Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-59)|
21 FEBRUARY 2007
Q40 Jim Cousins: What resources are
you going to put into this integrated household survey, the rolling
survey, which can, to some degree, adjust and compensate for whatever
deficiencies there might be in the census itself?
Ms Dunnell: At the moment, we
have four continuous household surveys, which are largely financed
by ONS but also subscribed to by other government departments,
and I think they cost a total of something like £20 million.
Basically we are rolling them altogether into one sample and then
the core part of the questionnaire is very similar to a census
questionnaire. At the moment, that is all there, but we cannot
add them together because they all have different kinds of samples.
That will bring enormous benefits of estimation, at local authority
level anyway, in between censuses. That is the purpose of that,
but it is actually using money that we already spend on those
Q41 Jim Cousins: There are no new
resources going into that?
Ms Dunnell: No, there is no new
Q42 Jim Cousins: And you are not
bidding for new resources.
Ms Dunnell: Not for that, no.
Jim Cousins: Thank you.
Q43 Mr Gauke: You have nine key mission
critical aims for the 2011 census. How will you measure whether
those have been successfully achieved?
Ms Dunnell: The most important
thing, as we have just been talking about, is getting the population
estimates right. Jil, would you like to comment on this?
Ms Matheson: It was interesting
to hear Professor Rhind's comment on this. We absolutely agree
with him. The ultimate measure of success will be the accuracy
with which we can estimate the population in 2011 and we have
talked about some of the challenges to do that. That is the key
test and that is what is driving our strategy and our design for
2011. In 2001 we had set out what we expected to be the level
of accuracy to which we measured the 2001 population. At a national
level, we did very well. The problem was that there were some
pockets of local authoritiesand we have heard that Derby
was one of themwhere, for various reasons (the enumeration
problems, the address register problems, the management information
and the way we handled it), the estimates at that level were a
lot worse than in other parts of the country. As well as setting
the target of the national level estimate, we are also setting
the target of achieving the minimum level of acceptability in
every areawhich we achieved in something like 93% of areas
Q44 Mr Gauke: I can see how that
applies with issues such as population size, but how do you measure
whether you can ensure that key minority groups have been well
defined? What is the measurement for that?
Ms Matheson: There are several
ways of doing that. Part of that is in the census results themselves.
In order that you get the kind of level of accuracy and the population
estimate that I am describing, that means by definition you have
to have made it a census for everybody, including all the different
groups, some of whom were harder to count in 2001. The strategy,
again, is about understanding who are the users and what is the
population we are trying to measure. We have a whole programme
in place of engagement with community groups, with representatives
of different groups, both to understand their needs as census
users and also how they can help us achieve the highest levels
for participation from every group.
Q45 Mr Gauke: We have touched upon
some of the problems that the last census had. Do you think some
of the publicity about that has in any way damaged the overall
reputation of government and official statistics?
Ms Dunnell: Yes, I think in part
it has. I think that is why I agree with David Rhind that one
of the most important things we will have to do in the next census
is sell the benefits of it to everybody in the UK in order to
get the highest response possible. I am very hopeful of course
that we have a whole programme of work aimed at improving trust
in government statistics, through independence and all the other
things that are going on. The census will be very much a focus
Q46 Mr Gauke: One area that got a
lot of publicity last time around, not surprisingly, was the issue
of religion, and particularly the Jedi religion. As things are
moving, Internet campaigns, email campaigns, as we have been seeing
this week, are increasing all the time. What preparations are
you making as a consequence of the Jedi point to ensure this is
going to be addressed next time around?
Ms Dunnell: Of course these are
things which come at you at the very last minute for which it
is very difficult to have strategies. We had that one last time
and we had the Welsh tick-box one last time, and we are now, as
Jil said, engaging with absolutely everybody who is in touch with
us about wanting some kind of representation on the census and
there are very large numbers of them. Taking them all as seriously
as one possibly can at the time and trying either to include whatever
it is in the census and that becomes increasingly impossible of
course as the form gets more and more complex, but engaging with
people in advance I think is very, very important.
Mr Gauke: May the force be with you!
Q47 Ms Keeble: How satisfied are
you with the preparation for the test in May? In particular, you
said people would have confidence in what was happening, but what
you have you actively done to make sure it does work and that
it deals with the kind of problems that have arisen in previous
Ms Dunnell: We are carrying out
the test in May in five areas. In fact the plans for this are
going very well and in some censuses we are ahead of time. Could
I ask my colleague Ian to tell you a little bit more about the
Mr Cope: The test is in five local
authorities that are spread across the country and designed and
chosen to be representative of the country as whole. We started
our procurement process very much earlier than last time. We started
it in September 2005, so we have already selected two companies
that are working with u s in the test for the data capture. All
the questionnaires for the test are printed and all addressed
and they are in a secure warehouse waiting to be dispatched. We
have a recruitment agency that are doing the recruitment training
and pay for the test for us, Hayes. That is an innovation we are
testing through the test. We did an address check exercise in
September and October last year. For 100,000 households, we had
people walking around the doors to make sure we had the addresses
correct. Hayes recruited those people. They have recruited our
team leaders and they started the training for that last week.
They will be recruiting the enumerators. We have been working
with the five local authorities, the Camden, Stoke, Liverpool,
Bath and North East Somerset, and Carmarthenshire representatives,
and they have been giving us helpful information about their local
areas, what are the local community groups, where are the difficult
areas where we might need to send staff out in pairs and those
kinds of things. They are also going to provide some support around
communication and publicity because we can never replicate the
kind of communication messages that take place at the time of
the census in a small localised area. There are lots and lots
of innovations. The key purposes of the test are to test a couple
of new changes that we wanted to introduce. One is posting out
of the forms and the other is an income question. We are dividing
those test households into four areas. Half of them will get an
income question and half will not. Likewise, half will have their
forms posted out to them and half will have a traditional hand
delivery. There is lots and lots of work and I think on some aspects
we are ahead of schedule.
Q48 Ms Keeble: I was leader of the
council Brooks was describing at the time of the 1991 census.
Even if people go out in pairs, I remember the discussions with
ONS because, however many who went out, they could not find anyone,
and that was for a whole variety of reasons. Partly because of
the points Jim Cousins was mentioning, because local government
spending and other allocations rely on it, there is a real issue
about making sure you can find people. What you have set out is
very thorough in terms of the methodology but it is not going
to find the people, necessarily, particularly if, as often happens
in inner cities, they do not want to be found. How are you going
to crack that problem? Have you looked at issues around data sharing?
Because of course local authorities have lists of council tenants
which would at least help a bit. What are you going to be doing
about the communities you particularly know are going to be undercounted,
which is basically young, single men?
Ms Dunnell: You have raised many,
many points there which we are planning to overcome. One of the
benefits of post out, of course, may well be that it reaches people
who are never inapart from very early in the morning when
they come home from clubs or night work or whatever. That is one
of the points of testing that. With regard to the young men issue,
we are this time going to be using an internet approach and it
may well be that the internet is particularly attractive to some
of the groups who are hard to find in. For each one of the points
you make, we have some attempt to do that. The other point, of
course, is that at the end of the day, even if we do really well,
we will still get something like 5% of households who do not respondthat
is what happens each timeand then we have the estimation
procedure which we do after the census, which involves a very
large survey very soon after the census, so we get a very good
handle on who did and who did not respond and we use that to estimate
Q49 Ms Keeble: If you look at the
form, this will do fine in some areas but in the areas which are
hard to find, nobody is going to fill the form in. It is not because
they do not want to, it is because it is quite a difficult form
to fill in. People will have difficulty in doing it. I think I
would have difficulty in sitting down and ploughing my way through
this, I must be honest. One of the reasons why so many people
in Peckham, on the estates, could not be found is because a number
of them were involved in criminal activities. It is a fact that
one in four young men have a criminal record now of involvement
with the police. They are hardly going to log on to the Internet
to let you know where they are. I am not trying to be funny about
it but the scale of it is massive. There is a lot that relies
on being able to find where people are. Presumably you have agreements
now with local authorities about getting lists of council tenants,
so that you can just take all of that data over.
Ms Dunnell: We are working much
more closely with local authorities. Ian, you can say a bit more
Mr Cope: As I have said, we are
working with these five areas.
Q50 Ms Keeble: I am sorry, but I
know people are pressed for time. It is not about getting the
addresses; it is about getting the names of the people living
Mr Cope: We are working with these
test areas in trying to get the authorities to share information
with us. We have found that different authorities have different
attitudes on whether the law allows them to share with us. Some
of them have given us a lot of information.
Q51 Ms Keeble: That needs to be sorted
out, does it not?
Mr Cope: Yes. We are working with
the Local Government Association, which represents most local
authorities, to see whether they can take the lead and get some
consistency on this issue. Also, the new Statistics Bill will
probably help as well because it provides some data sharing access.
Ms Dunnell: We hope to investigate
whether or not we can do this. It is quite tricky though because
one of the basic principles of statistics is that you do not ever
identify individuals, so we have to be very careful about all
these kinds of things. As Ian has said, we are pursuing very methodically
with local authorities the potential for doing all kinds of quality
checks on what we get at the end of the day and we will be doing
that very much more thoroughly at local level than we did before.
Q52 Ms Keeble: How were these five
areas chosen? You have only one of the low response areas. I wondered
about the patchiness of them. I thought most of the mining in
Stoke-on-Trent had shut down now, but I could be wrong. I also
do not see any of the growth areas includedexcept possibly
Bath, but they have restrictions because of the countryside. There
are real issues about the way in which the census, and therefore
the spending that goes with it, deals with areas with an increasing
population and how you manage that process. Certainly, thinking
of Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire, my own area, and the whole
of the Thames Gateway, where you have a growing population it
poses whole different issues, and I wonder if you have given any
thought to that.
Ms Dunnell: Yes, we have taken
all kinds of things into account. Ian would you like to explain
how we chose the five.
Mr Cope: We chose the local authorities
to be representative of inner London, old industrial, prospering
Britain, coastal and rural, et cetera. Within that we were
looking for a mixture of population within those areas; so a mixture
of elderly, students and ethnic minority communities. That is
how we chose those five authorities. Liverpool, with the City
of Culture in 2008, is undergoing lots of regeneration. Liverpool
as a whole may not be growing but there are big changes on the
ground, so we are using the 2001 enumeration districts which had,
on average, 250 households, and one of those has only four households
left now and another one has 465. We are tackling and understanding
some of the difficulties of areas which are undergoing rapid change
which are not the Milton Keynes of this world at the moment.
Q53 Ms Keeble: Why did you not look
at a growth area? Regeneration of an inner city area is quite
different from a growth area where everyone is in work, everyone
owns their own home.
Mr Cope: That is something we
can take into account when we are choosing our areas for the rehearsal
Ms Keeble: Thank you.
Q54 Mr Todd: Could I pursue the relationship
with local authorities for a moment. The 2001 census outcome produced
a rather confrontational period with a number of local authorities,
in which ONS were robust initially in rejecting the arguments
of local authorities, however well-founded they were on the basis
of alternative evidence of population, and gradually were ground
down into submission of conceding error. It did not give a very
attractive picture of the relationship of ONS with arguably key
partners in this exercise. What are you doing to remedy that?
Ms Dunnell: Quite a lot in fact.
I agree with you that it was a very difficult time for us. In
recognising that, that is why we are now putting such a huge amount
of effort into it. In fact, the work that we did with local authorities
after the 2001 census, which Jil led, has proved to be a very,
very useful exercise, first of all, in regaining the confidence
of local authorities.
Q55 Mr Todd: I seem to remember it
took at least a year before ONS was prepared to concede any ground
in this matter at all.
Ms Dunnell: Yes. It was a very,
very difficult time, but I do believe the work we did and the
people we had engaged in that work have enabled us to turn a corner.
We are now getting a lot of support from the Association of Chief
Executives of Local Authorities, from the Local Government Association
and so on, and we are taking, as I hope we have explained, an
entirely different approach to local authorities in this census
than has ever been done before actually.
Q56 Mr Todd: There appeared to be
an attitudinal problem in ONS.
Ms Dunnell: Yes.
Q57 Mr Todd: To say, "We are
experts on this subject. It does not matter what information you
provide, we do not believe it. We do not accept it. We are right."
Ms Dunnell: Yes. We have turned
around. I think part of that is the work we did on the census
but part of it also has been very close working that we have done
with local authorities on neighbourhood statistics which has made
a big difference too.
Q58 Mr Todd: It seemed from either
an economic perspective or a number of other angles, one of the
issues on which this census will probably focus in the public
eye is migration and the effects of migration in this country
and enumerating its impact on its different parts. First of all,
you will have noted the Governor of the Bank of England commenting
on the miserable lack of evidence in this area to date. Are you
taking particular efforts to try to provide more robust information
than the rather anecdotal stuff we tend to have now?
Ms Dunnell: Yes. In fact just
before Christmas I published the results of my taskforce on migration,
which has made several recommendations to improve things in the
short termin other words, before we get to the censusso
that we have a much better idea at the time of the census about
the position on migration than we have at the moment. We have
put in bids for that work in our spending review and some of the
things we are managing to put in nowbut, again, one of
the clear focuses of the questionnaire, which I see some of you
have in front of youis to ask additional questions which
will help us to identify who is a migrant.
Q59 Mr Todd: Have you specifically
identified that item in your spending bid?
Ms Dunnell: Migration?