Memorandum by Mr Len Cook, Registrar General
for England and Wales and National Statistician
1. Censuses were held in all parts of the
United Kingdom on Sunday 29 April 2001. Following devolution responsibility
for the 2001 Census in Scotland and Northern Ireland was transferred
to the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, respectively,
and the appropriate Registrars General. This Memorandum covers
the position in England and Wales, although some references are
made to the parallel arrangements in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
2. The Census is not only the central core
of the system of population and labour force statistics on the
UK, but it is also central to statistics on health, environment,
education, housing, ethnicity, family and communities. It underpins
the population projections and estimates for later years that
are vital for Government and business planning and are widely
used within both the public and private sectors.
3. The Census has been described as the
UK's biggest peacetime exercise, which requires the goodwill of
the public. It is a large, intensive operation carried out in
a very short time frame everywhere, regardless of difficulty.
But, with a response rate which is estimated to be 98 per cent
(see below), the 2001 Census is expected to meet its objective
to deliver the information that is required for the decision-making
process both nationally and locally. Central and local government,
health authorities and other organisations will use the resulting
data in planning housing, education, health and transport services
for years to come.
4. Forms were delivered to households in
the three weeks running up to Census day. For the first time the
public were asked to post them back, and only households that
did not mail forms back were visited again by enumerators. The
law requires every household to complete and return a form, and
a large-scale publicity campaign was mounted to raise public awareness.
5. Scanning, image recognition and coding
of the forms is underway at a purpose-built centre in Widnes,
and further processing and analysis of the data will begin shortly
at Census headquarters at Titchfield in Hampshire. The first outputs
will be published in August 2002.
6. This year marks the 200th anniversary
of the Census in Great Britain. During these two centurieswith
the exception of World War IIa Census has been conducted
at least once every 10 years.
7. As society has become more complex, and
demand for information has become greater, the number of questions
on the form has increased. In modern times, a primary objective
has been to balance the needs of data users against the form-filling
burden on members of the public, while ensuring each Census delivers
maximum value for money.
8. In planning the 2001 Census, the Office
for National Statistics (ONS), set out to learn as much as possible
from the experience of Census offices around the globe. There
was regular liaison with Census-taking organisations throughout
the developed English-speaking world. INSEE (France), other European
countries through Eurostat (European Statistical Office) were
also consulted, and still other organisations through meetings
of the UN where the ONS played a major role in developing the
UN guidance for the 2001 Census round.
9. Information was exchanged on such topics
as the use of geographical information systems, the development
of scanning and recognition technology, coverage measurement,
the use of the public mail service for the return of Census forms,
fast tabulation output systems, community liaison, disclosure
control and the protection of confidentiality. As part of this
process, ONS helped produce Diffusion, which is an occasional
international newsletter aimed at providing a forum for the exchange
of experiences for Census planners across the English-speaking
10. The UK Government's proposals for the
2001 Census were set out in a White Paper (CM 4253) published
in March 1999. They were based on four broad strategic aims:
to ensure that the question content
is appropriate to meet the demonstrated requirements of users;
to deliver products and services
to meet legal obligations and users' needs within stated quality
standards and to a pre-defined timetable;
to ensure that all aspects of the
Census data collection operation and the dissemination of results
are acceptable to the public and comply with Data Protection law;
to demonstrate that the Census represents
value for money.
11. The previous Census was based on broadly
similar principles, but, in a number of respects, the 2001 Census
took a different approach to cope with difficulties encountered
in the 1991 Census. These difficulties arose from changes in society,
technological developments, and the need to satisfy Government
requirements for information to support policy initiatives on,
for example, social exclusion, inequalities in health, crime prevention,
carers and the new deal for the unemployed.
12. The total budget for the 2001 Census
in the UK over the 13 year period 1993-2006 is £254 million.
The breakdown for the period 1993-98 and subsequent years is:
£207 million of these costs relates to England and Wales.
13. The largest elements of the total cost are to pay
for the delivery and collection of the forms and for the processing
of the data.
14. The topics on the Census form are those that have
been shown to be most needed by central and local government,
the health service, academics, businesses and professional organisations.
In each case, no other comparable and accessible source of the
information is available in combination with other items in the
Census. Consideration was given to the public acceptability of
topics and to whether or not questions could be asked in a way
that would elicit reliable answers. The cost of processing the
answers to questions was assessed in relation to the usefulness
of the results. Finally, the overall length and layout of the
Census form was considered so that the burden on the public was
kept to an acceptable level within the overall objective of achieving
optimum value from the Census.
15. The topics were designed to be mutually supporting;
that is, each one should provide information that will make others
more useful. This is a particularly valuable aspect of a Census,
where information on a range of topics is collected simultaneously
for the whole population to form a single source from which important
inter-relationships between two or more topics can be analysed.
Answers from the individual people forming households and families
will thus be able to be combined to provide information on the
number and characteristics of households and families of different
types, such as, for example, the number of single parent families
where the parent is employed and the children are under school
16. A copy of the England household form is attached
at Annex A. 
17. The physical conduct of the Census is a huge logistical
operation with a field staff in England and Wales of some 69,000
and a target audience of every household in the country, Each
enumerator was responsible for the delivery of a Census form to
each household in their district. To help them achieve this, they
were equipped not just with a map, but also an address list detailing
every known address. They were trained to make contact with as
many households as possible (for it is known that this helps people
understand the purpose of the Census and thus the response rates),
but also to note new addresses that might not be on the address
book in their records. In Wales they were trained to offer each
and every household a form in Welsh and a form in English and
the option of completing either.
18. Communal establishments such as hospitals, prisons
and residences for the elderly were treated differently and each
person was required to complete an individual form. There were
no exceptions and special arrangements were made, for example
to enumerate the Armed Forces.
19. Approximately 30 million Census forms were delivered
either by this method or by posting them out to those households
who had inadvertently been missed. Once completed in respect of
29 April 2001, the forms were returned via the Royal Mail to the
2000 Census District Managers who were required to log returns
and arrange for personal visits to those who had not completed
their Census form or who were having difficulty in so doing. The
returned forms were collected from each of the Census District
Managers and transported to the central processing centre in Widnes,
where they will be processed over the forthcoming 10 months in
the custom built environment using scanning, recognition and auto
coding technology. The Widnes site is staffed by 1,200 people
specifically trained for the purpose.
20. Following the Census, a Census Coverage Survey took
place. This survey was designed to measure how the Census did
in counting households and people by interviewing a cross section
of the population and carefully matching the results from both
the survey and the Census. In England and Wales the survey covered
approximately 300,000 households in 20,000 postcodes selected
to form a representative sample. By using the Census and Census
Coverage survey in combination it will be possible by August 2002
to provide a full and complete count of the population.
21. This approach, often referred to as the "One
Number Census" methodology is designed to estimate for missing
items of data, and to allow for missing people. The methodological
development was undertaken by a joint ONS-academic team. Professor
Ian Diamond of Southampton University, a world expert in this
field, was in charge of the academic input. The work was overseen
by an expert steering committee, and the system was examined in
detail both by ONS's specialist methodologists and by independent
academic experts. The quality-assurance process for this methodology
included a detailed presentation to the Royal Statistical Society.
22. The final stage of the production of outputs includes
quality assurance of the figures against other information, including
demographic analysis and statistics derived from administrative
data such as child benefit or pension records.
23. The Census timetable is attached at Annex B.
24. The Census collects information from each person
and household in the country. But it is not concerned with facts
about individuals as such. Its purpose is to provide facts
about the community, and groups within the community, as a whole.
The public has a right to expect that information provided in
confidence will be respected.
25. Precautions will be taken so that published tabulations
and abstracts of statistical data do not reveal any information
about identifiable individuals or households. Special precautions
may apply, particularly to statistical output for small areas.
26. Independent reviews of security and statistical confidentiality
were carried out and the recommendations of these reviews were
acted upon. A report on these reviews was laid before Parliament
in advance of the start of Census operations.
27. The Census is a devolved matter, and separate Censuses
are held in Scotland, where the General Register Office Scotland
(GROS) is responsible, and in Northern Ireland, where the Northern
Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) runs the operation.
The ONS is the responsible department in England and Wales. In
Wales, both as part of the normal process of consultation, and
in the context of the debate over the lack of a "Welsh"
tickbox in answer to the ethnicity question, ONS worked closely
with both the Wales \Office and the National Assembly for Wales.
In the run-up to the Census, over a period of years, ONS consulted
with Welsh user groups and the Welsh Language Board.
28. At the UK level, the objective was to adopt common
approaches wherever appropriate but recognising the different
circumstances and requirements in each country. ONS, GROS and
NISRA worked together to ensure that differences in logistics
and form content were as few as possible, consistent with the
views of the different Administrations. Senior management from
the three Census offices and the Welsh Office (since devolution
of the National Assembly for Wales) came together to oversee the
planning process on the UK Census Committee. The three Census
offices also are represented on the Census Programme Board, responsible
for the day-to-day management of the Census, and on other committees
reporting to that board.
29. Across England and Wales, 101 area managers were
recruited, and in Wales an overseeing senior manager was appointed.
These senior officials were expected to take responsibility for
running the Census, to oversee the recruitment and training of
the entire field force, and to deal with logistical problems at
area level. They also played a key role in the publicity campaign.
The recruitment process was designed to ensure the successful
candidates had the necessary skills, and the Census area managers
(CAMs) then were given two full weeks of training.
30. The training covered such topics as Census strategy
and philosophy; likely problems and issues; lessons to be learned
from the 1991 Census; team working; ethnic and disability issues;
and dealing with the media.
31. The first task of the CAMs was to recruit the district
managersThe next tier of the field staff and absolutely
key to the success of the Census. Then came the team leaders and
the enumerators, with the latter responsible for delivering the
Census form to householders, and for following up where necessary.
Training was cascaded down the organisation, with specially-shot
videos forming an important element in the training process.
32. The 69,000 field staff in England and Wales included
62,500 enumerators, compared with a field force of 115,000 in
1991. The reduction was made possible by the decision to use the
postal service for the return of the completed forms.
33. The primary legislation that provides for the taking
of a Census in Great Britain is the Census Act 1920; in Northern
Ireland the corresponding legislation is the Census Act (Northern
Ireland) 1969. Under the current terms of these Acts, Orders in
Council, which may prescribe:
the date on which the Census is to be taken;
the persons by whom and with respect to whom the
Census returns are to be made; and
the particulars to be stated in the returns,
are required to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.
34. The Schedule to the Census Act 1920 authorises the
inclusion, in the Censuses for Great Britain, of the following
matters in respect of which particulars may be required:
occupation, profession, trade or employment;
nationality, birthplace, race, language;
place of abode and character of dwelling;
condition as to marriage, relation to head of
family, issue born in marriage; and
any other matters with respect to which it is
desirable to obtain statistical information with a view to ascertaining
the social or civil condition of the population.
35. Under the terms of the Census Act 1920, the Register
General for Scotland is responsible for taking the Census in Scotland.
Following devolution it fell to the Scottish Parliament to approve
separate subordinate legislation relating to the specific arrangements
for the Census in Scotland.
36. The Registrar General for Northern Ireland is similarly
responsible for making arrangements for taking the Census in Northern
Ireland. Separate Northern Ireland subordinate legislation as
provided for in the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 was introduced
37. Under the terms of the Census Act 1920, the Registrar
General for England and Wales has responsibility for conducting
the Census in Wales. Authority for conducting the Census in Wales
was not, under the terms of the Order in Council made under the
Government in Wales Act 1998, to be devolved to the National Assembly
for Wales. Thus the same procedures applied for making an Order
in Council and Regulations jointly applicable to the Census in
both England and Wales, as in previous Censuses. The Registrar
General for England and Wales recognised, however, the importance
of gaining the support of the Welsh Assembly for the arrangements
for the 2001 Census in Wales and sought to ensure that the Welsh
Assembly was fully informed of all such arrangements.
38. Following approval of an Order in Council the Chancellor
of the Exchequer laid before Parliament Census Regulations which
made detailed provisions for the conduct of the Census. These
included specimens of the forms to be used.
39. The proposal to include a question on religion in
England and Wales in the 2001 Census required a change to the
primary legislation, since the Schedule to Census Act 1920 does
not, as currently worded, permit such a question to be asked.
Such an amendment was necessary before a question on religion
could be specified in the subsequent Order in Council for England
40. For a brief history of the Census Parliamentary process,
see Annex C.
41. Consultation on the Census started in 1995. Three
working groups were set up to consider the content of the Census
(questions to be asked), population definitions and output. The
first two were key to shaping the Census proposals, upon which
more formal consultation was carried out with ONS's established
Census Advisory Groups. There are five advisory groups in England
and Wales, with one for each customer sectorcentral government,
local government, health sector, academics, and business sectorand
one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.
42. In addition, the Census offices welcomed views and
submissions form any source, with or without invitation, and information
papers were issued regularly.
43. Proposals for the Census process were tested extensively,
with more than 40 small-scale question tests. There was also major
test in 1997 to evaluate new collection and processing methods
including post back of the Census forms, as well as alternative
styles of Census form, and to test public reaction to some new
and revised questionsnotably a question on income. As a
result several of the procedures were revised substantially, and
at a later date the income question was dropped.
44. In 1999 there was a Census rehearsal to test the
delivery and collection procedures (including post back), the
public acceptability of the form, the follow-up coverage survey,
and the systems for processing the data. The rehearsal covered
nearly 150,000 households throughout the UK, in areas chosen to
include a cross-section of population and housing types.
45. As a result several of the procedures were revised
substantially, and at a later date the income question was dropped.
In addition, neither the test nor the rehearsal raised any significant
issues in Wales, other than the need to issue a separate Welsh
language form to all households. Following debate in Parliament
the religion question, unlike all the other questions, was not
46. As part of the drive to improve the cost-effectiveness
of the Census operation, options for outsourcing were considered.
A study in 1994 defined a strategy and made detailed recommendations.
The costs and risks were then analysed by the Census Offices.
The recommendation that the contracting out of the administration
of the payroll was viable was accepted and tested in 1997. Following
the successful trial a contractor was appointed to operate the
payroll for the 1999 Census rehearsal and the 2001 Census itself.
The 1997 test also enabled the concept of using automatic data
capture and coding technology to be trialled. This involved scanning
and image recognition techniques as well as automatic and computer-assisted
coding of write-in responses. The test proved the techniques to
be viable and contracts (which included the printing of forms)
for the rehearsal and Census were awarded following an open options
procurement process in December 1998. Other areas contracted to
the private sector include the printing of other Census supplies,
the delivery and secure collecting of all Census materials to
field staff, the operation of the public helpline and publicity.
47. The advantages of contracting out as well as delivering
efficiency gains, were seen to be a reduced need to divert ONS
management resources into the logistical task of setting up, maintaining
and running down a facility designed for a one-off task. It also
enabled ONS to access technology and other expertise outside ONS's
own core expertise. A detailed evaluation of all aspects of the
Census operation is being carried out. Inevitably, some of the
contracts have given rise to more issues than others. Aspects
of the Census operation have proved a challenge to the contractors
concerned and to ONS staff with responsibility for the Census.
Legitimate concerns have been raised about the payroll and helpline
which need to be evaluated. At the time of writing, Census processing
is taking longer than originally scheduled, although the Census
Offices, with the contractors, are invoking contingency options
in order to meet the deadlines for output delivery within the
overall Census budget.
48. All in all, in terms of innovation, this year marks
a watershed for Censuses in the UK. As well as contracting out,
the 2001 Census has also seen the first use of the post for the
return of the forms, and the extensive use of tickbox answers
which has made it possible to increase the number of questions
without increasing the load on householders completing the Census
49. The cost of the 1991 Census in England and Wales
was £117 million. To compare properly with the 2001 operation
it is necessary to allow for a 10 per cent increase in the number
of households and for the increased difficulty in contacting households.
Additional tasks recommended by the National Audit Office to improve
the planning of the Census and the requirement to code 100 per
cent of responses to all questions (in 1991 only 10 per cent of
a number of questions were processed) also added to the cost.
After further allowing for inflation over the period, the business
case for the Census estimated that on a like for like and consistent
pricing basis the cost of the 1991 Census would have been £263
million against £207 million for the 2001 Census, an overall
efficiency gain of 25 per cent.
50. It is presently estimated that the response rate
will reach 98 per cent of households; with around 88 per cent
of the estimated number of households returning forms by post,
a further 7 per cent being collected by hand by the enumerators
and of the remainder, possibly 3 per cent, being vacant dwellings
and second homes. While we will not know the precise response
rate for individuals until all the forms are processed, we expect
it to be as good, if not better, than achieved in 1991 (when the
response rate for individuals was 97.8 per cent).
51. With such a response rate in exceptionally difficult
circumstances (such as the foot and mouth outbreak) the Registrar
General is satisfied that overall the 2001 Census will be shown
to be a success.
52. The Registrar General will consider taking action
to prosecute for non-compliance in those cases which have been
reported to him and where there is evidence of a clear refusal
to complete and return a Census form. So far 86 cases have been
referred to the Solicitors' Office, but, for a variety of reasons,
not all of these will go to Court. A number of cases are now reaching
the Courts resulting in some prosecutions.
53. Although voluntary, the Census Coverage Survey scored
a response rate of over 90 per cent, which augurs well for the
accuracy and completeness of the "One Number Census"
54. Only when the Census and the Coverage Survey have
been completely analysed will ONS have the final and definitive
picture of how successful the Census has been. The size of the
Coverage Survey is sufficient to generate coverage adjustments
for each local authority, and will make possible the creation
of a complete dataset for analysis of individual communities at
a small-area level. This will be a marked improvement on 1991.
Foot and mouth disease
55. The foot and mouth epidemic proved an unexpected
complication in conducting both the Census and the coverage survey.
However, special arrangements were invoked following discussions
with MAFF and the Welsh authorities, as well as the farming unions.
The Census was already using post back and therefore enumerators
would not need to visit premises as often as previously, thus
the procedures were more straightforward to adapt.
56. A co-ordination unit and dedicated database were
established, and intelligence exchanged regularly with the National
Farmers Union. This enabled up-to-date information to be supplied
to the field staff, the Census helpline and the National Statistics
website. In affected areas, Census forms were delivered by mail
and to make this possible additional material (20 different items)
was printed and distributed at short notice.
57. Enumerators in rural areas were given special training
to enhance written instructions. All Census staff were ordered
to comply with all signs forbidding or restricting access, not
to stray from paths or metalled roads, to comply with disinfecting
arrangements, and if in doubt to post out forms. In addition,
an incident database was established to facilitate speedy resolution
of problems. In the event, the Census passed off without serious
incident, and evidence to date suggests data quality will not
suffer in the countryside.
58. The Census helpline was contracted out to the private
sector. Neither ONS nor the contractor envisaged the volume of
calls received, and the service initially was overwhelmed. Many
callers were frustrated at the length of time they were kept waiting,
their inability to get through to an operator and the number of
times they had to call before getting satisfaction. ONS responded
by opening hundreds of extra lines and arranging a separate service
for members of the public requesting forms. All in all, the number
of lines was increased from 350 to 1,300 within a matter of days.
Over the three-month period the helpline was operational, more
than 2.6 million callers accessed the automated interactive voice
response (IVR) system designed to provide answers to the most
commonly asked questions, and of these nearly 404,000 spoke to
an operator. In addition, more than 12,000 responses were made
to e-mails received from members of the public visiting the National
59. From the beginning, and throughout the planning and
operational phases, ONS staff worked closely with the contractors
to ensure that the helpline was responsive to public needs. A
specially developed database, maintained by Census staff, was
used as a central repository for a range of operational information
and briefing material. Information on the database ranged from
guidance on completing each of the questions on the Census form
to detailed material on the development and testing of selected
questionsincluding those on ethnicity and religion.
60. During the Census, senior staff held daily briefing
meetings to identify issues of current concern, based on an analysis
of calls to the helpline, media coverage, and feedback from Census
staff dealing with press and public. In this way, it was possible
to update the briefing material available to helpline operators
so as to meet changing requirements, and to deal with issues of
special concern. Particular account was taken of the daily report
of the questions most frequently asked by callers to the helpline.
For example, at different times additional material was prepared
on the foot and mouth epidemic, the recording of second homes
or holiday accommodation, the campaign for Braille Census forms,
and non-compliance procedures.
61. New material was transmitted and disseminated as
widely as possible using the IVR system, the helpline operators
and the National Statistics website. In addition, the material
was fed to BBC Local Radio stations across the country, for use
in daily Census slots in their programming.
62. From July 2000 onwards a campaign was mounted in
Wales calling for a Welsh tick box within the ethnicity question
on the Census form.
63. ONS undertook the extensive consultation in advance
of the publication of the White Paper setting out the plans for
the 2001 Census, and the 1999 Census Rehearsal included parts
of Wales to test not just the questions, but also the procedures
and particularly the Welsh and England language issues. The plans
included various measures designed to ensure that there was a
"Welsh Census" in Wales. These included the appointment
of a Welsh-speaking Census manager, the delivery to every household
of forms in both Welsh and English, an improved question about
the Welsh language, a country-of-birth question with a "Wales"
tickbox option, and a dedicated advertising campaign in Wales.
64. By the time the Welsh "tick box" issue
was first raised, the content of the Census forms had been debated
and passed through the appropriate Parliamentary procedures and
the logistical exercise of printing Census forms had already begun.
There followed a sustained campaign by individuals and organisations
in Walesnotably the Western Mail newspaper and the Independent
Wales partywith continuing and often vociferous criticism
65. Within the constraints upon him, the Registrar General
sought to respond positively and introduced a package of measures
to improve information about Welsh identity and promote the option
for those in Wales who wished to record themselves as Welsh to
use the "write in" option available on the form. In
addition, the Registrar General held meetings in north, mid and
south Wales and made several other bridge-building visits to encourage
the people of Wales to complete the Census form.
66. In the event, the tickbox campaign does not appear
to have had any significant impact on the response rate, or on
the quality of the responses in Wales. Throughout the enumeration,
Wales provided some of the best-responding areas.
67. The previous Economic Secretary to the Treasury,
Melanie Johnson, agreed that, in the light of the strength of
feeling expressed in Wales on the matter of recording Welsh identity
in the Census, the National Assembly for Wales should have a more
formal role in agreeing future Census forms in Wales. ONS and
Assembly officials are currently discussing how this might best
Enumeration in hard to count areas
68. There were small pockets where particular difficulties
were encountered and where, consequently, lower response rates
have been achieved. But ONS was always aware that Census-taking
would be tough in parts of inner-London, for example, and planned
69. In an effort to improve the enumeration in these
hard to count areas, field-staff workloads generally were half
the size of those in less-difficult parts of the country. The
assumed postal response in London was 60 per cent, with a ten-day
follow-up period to chase the remainder. In the event, the postal
response was 80 per cent, and enumerators had to chase only 20
per cent of London households. Logistical difficulties, including
the retrieval and analysis of forms posted back, were, however,
in many areas more severe than anticipated and enumerator contracts
were extended to ensure the count would be as full and complete
70. ONS also was grateful for assistance given by a number
of London boroughs, and by voluntary and community organisations
across the capital. This was an important strand in efforts to
improve response, and undoubtedly has helped in reducing the differential
undercoverage across different population groups that had occurred
71. There also is evidence to suggest that the inclusive
nature of the Census publicity campaign, with its "Count
me in!" slogan and events aimed at hard-to-count groupsfor
example members of the ethnic minoritieswas successful
in convincing these groups that they should complete a form.
Blind and partially-sighted people
72. There had been extensive and prolonged consultation
with the Royal National Institute for the Blind about the availability
of explanatory material in Braille and audio-tape form. ONS was
grateful for the support given by the RNIB in helping to prepare
these materials. Subsequently, however, RNIB did not consider
that the steps taken were sufficient and mounted a campaign in
the weeks immediately before the Census for a Braille Census form
and other ways for responses to be provided independently by blind
and partially sighted people. ONS sought to respond in a positive
way within the constraints of the systems that were by then already
in place by arranging for blind and partially sighted people to
complete forms by e-mail and on the telephone. More should be
done for the next Census and ONS will start planning for this
before the next questionnaire is developed.
Payment of Field Staff
73. Although the overwhelming majority of field staff
were paid on time, a significant number were not. This was due
to problems with procedures during the intensive field operation
and in the period immediately after the Census. Among the issues
encountered were poorly completed forms, failure to complete or
submit claim forms on time, and errors in the scanning and payment
process. In general it has to be said that the procedures for
handling the payment of field staff were inadequate. ONS accepts
that it did not live up to its own standards for the payment of
staff who had worked so hard to make the Census a success. Particular
attention must be paid to this aspect in any future Census.
74. Once the scale of the problem became apparent, ONS
put in place contingency measures to ensure staff were paid as
quickly as possible. A dedicated call-line team was created to
handle incoming pay queries; expert advice was taken in refining
and improving workflow procedures; internal technological expertise
was harnessed; and additional staff were trained to handle the
75. Field staff were advised of the position through
letters from the Registrar General.
76. There was some media coverage suggesting that enumerators
were only seeking answers to three or four basic questions on
the Census form. This was incorrect. Full information was required
from every member of each household, but as a fallback position
enumerators were instructed to obtain the basic details rather
than obtaining nothing at all. In practice, in dealing with some
respondents, this meant obtaining the answers to the three key
demographic questions, sometimes by observation.
77. Unplanned issues emerged during the Census that had
to be addressed in real time and had a substantial effect on the
budget profile. In particular, there was the impact of the Welsh
tick box, foot and mouth disease, the initial inadequacy of the
helpline, and the additional work requiredparticularly
in Londonas a result of logistical difficulties in the
retrieval and analysis of forms posted back. ONS remains confident,
however, that the overall cost of the Census will be within the
original £207 million budget allocated.
78. Census is protected under the 1991 Census Confidentiality
Act and the Census (Confidentiality) (Northern Ireland) Order
1991 and is taken very seriously by the Census Office.
79. The physical security of the Census forms, from their
completion through to their destruction, was independently reviewed
by a specialist security consultant. His recommendations were
fully implemented. Statistical confidentiality and the protection
of individual information is assured through the disclosure control
programme which itself was independently reviewed by a statistical
expert form Statistics Canada. Again, his recommendations were
80. In addition, field staff were required to comply
with the requirements of Census legislation, and there was a comprehensive
81. Despite these measures, a serious breach of confidentiality
occurred when around 190 completed and partially completed forms
relating to some 60 households were among material found by a
member of the public in a waste sack outside an East London community
centre used by field staff. The Registrar General has issued a
public apology, written to all those whose forms were involved,
and set up an independent investigation.
82. The effort and expense of taking a Census are worthwhile
only when the results meet needs, and are delivered effectively.
With this in mind, data users have been consulted over a period
of years, and a number of innovations will be made to the output-production
process to improve the products and services available.
83. A major innovation is that national and local data
will be released concurrently. Another is that virtually all the
products will be electronic, with easy-to-use products available
free-of-charge at the point of access, and extensive metadata
readily available to help users make effective use of the results.
There will be a set of standard productsa pre-defined set
of tables of Census counts for all levels of Census geographycoupled
with a fast and inexpensive service to respond to the needs of
84. An extensive consultation process continues with
users to tailor the various products and services.
85. The publication schedule is as follows:
August 2002: Mid-year population estimates for 2001 based
on the results of the Census. These will provide data broken down
by age and sex for each local authority area. The only difference
between these numbers and the Census figures will be demographic
change between 29 April 2001 and 30 June 2001.
Early December 2002: Key statistics for areas throughout
England and Wales, with all data made available on the National
Statistics website. These summary statistics will include the
key counts and denominators as well as such indicators as the
percentage unemployed in an area and the percentage of the population
with long-term illness. Similar products will be produced in Scotland
and Northern Ireland.
First half of 2003: Main national and local results delivered,
again via the web and other electronic media, and to DTLR for
local authority standard spending assessment (SSA) purposes.
86. Systematic and continuous review has formed a fundamental
part of the Census programme. Each stage of the process of planning
and implementation has been subject to rigorous analysis and evaluation,
and the post-Census day phase of this evaluation is already underway.
87. The intention is to produce a General Report evaluating
the Census, as was done for the 1991 Census. However, the individual
chapters will be published on the National Statistics website
as they become available. In due course, the complete report,
including an overview of the various components, will be published
in hard-copy form.
88. In addition to the General Report, ONS will publish
a detailed Quality Report which will bring together all available
information on data quality. Both reports are scheduled for completion
by June 2003.
89. Together with other review materialsome of
it already in the public domainthe General Report is intended
to cover every aspect of the 2001 Census. These other documents
1997 Census Test: evaluation summary report;
1999 Census Rehearsal: evaluation overview;
Census Quality Survey (1999) report;
Security and confidentiality reviews: summary
as laid before Parliament;
White Paper: The 2001 Census of Population; and
Census Information Papers.
90. As was noted earlier, the 2001 Census marked a watershed
and, in planning for the future, a primary requirement is to build
on progress made. For example, the community liaison programme
and the publicity campaign were undoubted successes, but there
are serious lessons to be learned from events surrounding the
helpline, the payroll and the Census in Wales. We believe our
field management processes can be simplified through more extensive
use of available technology. In this and other areas, the Census
will be reshaped considerably by advances in technology.
91. The use of the internet to file Census returns is
only one issue that will require serious consideration.
92. As recommended in the report of the Social Exclusion
Unit's Policy Action Team on Better Information published last
year, ONS is currently taking forward an evaluation of the case
for conducting a Census in England and Wales in 2006. This will
be published in January 2002 and will provide a basis for further
discussion on the way forward.
21 September 2001
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