Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2001
60. There is a case for arguing that one has
a right to be counted and if so under the Disability Discrimination
Act there is possibly a case for saying that you have to provide
the form in a way which is easy for the recipient to fill out.
Do you want to comment on that?
(Mr Cook) We would want to do that. We talked earlier
about the bilingual Census form for Wales and I should like to
think that we had a bilingual form in Wales not only because it
was a legal obligation but because the organisation itself was
alert to the importance of being able to communicate to the communities
in Britain in the way they want to be communicated with.
61. What other special needs did you seek to
accommodate in the design of the Census form and in the conduct
of the Census itself? Were there other aspects which you tried
(Mr Pullinger) We have covered quite a lot in the
discussions we have had to date. A lot of the special needs are
around simply finding different groups of people and recognising
that in a sense each person is an individual. You have to target
your response on them. The special needs of the group called "babies",
which I mentioned in passing; an important group to get but you
tackle it in a very different way. We tackled that by giving every
baby born on Census day a sleep suit which raised the profile
of it and hopefully encouraged more people to include their babies
on their Census form. A very, very large number of those kinds
of initiatives were targeted at particular groups and particular
areas. We would always try to find out where there are people
who were going to have particular issues; questions around blind
and partially sighted people and also deaf people. We had long
consultations with the RNID about how we could ensure that those
people got to be counted properly, different religious and ethnic
groups with different needs and requirements.
(Mr Cook) For women's refuges, we seek to be as sensitive
as we can in how they are enumerated. The ONS sought guidance
from the Home Office on those areas where additional language
support would be required. We got lists of asylum seekers from
the Home Office of where people were so that we could send people
to those places who have the capacity to communicate. In all sorts
of groups where we are able to build up knowledge in advance,
either about exactly where they are or ensure that we are aware
that when we have recognised them we ought to have some sensitivity
and we seek to have a process for doing that. That has been a
real success of the Census. Whether it is legal obligations or
just greater awareness by the bureaucracy itself we should become
better at it.
62. Do you feel that you managed to reach the
great majority of homeless people, people with no fixed abode?
(Mr Cook) We put a huge amount of effort into doing
that. In London the actual size of the areas which enumerators
were working to was half the size of those in the rest of the
country. We had special enumerators who had a particular interest
in that. In addition we had a lot of support from the local authorities
in London. Many of them helped us out with enumerators. Quite
a number of them actually had staff in their planning offices
who supported the local Census managers in how they operated.
I visited Brent where a huge amount of support was provided by
the local authority to our Census manager.
63. Overall what ultimate response rate were
you hoping for?
(Mr Cook) We estimate that 98 per cent of the forms
we sent out, which would have gone to households where people
were eligible within the population, have been sent to us. The
Census coverage survey will allow us to make that a more exact
figure. About 95 per cent of the forms which we sent out in total
have come back to us from completed households. Of the rest what
we know from past Censuses, particularly the last Census, is roughly
the proportion of households in effect not eligible, not on the
Census because they are empty or for other reasons.
64. You are aiming to get to the 1991 response
rate for an overall response rate.
(Mr Cook) We want a response rate in aggregate of
around 98 per cent, that sort of order of magnitude. For several
reasons. One is that a response rate of that amount will be much
less in some groups such as young men, teenage males for example.
We are seeking both to have an aggregate response rate, which
is around that order of magnitude but the other thing we need
to do is to not have a particularly large difference in the response
rates across the different population groups.
65. Across population groups, but what about
across geographic groups? Are you anticipating that the response
rate will fall well short of that in some hard-to-collect areas
like inner city areas?
(Mr Cook) We expect that to be the case. One of the
benefits of the Census coverage survey is that it does give us
the ability to get a very strong measure, a very good measure,
an independent measure of that differential response rate. We
have been able to do that by having such a comprehensive Census
coverage survey this time.
66. Do you have a return rate which you are
aiming for within the inner city areas? It clearly is not 98 per
cent there. Are you trying to get to something?
(Mr Cook) We do not have a target but we have worked
very hard to achieve that overall target. One of the things we
recognised was that it was more difficult to get to that target
in London so we halved the areas people had to work in. People
actually had smaller loads so they could put more time into areas.
A lot of our support activities have been in the more difficult
to enumerate areas. Our most significant compensation has been
in anticipating that as a problem and putting more resource in
to even it out.
67. So you have an overall target but no geographic
(Mr Cook) Where we have thought we were falling significantly
short of that we have reacted. We have found no significant areas
where the things we have done were wrongly targeted in order to
compensate for that prior expectation of where that shortfall
68. I think that is a no, is it not?
(Mr Cook) Yes.
69. I still feel astonished that it should take
so long to get these numbers out. I just wonder whether some of
the information you are going to want to be providing to people
is not going to be redundant by the time you have got it out.
Are you not getting a lot of pressure for some sort of guidance,
from parts of local government for example, for early indications
of the numbers.
(Mr Cook) The office is getting pressure from its
own head. We really do want to get the information out earlier.
We are set on a processing path which was agreed on with users
in terms of the resource base we have and that is what is being
(Mr Pullinger) A significant driver for our timetable
was the resource allocation round for local government and that
is one of the primary uses. One of the primary uses of the information
is to feed into the local authority resource round and that gives
us a requirement to produce information in August of each year.
In a sense we had the task of producing results either for August
2001 or for August 2002. If we had gone for August 2001, we would
have been able to do an Indian style adding-it-up job and the
technology we have would have certainly allowed for that. We would
in no way have been able to do the adjustment process, which all
users came back to us last time and said they really wanted, so
we could take account of these differences and give users confidence
they were getting information which was comparable between areas.
Clearly for resource allocation that is the critical thing. We
were allowing for any differential coverage in inner London as
opposed to some of the county areas. We were never going to make
August 2001, so we targeted August 2002, essentially to get the
best deal in cost terms by spreading it out. You only need to
employ so many people for a longer period of time, only to buy
so much equipment and it works out cheaper to be able to spread
that out over the period. We targeted our budget to meet that
timetable. We could have done things faster but that would have
cost more and the user demand was to hit this August deadline
which is what we are now doing.
70. Give me a feel for how much more. We have
spent £254 million. Is it going to be £264 million,
(Mr Pullinger) Our total processing costs are in the
region of £50 to £60 million. If we had condensed the
amount of effort we were putting into it, if we had halved it,
I guess we could be talking about 25 per cent on top of that.
71. Twenty-five per cent of £50 million.
(Mr Pullinger) Yes, of £50 million.
72. So up to £65 or £70 million.
(Mr Pullinger) Yes. That is an estimate I am making
off the top of my head based on the overall numbers. The fact
of the matter is that we were not in that position. We had to
budget to run the Census. We had some timings and we planned the
whole strategy around the budget we had and the timings we were
73. It would be very interesting to see something
in a note from you on that trade-off. That seems to be quite crucial.
If the taxpayer is going to spend £¼ billion on a census,
somewhere or other as a whole economy benefit we want more than
£¼ billion back in some form or other. It is not your
job directly to find where those benefits are being delivered.
It is only something you look at indirectly. You look at it indirectly
when you say you are refusing to add questions to the Census if
you think the information might be available elsewhere. In a sense
that is an on/off switch somewhere in between: yes, there is some
value to this question but is there enough value. What we really
need to do in order to assess the Census is to have some kind
of estimate of what the whole economy return is on the Census.
It is perhaps too difficult a question to answer orally, but could
you give us some indication in writing of where you think that
return comes? My guess is that it comes in the very area we have
just been discussing: the needs assessment area and the value
of the information, identifying serious need, deprivation, targeting
particular problems in certain areas, which you can get from the
Census but you cannot get with polling. In which case, it would
be very valuable to have some idea how much benefit you are getting
and whether you are getting £¼ billion from it.
(Mr Pullinger) If there were a reliable model people
could accept for doing that, that would be a wonderful thing to
have because it would help with the decisions we are faced with
on a day by day basis.
74. You could then become world market leaders
(Mr Pullinger) Absolutely; that would be great and
I am sure we could market the methodology.
(Mr Cook) We could give you a couple of pages on an
analysis of the impact on health, the ability to understand differential
take-up rates or differential needs, the impact of an ageing population,
the impact on the next 20 years of the significant shift in the
ageing of the British population, the ageing of the British work
force. These are all pieces of information which we would not
actually have in sufficient detail to have thoughtful policy responses
75. And knowing the savings we have as a result
of being able to make those policy responses, which would not
be available from polling evidence, is what is required in order
to justify another Census.
(Mr Cook) We could provide you with an overview of
the major public policy areas.
76. I just added a bit which you did not seem
quite so keen to address.
(Mr Cook) We are happy to do that.
77. What were the criteria used to decide whether
to prosecute for not completing a form?
(Mr Cook) Several criteria. The first one was demonstrable
evidence that someone had in fact broken the law. The second criterion
is the ability to mount a prosecution. The third is a broader
judgement of the basis of such a prosecution in terms of the commonsense
nature of it, which is a more difficult judgement. Basically that
is what decides whether we carry out a prosecution.
78. If broadly two per cent of the forms are
not sent back, how many forms is that roughly?
(Mr Pullinger) Two per cent of forms would be two
per cent of 30 million which is going to be 600,000.
79. You have told us that 86 cases have been
referred to the Solicitor's Office. Is that right?
(Mr Pullinger) Yes, it is. Those numbers are both
correct. We know we have no response from people but it is often
very, very difficult to get the first criterion Mr Cook mentioned
which is demonstrable evidence that someone has actually failed
to comply. The evidence the court will require is an interview
under caution with someone who has actively refused to complete
the form. We have had far more difficulties on this occasion in
making contact with people, partly for the reasons I gave, but
partly also because with the post-back systems we were relying
on only one contact rather than two, so the opportunity to get
that evidence was reduced.