg braille) for people with disabilities.
There is also a census help line on 0300 0201 101 (calls charged at local call cost) available 8am to 8pm (Mon-Fri), 9am to 4pm, (Sat-Sun) and 8pm-8pm on the weekend of the 26th/27th March.
2. Can you refuse to answer census questions?
A. As with previous censuses the question on religion in voluntary. However all other questions are compulsory.
3. What if I’m away on holiday on 27th March, do I still need to include my details?
A. People need to be included where they usually live, whether they are resident on the 27th March or not. If you are staying at another address in the United Kingdom (UK) on census night you should be included as a visitor on the questionnaire for that address.
4. Why are the questions on the English Census form not in numerical order; is there a missing question?
A. The missing question relates to the fact there are different questions asked for the Census in Wales. Those receiving the census form in England are not asked a question about the Welsh language, so it looks like there is a missing question on their census questionnaire even though there isn’t.
5. Will the information be kept private?
A. The information will be compiled into statistics. After 100 years (as in previous censuses) the information will be made available to the public. Information provided as part of the census will be kept confidential.
6. Electoral roll (details of who can vote) is sold to marketing companies (for those who don’t opt out). Will census information be sold in the same way?
A. No, it’ll be kept confidential, however the statistical information based on returns will be provided free of charge.
If you have any questions about the Census, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it. Filling out the Census forms is important as Wirral Council and government departments are given money based on the information given in the Census. If just a few percent of Wirral people don’t send back their form it could lead to millions of pounds lost out by Wirral to spend on its residents.