3 Preparations for the 2011 Census
- The challenges the ONS faces in conducting the 2011 Census could well be exacerbated by the fact that the population, particularly in London, is less compliant and less likely to respond to surveys than it was 10 years ago.
- Many London boroughs and the London Council for Voluntary Services are concerned that ONS has not allowed sufficient time for adequate preparation to engage with the population about the 2011 Census.
- Many London boroughs have expressed concern about a lack of engagement with ONS.
- ONS and its contractors for the Census would benefit from the specific expertise and knowledge of London local authority staff.
ONS preparations for the 2011 Census
Increasing response rates
47. ONS informed us that it was undertaking a range of actions
to tackle the risk of a reduced rate of response to the 2011 Census:
] we are putting in place a number of changes
to help us address [low response rates]. [
] They include,
briefly: building a high-quality address register to underpin
the whole operation; questionnaire tracking, so that we know which
houses have responded and which haven't, on a daily basis; targeting
our non-response follow-up effort more intensively and flexibly
than before, with three or four times as much follow-up effort
in London; new questions focused on getting the count right; an
online option to complete for the first time; notwithstanding
some of the concerns expressed by local authorities, we have I
believe stronger partnership working with local authorities than
ever before; and outsourcing some of our activities."
Changes to the questionnaire
48. The Census questionnaire has been expanded to include questions
which may help to gather more detailed information about the complexity
of London's population.
This will include new questions on national identity and citizenship
and new questions on the date of entry to the UK and the intended
length of stay for in-migrants.
Changes to those counted
49. In London, the Census "will cover everyone usually resident
in London on Census night, with a subset of information also collected
from visitors present on Census night"; information is also
to be collected from "residents in communal establishments
and individuals or households with no usual or physical address."
50. In 2001, the Census counted persons at their
place of residence whether or not they were actually present there
on Census night, a change in practice from previous Census exercises,
where persons were counted at the address where they were physically
present and the numbers of visitors were transferred back to the
area of usual residence.
Reviews of the 2001 Census indicated that a failure to attempt
to capture visitors, and a lack of clarity about where visitors
should be recorded, was a factor in the acknowledged undercoverage
of the 2001 exercise.
51. In 2011, therefore, the number of persons ordinarily
resident at a dwelling and the number of visitors at that
property on Census night will be recorded, though visitors will
also be required to complete a census return at the address they
are ordinarily resident when they return there, if that date is
within six months of Census night.
52. We recognise that the inclusion of short term
migrants (those resident for between 3 and 12 months) and those
with second homes on the 2011 Census ought to result in future
Census based population data which better reflects the demand
that these elements of the population make on central and local
government services. We welcome the decision explicitly to
include short-term migrants and those with second homes in the
scope of the 2011 Census. We expect these steps to contribute
to greater accuracy in the Census in London.
Work to boost response rates
53. The ONS also assured us that it was working closely
with local authorities in an attempt to bolster response rates
among "hard to count" populations, and was participating
in local authority and community liaison programmes for this purpose.
The rationale for this partnership-working was to seek to benefit
from the knowledge local authorities have of the communities they
54. The ONS plans to increase the concentration of
staff in London in order to identify and then focus on hard-to-count
areas. Its hope is
that, by directly tackling this issue, the level of response from
these areas will increase.
Follow-up on non-responders
55. As in 2001, ONS plans to use the Census Coverage
Survey (CCS) to capture data from a 1% random sample of people
after the Census has taken place. This data is then used to impute
into Census outputs information about those who did not participate
in the Census. We heard concerns that, because of the complexity
of London's population, the CCS methodology would not robust enough
for this purpose, but Census Director Glen Watson was confident
that the 2011 CCS would be up to the task:
"It will be random but stratified to the
hardness to count, if you see what I mean, so there will be more
effort where it is most needed. [The CCS field force] job is to
find every single property, household and address in that area
and to try and elicit a response from them. It is rather different.
It is a doorstep interview with just a few simple questions. It
is not a full Census questionnaire. The results from that are
then matched against the Census so that we know who was counted
in the Census but not the coverage survey, who was counted in
the coverage survey but not the Census, and who was missed in
both. We then use some statistical processes to make estimates
of the numbers that were missed and that will need imputing
then have some other processes to try and fill in the rest of
56. The ONS are confident that by improving the enumeration
rate for the Census in London there would be less need to rely
on the CCS:
"There are two issues, really, in making
a good quality population estimate for a local authority. First,
it is bad news from a population estimates point of view if we
get very significant deviations in response rates between different
local authorities. Where Glen [Watson] says that we are focusing
on the hard-to-count areas, the difficult areas, it is absolutely
the right thing to do in terms of getting the sort of population
estimates we need to underpin resource allocation. So that is
the first thing: the higher we can get those, the better.
The second thing we do is the CCS. That is independent
of the main Census, but the higher we can get those response rates
the better, because it implies that you can do adjustments and
reconcile the data better afterwards."
A National Address Register
57. In order to have a more sophisticated understanding
of the population which it needs to reach, to support the 2011
Census the ONS is creating an up-to-date National Address Register
with information drawn from data held by the Ordnance Survey,
the Royal Mail and local authorities. The need for a high-quality
and up-to-date address register was highlighted by a number of
independent reviews of the 2001 Census by a range of bodies including
the Treasury Select Committee, the National Audit Office, the
Statistics Commission, the Committee of Public Accounts, and the
Local Government Association.
58. Attempts by local authorities to access this
list in order to readily identify relevant areas has been hampered
by the fact that the individual intellectual property rights in
elements of the address list belong to Ordnance Survey and Royal
Mail, not ONS. This issue is discussed at greater length below.
59. Significant criticisms were made of the imputation
methods used in certain under-enumerated areas in the 2001 Census:
the Statistics Commission, which audited the outcome of the 2011
Census, found that the One Number Census methodology used for
imputation in 2001 "may have a tendency to work imperfectly
in the most hard-to-count areas such as Westminster, and did so
in 2001." Glen
Watson told us that there had been changes to the imputation methodology
following results of the Census Coverage Survey:
"We have made some changes to the way the
coverage adjustment process will work; for example, stratifying
the sample so that more effort goes to the areas where it is needed
most is new. We also plan to hold back some of the CCS sample,
because we acknowledge that we do not yet knowand we won't
know until the responses start coming in from the main Censuswhere
it is needed fully. So we are holding some back to allocate it
later in real time as the operation is going on. We have also
made some changes, which are quite technical, to the way the imputation
is actually going to work and the way the gaps are going to be
Review of outputs before publication
60. ONS told us that the draft outputs of the 2011
Census would be reviewed against other population data and, if
necessary, revised before release:
"The goals for 2011 are to maximise the
overall level of quality of data and to minimise the differences
in quality between areas. ONS has developed a quality assurance
strategy for investigating and, if necessary, adjusting the results
before final release of output. This will involve validation with
data from other sources to ensure that outputs for areas from
the national to the local level, and for specified population
sub-groups, have acceptable levels of accuracy."
61. We welcome the commitment of ONS to discuss
its proposed outputs from the 2011 Census with local authorities
before publication, and to revise them if necessary. We consider
this to be a potentially significant step forward in meeting the
concerns of London boroughs about the accuracy of Census outputs.
Noting the lengthy process which resulted in the adjustment of
Westminster's 2001 Census outputs, we recommend that any discussions
over the outputs of the 2011 Census in London be resolved speedily
62. Census Director Glen Watson told the Committee
that he recognised the problems with apathy amongst the public
but believes that this could be tackled, and consequently the
enumeration rate improved, in 2011 through targeted engagement.
63. In their oral evidence, the ONS spoke of their
specific plans for engagement:
"One example would be the local authority
partnership plan that we will put in place with each London borough
and local authority in the country. That will map out the detail
of how we are going to do this local community engagement. The
partnership plan will be constructed by the area managers, when
they are in place, who will work very closely with the community
advisers. For example, we are going to employ over 50 community
advisers, half of whom, I think, will be in London. They will
focus on providing dedicated support to the various ethnic groups
that we think are going to be most challenging in terms of numbers
and getting the response upfor example, Black Caribbean,
Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese and so on. Those community advisers
will work with a whole host of local groups on the ground with
the area managers and will map out events, communications, talks
and community support for the Census.
A lot of the discussion we have had so far has
been operating at a higher national level. We've had many offers
of support from different religious groupsfor example,
to provide access to temples and mosques come Census day or to
provide help points and advice centres for people in their communities.
There is a lot of good will, and work has gone on nationally to
gain traction on the ground. We need this field force out there
and we need these community advisers in place. As I say, that
will come later this year."
After 2011: better migration statistics
64. ONS also recognises that the production of population
estimates requires effective cross-government working and in consequence
has launched the Migration Statistics Improvement programme. This
includes the use of a greater range of administrative and other
data to improve migration and population data. The first stage
of this programme is due for completion in May 2010. ONS told
us that it had, as part of this exercise, already engaged with
various stakeholders, including experts from London.
65. We acknowledge the significant efforts made
by the Office for National Statistics to learn from the outcomes
of the 2001 Census, both in London and nationwide, and note with
approval the changes which the ONS has made to its methodology
and its practical arrangements in order to achieve as accurate
a Census as possible in 2011.
66. Welcome as these changes are, it is entirely
likely that issues not encountered in 2001 will arise during the
preparations for, conduct of and aftermath of the 2011 Census,
both in London and elsewhere. We expect ONS to have in place systems
to recognise and respond to any fresh risks and challenges as
- Boroughs which gave evidence to us were not confident that the imputation methods to be used in 2011 would sufficiently reflect the complexity of their populations or the transformations in London communities over the past decade.
- The London Borough of Newham told us that the area of the borough which had the highest concentration of 'hard to count' characteristics was not included in the Census rehearsal exercise.
- Witnesses have expressed concern about the validity of data used in mid-year estimates.
- Many of the boroughs which gave evidence to us remain unconvinced that the ONS has done enough to prevent a repeat in 2011 of the mistakes made in the 2001 Census.
67. Despite the assurances which the ONS gave this
Committee about the measures it is taking to avoid the mistakes
of 2001, we have heard several concerns from London boroughs about
the arrangements for the 2011 Census. Most notably, several boroughs
are not confident that the new imputation methods would sufficiently
reflect the complexity of their populations, or the transformations
which have occurred in London's communities over the past decade.
Boroughs have also expressed frustration with a perceived lack
of engagement with them on the part of ONS in its redesigning
of its imputation methods.
68. The challenges faced by the ONS in conducting
the 2011 Census could well be exacerbated by the fact, acknowledged
by Census Director Glen Watson, that the population today is less
compliant and less likely to respond to surveys than it was 10
years ago. The Demographics
User Group, in its evidence to us, also suggested that "the
entire statistical landscape is changing" and believed the
ONS should respond accordingly.
LOCAL AUTHORITY ENGAGEMENT
69. ONS has designated Regional Census Champions
"to act as a channel of communication between local authorities
and the ONS."
London's Census Champion is the Chief Executive of Lewisham Council,
Barry Quirk, who is well aware of the particular challenges facing
the Census in London. When he appeared before the Committee, he
highlighted these concerns:
"I would certainly like to discuss at some
date the methodology in relation to that. I have to say that there
are four separate strands of work between local authorities and
ONS on this. The first is in relation to the reliability and consistency
of the address register in the first place. With that, there's
the development control dimension. The second is in relation to
electoral registration, because we have lots of experience of
that, and the differential response on that as well. We are going
to be advising Capita and giving it the information about recruitment.
The third is this methodology issue, which is a corporate research
and intelligence issue, which feeds into the fourth, which is
finance and the distribution of resources subsequently.
I would say that this is, at the moment, the
third-order issue. The first-order issue that we're dealing with
is whether we've got the right registers. Are we making sure that
we, in local government, are getting the information properly?
To what extent are we making sure that all our best efforts are
put in place so that we get the best response we can? The methodological
issues are obviously something that will come at some stage, and
we will have concerns about them."
70. The level of communication between London local
authorities and ONS, via the Census Champion or otherwise, remains
unclear. Many London boroughs have expressed their concerns to
the Committee about a lack of engagement with ONS in its preparations
for the Census in London. Barry Quirk himself stressed to us that,
as Census Champion for London, he was only one channel of communication
71. In particular, boroughs are concerned that they
have not been engaged with by ONS with regard to the address register.
For example, boroughs complain that they are not being given sufficient
access to the register so that they can check it against locally
held data. Where boroughs have brought anomalies in the address
register to the attention of the ONS they then hear nothing further
about this information. Boroughs believe that if the ONS were
to engage with them more fully they could share their wealth of
experience, particularly with regard to the annual update of the
72. Boroughs have also expressed significant concerns
over ONS's willingness to discuss with them the methodology it
plans to use for calculating and imputing outputs from the Census.
The London Borough of Southwark, for example, would welcome discussion
of imputation methodology on the basis of the local knowledge
it has about its resident population.
73. The London Borough of Lambeth has suggested that
greater efforts should be co-ordinated where boroughs share similar
"However, there are several London boroughs
with similar enumeration issues to Lambeth, and we would welcome
a co-ordinated approach to this from ONS."
We recommend that ONS co-ordinate its approach
to tackling issues of under-enumeration across those London boroughs
where similar issues have been identified.
told us that as early ago as 2006 it had begun to develop its
Census Community Liaison Programme for 2011, with specific objectives
to "encourage participation in the Census by publicising
the Census and explaining its use and value; help provide a potential
source of field staff; and provide help and guidance to local
communities and individual members of the public."
It cited a number of London-based organisations it had already
engaged with, such as the Polish Social and Cultural Association,
the Federation of Irish Societies and Race On The Agenda (ROTA).
75. Many of the local authorities that the Committee
received evidence from were nevertheless concerned that the ONS
have not allowed sufficient time to adequately prepare for engaging
with people. This indicates to us that the Community Liaison Programme
may have had limited impact to date.
76. The London Voluntary Services Council (LVSC)
acts as an umbrella group for around 60,000 organisations within
London, thereby representing a significant proportion of the city's
voluntary workers. We were concerned to hear from LVSC's Director,
Peter Lewis, that they had, when they gave evidence to us on 1
February, received no contact from the ONS:
"Unfortunately we've not heard from it [the
ONS] at all and we are not aware of the work it is doing in London,
although we haven't had much time to reach out and ask many organisations.
Those we have asked have not had any engagement with it as yet."
77. Mr Lewis cited evidence from the Audit Commission
that voluntary sector support is essential in connecting public
service initiatives with disengaged groups.
He doubted whether, given an apparent lack of communication and
time, sufficient approaches to disengaged communities could be
made to have a positive effect on Census response rates.
78. Happily, LCVS have now been contacted by ONS,
as Glen Watson told us on 22 February:
"I'm very interested in having some discussions
with the London Voluntary Service Council and other bodies like
it across London. There is still some more that we can do there.
A good outcome of this Committee was that I read the evidence
that colleagues gave. We have already contacted them; we have
already followed up on that first hearing."
79. We welcome the approach made by the Office
for National Statistics to the London Voluntary Service Council
to seek dialogue on improving participation rates in the Census.
We are nevertheless concerned that a programme of community engagement
apparently initiated in 2006 had failed to contact a prominent
body representing the voluntary sector in London until February
2010. We recommend that ONS take immediate steps to review and
intensify its work with the voluntary sector in the run up to
80. ONS intends to address concerns over arrangements
to verify migrant data by producing a 'local authority partnership
plan', outlining details for a stronger engagement between the
local authority and community.
Boroughs are also planning collaborations with local community
and faith groups, in the hope of engaging those communities who
have previously recorded a low response rate to the Census.
However, community groups have raised concerns about the short
window of time available to forge links with disengaged communities.
81. Time to make adequate preparations for meaningful
community engagement in the 2011 Census exercise is running worryingly
short. We encourage ONS to build on its existing contacts
and to accelerate its plans for community engagement through the
voluntary sector in the run-up to April 2011.
TESTING AND REHEARSING THE CENSUS
The October 2009 rehearsal in Newham
82. In the run up to the 2011 Census ONS has carried
out a number of practice exercises. Two of these have been in
London: a census test was held in Camden in 2007 and a census
rehearsal was held in Newham in October 2009.
83. The Newham rehearsal addressed a sample group
of 38,850. Although no official figures are available from the
rehearsal, Newham council have estimated the response rate at
23%, which the Borough considers to be worryingly low. ONS has
unofficially estimated the response rate at 28%.
84. In part, the purpose of this rehearsal was to
practice the operation of the 2011 Census's various data processing
systems. We heard from Damian Highwood, Westminster City Council's
Analysis Manager, that Westminster had been keen to be used as
a test area for the Census because of the problems it had faced
in 2001. However, ONS did not ask Westminster to participate in
the rehearsal, and as a result they remained concerned that in
the 2011 Census "the sort of properties that will be counted
are those with very simple household structures, and those that
are missing will be quite complex and large household structures."
85. We also heard from Michelle von Ahn, Senior Demographic
Adviser at the London Borough of Newham, that the parts of the
borough selected for the rehearsal were not necessarily those
which contained populations which were the hardest to reach and
would provide the most rigorous testing of the Census's imputation
methods. Indeed, according to Ms von Ahn, having supplied the
ONS with maps and details of the whereabouts of Newham's hardest-to
reach groups, the borough's statisticians had been surprised that
"the area that came out high in all those characteristics
was avoided in the Census rehearsal, an area that we thought would
have been quite a useful means of focusing on how well the Census
could be conducted."
86. Newham believes that the low turnout can be attributed
to the failure to use enumerators with local knowledge to carry
out the Census. However, ONS suggested that rehearsal turn out
is often low, noting that turnout in rehearsals prior to the 2001
Census was around 30%, and that a far better rate of return had
been secured in its rehearsal of post-Census coverage surveys:
"You have to consider that the Newham rehearsal
was a voluntary exercise. It's quite usual in census tests and
rehearsals to get fairly low response rates, particularly in inner-city
areas, when all you can say to people is, "This is a voluntary
exercise. We would be grateful if you could help us with it. It
is important for helping us get our processes right for 2011."
The first question is, "Do I have to?" "No, you
don't." "Well, I won't bother then." That's quite
a commonly held view, which is confirmed by some of the analysis
of reasons for non-response that we did after the Newham rehearsal.
Interestingly, the final rehearsal response rate
for Newham was about 27 or 28%. Across all rehearsal areas, the
response rate just tipped 40%. That is lower than previous tests
and rehearsals, which echoes the point that I was making right
at the start: we acknowledge that the climate is getting difficult.
What was slightly more encouraging was that the response rate
for the rehearsal of the Census coverage survey, which, as I have
said, is very different because it is just a quick knock on the
door, a few quick questions and off you go again, was in the high
70s. It was 70% or 72%, I think, in Newham. People will respond
either if it is quick and they can do it on the doorstep, or if
they have to. I'm quite confident that the low response rates
in Newham will be considerably higher come 2011."
ISSUES ON THE MECHANICS OF THE CENSUS
The National Address Register
87. We are encouraged by the development of a
national address register for the 2011 Census. Such a register
is vital for a successful Census in London.
88. ONS believes that the creation of the address
register is "progressing well": nationally, 216,000
anomalies in the register have now been identified and passed
to local authorities for resolution, and a similar number had
been sent to the Royal Mail. 46,000 of the anomalies between the
address register and local authority databases, approximately
21%, arose in London boroughs, and as of early March all but four
boroughs had examined the anomalies and returned corrections.
51,444 anomalies between the draft register and the Royal Mail
address database had been identified in respect of addresses in
London boroughs, and the ONS estimates that approximately 80%
of these anomalies have also been resolved.
89. The accuracy of an address list in London is
difficult to maintain for a number of reasons: there are many
houses in multiple occupation, and properties are often subdivided
without formal notification being given. During the Census rehearsal
in Newham, 1267 new addresses were found.
Some London boroughs fear that their local knowledge is not being
fully utilised in the preparation of the register, in particular
with respect to the construction of new properties. It seems to
us odd that the creation of a national address database should
not seek to take all available information into account.
90. We note the work which ONS has already done
to check and resolve conflicts between the draft register and
local authority and Post Office databases. It is nevertheless
important not to underestimate the challenges of maintaining an
accurate register of addresses for London in the months which
remain before Census night. We encourage ONS and London boroughs
to maintain and increase present levels of collaboration, in order
to ensure that the address register produced for London is as
accurate as possible.
91. We understand that the address register will
not be maintained in its present form after 2011, despite the
substantial time and effort which has gone into establishing and
updating it. Shaun Flanagan of the Cabinet Office told us that
when ONS negotiated the contract with the Royal Mail, Ordnance
Survey and the Local Government Information House to provide data
for the register, a condition of the agreement was that the register
would not be re-used, but that any improvements to the data would
be fed back to the three providers.
92. The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority has
already written to Ministers to make the case for the national
register to be maintained beyond 2011.
The Minister for London told us that negotiations on the future
use of the register were ongoing: "there is no dispute about
the importance and benefits of resolving this."
That view was echoed by Keith Dugmore of the Demographics User
Group, who described it as a "golden opportunity to produce
a definitive national address register and to keep it going".
We were nevertheless disheartened to receive no clear answer from
the Government on the issue of lead responsibility for negotiating
93. An accurate and well-maintained national address
register is an invaluable tool for the 2011 Census, and will be
vital for any future exercises to quantify London's population.
We find it barely credible that the address register developed
for the 2011 Census at substantial effort and expense is to be
abandoned following the Census for reasons connected to the ownership
of the intellectual property.
94. We concur with the UK Statistics Authority
in recommending that the address register prepared for the 2011
Census be maintained as a public resource. We recommend that the
Government urgently seek to resolve any outstanding issues with
the maintenance of the register after April 2011, and to provide
sufficient resources for its continued maintenance and development.
Trust and participation
95. One significant challenge to the goal of reaching
a high enumeration rate in the 2011 Census in London is the attitude
of the public to participation in the Census. Professor David
Martin of the Royal Statistical Society and the ESRC Census Programme
told us that
We see the response rate to official surveys
declining by a small amount year on year, which would imply that
the public are becoming less willing to take part in official
information-gathering activity. Also the research suggests that
people think the Government already know lots of this stuff and
query why they are asking them.
96. Tony Travers identified trust in the Census process
as a key issue which the Office for National Statistics should
focus on in the period leading up to Census night:
"[We should be concentrating on] anything
that can be done to promulgate the idea that whoever you are and
wherever you live, the more you sign up, the better it is for
your area. We should create a sort of civil sense that it is good
for everybody, whether it requires celebrities to promote it or
97. Concerns over confidentiality of data and data-sharing
within Government are at the forefront of the public consciousness
in a manner perhaps not envisaged a decade ago. Londoners are
far more aware of the capacity of Government bodies to share the
data they hold on citizens between them. No matter how robust
the procedural and legislative safeguards in place to prevent
inappropriate and unauthorised data sharing, issues of trust and
data security are bound to be raised during the run-up to the
Census and on Census night.
98. We well understand the purpose of the Census,
the independence from Government of the UK Statistics Authority
and the Office for National Statistics and the scrupulous safeguards
which are in place to prevent data sharing and the disclosure
of personal data. Others, for any number of reasons, may not:
some, for example, may fear that accurate completion of a Census
return will result in data being passed on to other central and
local government departments and agencies, prompting reviews of
benefit status or eligibility for council tax discounts.
99. The purpose of the Census, and the use to which
the information will be put, may need careful explanation to those
resident in London who have fled repressive regimes or who are
in communities with no tradition of engagement with the authorities
to provide information of this nature. Colin Barrow, Leader of
Westminster City Council, suggested that certain migrant groups
may, because of their countries of origin, have an understandable
inherent suspicion of providing information about themselves and
their families to authorities:
"Then there is fear of authoritya
lot of people come here because they don't like where they've
been, and it's authority that is the reason why they don't like
where they've been; lack of cultural understandingsome
countries have no tradition of Census, engaging with authorities
and getting involved in all that, and I am briefed that Somalia
is one such."
100. A crucial element of the Census exercise
is the confidentiality of the personal data collected. We are
satisfied that the arrangements ONS has put in place for maintaining
the confidentiality of the information gathered in the Census
are robust. We recommend that ONS and local authority campaigns
urging participation in the Census emphasise not only its confidential
nature but also the impact that non-completion or under-completion
of Census returns can have on local authority funding and ultimately
on local provision of services.
Delivery and collection of Census forms in London
101. ONS has indicated that the majority of Census
forms will be posted out to addresses on the address register
under contract with Royal Mail. Decisions on whether to post out
or to hand-deliver forms will be made will be determined by a
number of factors, including
- confidence in the accuracy
of the address list in any given area;
- the proportion of known, or suspected, multi-occupied
properties in the area; and
- concentrations of large households.
102. In areas which are to receive Census forms through
the post, ONS plans delivery to take place in the working week
of Monday 14 March, thirteen days before Census day, giving a
week as contingency to resolve any issues, and giving time to
receive feedback on and to investigate addresses missed and any
103. In areas selected for hand delivery of forms,
delivery will take place between 15 and seven days before Census
Day, which ONS says will leave a six-day contingency period for
resolving any local delivery problems. Up to three attempts to
make contact and deliver the Census questionnaire packs will be
made at each household address, after which field staff plan to
put the pack through the letterbox if no contact is achieved.
Any apparently vacant properties will be recorded.
104. ONS told us that the accurate delivery of Census
forms would be underpinned by the new national address register,
and that a real-time form-tracking system would assist in following
up any non-response.
For the first time in a decennial Census, the option of online
response to the questionnaire is also available.
105. Professor David Martin explained to us the rationale
behind the decision to post out the Census forms to the majority
of the country:
] Fundamentally the 2001 Census
seemed to work very well in most parts of the country. What happens,
therefore, is that the model of sending an enumerator to knock
on the door of a lot of essentially compliant and reasonably easy
to enumerate areas is an extremely expensive way of conducting
a census. The rationale, which I think is sound, is that sending
forms postally to the majority of the country, and needing a relatively
light follow-up in order to get a good response, releases much
more resource to concentrate on the really difficult areas, in
which London is so rich."
106. Census Director Glen Watson told us that the
allocation of resources to hand-delivery and follow-up on collection
of Census forms in London and elsewhere was being prepared on
the basis of models which took account of the experience of 2001
and which drew data from other sources. Although final allocations
had not yet been made, he expected that in London, where approximately
12.5% of the addresses to be reached in the Census are, 27% of
the 155 area managers for England and Wales would be deployed,
and 20% of the 28 to 29,000 Census collectors would be in operation.
107. He indicated some of the methods used by ONS
in determining how to allocate resources to checking addresses
on the new address register and following up to collect Census
"For targeting the address check [
we do look, primarily, at where there are mismatches between the
different address sources. As it turns out, those mismatches are
often clumped around areas with high levels of flat conversions,
high levels of students, high intermingled mixes of commercial
and residential properties, new developmentsthat sort of
thing. These are important factors in deciding where we're going
to do the address checking. They are contributory factors in deciding
where we're going to need to put our follow-up effort in chasing
108. London boroughs and the GLA are increasingly
concerned that these final allocations, and the detailed plans
for how ONS intends to undertake delivery and collection of forms
in London, have not yet been released: these are considered crucial
to the success of the Census in hard-to-count areas in the boroughs.
109. The difficulty of making contact with Census
respondents in hard-to-count areas in London was repeatedly drawn
out in the evidence we received. London has far more homes than
any other part of the country where it can be difficult for enumerators
to gain access. These include large blocks of flats, houses of
multiple occupation, and properties which have only recently been
constructed and therefore may not feature on maps. John Hollis
of the GLA told us that in his view hand delivery of Census forms
had to be concentrated on areas of London with high numbers of
hard-to-reach properties, such as houses in multiple occupation.
110. Colin Barrow, Leader of Westminster Council,
explained how certain residences can be difficult to access, and
how this difficulty can be exacerbated when the residents are
also not used to dealing with the authorities collecting personal
"It isn't door knocking at all; it's entry
phone pressing. If you visualise for a moment what it is like
when you are in a three-bedroom semi and someone knocks on the
door, the immediate instinct is to open it. But if you are in
a block of flats in a difficult environment and there is a buzzer
with somebody with some official-sounding gobbledygook on the
phone and you do not understand it, because it is not your first
language and the entry phone does not work very well and crackles
a lot, you hang up and that's itthe person does not get
any further. They do not get further with the guy next door either.
Some 85% of our properties in Westminster are like that."
111. Councillor Tim McNally, Southwark Council's
executive member for resources, told us that
The vast majority of our borough is difficult
to count. To relate it to electoral registration, for example,
when we post it out, we get a 25% response. When we go out on
foot, we get up to 90%. That is the difference. The posting route
just doesn't work for us in Southwark.
112. Eileen Howes of the Greater London Authority
highlighted the lack of information from ONS on the resource it
planned to devote to hard-to-count areas of London:
] At this stage, we do not know
how [ONS] will focus on the hard-to-count areas. We are concerned
about the local people being employed. We hear that 5% of areas
will be hand-delivered, and then we hear that it might be lower.
We are left in the situation where we do not know how they will
deal with the hard-to-count areas."
113. Professor Martin, of the ESRC Census Study Programme,
was concerned that, although the preparation of address lists
was a dynamic process, ONS was now leaving it late to determine
the detailed plan for delivery of Census forms:
] What we would really love to see
now is the detailed plan for which areas are being targeted for
hand delivery. That may beshould bethe thing that
makes it work
I am now of the opinion that this is getting
late. If you asked that question even a few months ago, I would
have said no. There is no point checking address lists and doing
detailed planning for something that you know is a very dynamic
process. It has got to be done quite late to be right. The lists
existit is not that ONS do not have the listsbut
the question is doing the checking and getting it back in the
time scale for full delivery."
114. Keith Dugmore of the Demographics User Group
was similarly keen to see the delivery plan: "my feeling
would be that a great deal of effort and budget ought to be put
in London to try to get the response rates above 90%."
115. Glen Watson recognised the significant logistical
difficulties which faced the Census in London boroughs in actually
making contact with residents: "I don't disagree that it
will be very challenging
the biggest difficulty is the
He was nevertheless cautious on committing too much of the resource
allocated to the 2011 Census to London:
I have a limited budget. I am responsible
for conducting a Census in the whole country, not only in London,
so I have to do a good job everywhere. I don't think it would
be good use of money to put all of the resource into London and
nothing anywhere else to try to get the London response rates
up to the levels that we find elsewhere. There might be a point
where you'd get diminishing returns. By the time you've knocked
on a door or tried to remind a household for the 10th or 12th
time, you're fighting a losing battle. That is why some of the
other mechanisms that we have in place are important."
116. The level of resource which ONS is prepared
to allocate to hand-delivery and collection of Census forms in
London boroughs is one key to the success of the Census in London.
We recognise the balance which must be struck between ensuring
a high response rate to the Census in London and ensuring that
the Census operation for England and Wales as a whole is properly
resourced. It is nevertheless crucial that, given the challenges
facing the Census in London, the proportion of Census staff allocated
to enumeration in London is adequate to the task.
117. We are concerned to note that ONS has not yet
published its detailed plans for areas which have been selected
for hand-delivery of Census forms. These plans should be a principal
element in the strategy to deliver a successful census in London,
but their value will be diminished if they are not shared with
other stakeholderssuch as London boroughs and, indeed,
London Members of Parliamentwho have a detailed knowledge
of the areas concerned and are aware of the difficulties encountered
in getting to the front doors of certain properties. We recommend
that ONS publish for discussion, as soon as is practicable, its
detailed plans for hand-delivery of Census forms in London, and
engage London boroughs and other stakeholders in dialogue about
the most effective ways to ensure that Census forms can be delivered
and collected in hard-to-count areas of the capital.
Recruitment and training of Census staff
118. ONS plans to employ some 35,000 temporary staff
across England and Wales to support the 2011 Census. The contract
to recruit and train Census staff was awarded to Capita in March
119. Many witnesses who gave us evidence expressed
concern over the decision to provide centralised recruitment and
training, fearing that those recruited centrally would not receive
training adapted for the area that they were enumerating, and
would not have sufficient knowledge of localities where they would
be expected to deliver and collect forms.
120. Representatives of the boroughs who gave oral
evidence to us on 8 March had been keen to encourage ONS to second
local authority staff to work with the Census field force in the
run-up to Census night, but had not received a positive response
from ONS: "ONS has given a list of reasons why it would be
too difficult to put into its arrangements the secondment of local
authority staff to the Census enumeration process."
121. Glen Watson was confident that by running a
recruitment campaign across England and Wales, recruitment of
people in each locality would present no difficulties:
"Capita recruits the people for us even
though they are ONS employees. Our contract with Capita makes
it clear that we expect the ethnic mix of the workforce to reflect
the ethnic population from which the workforce is drawn. Expectations
are written into the contract, and quality impact assessments
will be done to make sure that the processes will deliver what
On the local recruitment side, I have read and
heard a lot of concerns about the local recruitment in Newham.
All I would say is, come 2011, we will be recruiting everywhere.
We will not be faced with the problems of having a select number
of jobs advertised with people from all around London interested
in applying, because we will be advertising jobs everywhere, so,
naturally, there will be a much stronger local element.
122. Eileen Howes of the GLA, who had worked in the
field for the last three Censuses, told us she had been monitoring
the Capita website advertising Census jobs which are currently
available, for instance in checking the address register, to track
the London boroughs where jobs had been advertised. She was not
"If you look at the Capita website advertising
these jobs, most of east London was listed under the East of England
region, not under London at all: Ilford, Barking, Dagenham, parts
of Newhamnot all of it. I had previous enumerators from
2001 coming round looking for where the jobs in Ilford, which
is where I worked, were advertised. They were advertised under
the East of England region. When they phoned the website, they
were told Ilford was with Uttlesford in Essex. Actually, it's
not; it's a different place called Redbridge. It's a complete
disaster in terms of employing local people because local people
in east London want to apply and they can't find the jobs. It
doesn't bode well for employment of collectors and enumerators.
[Capita] said they would look at it. Some of
east London was then moved back but not all of it. Then a lot
of Berkshire appeared in London. So Reading is in London
You will never get local people employed [in London] if the jobs
are advertised under the East of England region, because people
will not look there. That is an example of things that are likely
to go wrong if you don't employ local people."
123. In his evidence to us, Professor David Martin
argued that rather than local geographical knowledge, the most
important tool for a successful Census was cultural understanding:
"I don't think [local knowledge] is essential,
and this is very much a personal view of the process, rather than
something on which there is a big body of research. It is not
essential that somebody knows the neighbourhood in the sense of
knowing the streets, because the work being done on the preparing,
mapping and address-checking in a sense provides a uniform information
base to enumerators. However, it is probably very important that
the enumerators are people who are acceptable to the community
If the enumerator is going to be doing door-to-door
visits, they should be someone who understands the community on
whose doors they will be knocking. That is not a sense of knowing
which street is round the corner, or where the back flat is, but
is much more to do with understanding what languages they may
encounter and what kind of cultural objections to the Census there
may be in that local neighbourhood, because those with that understanding
are much more likely to be successful at the door. That is borne
out by all the large surveys and the way in which survey field
forces are deployed."
124. Eileen Howes also indicated that, from her experience
in a previous Census, cultural understanding was crucial to achieving
good enumeration results:
"We had particular streets where there were
largely Muslim families and they would only open the door to someone
who was or who looked like a Muslim. We just picked the right
enumerator and sent them down and they got all the forms back.
There was no problem. It was a fear of opening the door to people
who did not look like them or looked like white men in suits,
for example. You need the flexibility in the street in London
to send the right people round. We are missing out on that at
125. Census Director Glen Watson believed that the
training to be given to the Census field force would be adequate
to enable enumerators to deal with several of the challenges to
be encountered in London:
"Training packages of e-learning, DVD and
classroom-based training will pull together the field force and
take it through the steps and processes. They will include something
about the barriers and difficulties that might be expected in
the areas. I have done that training. It is very good. It includes
role play for dealing with someone who cannot speak the language.
It includes role play for dealing with entryphone systems that
are just buzzers we cannot get past, people refusing and people
not being bothered. It is a simulated environment. It is role
play. It is quite effective."
126. We nevertheless know from our constituencies
in London that those enumerators chosen to go door-to-door in
London boroughs will encounter individuals and families from a
remarkable variety of communities and backgrounds, more than are
likely to be encountered in a standard training exercise. No one
enumerator will be able to be trained and equipped to deal with
each of the languages and cultures which might be encountered
across any neighbourhood assigned for enumeration. Duncan Whitfield
of Southwark Council and Colin Barrow of Westminster Council both
highlighted the difficulties which may arise with languages on
"We are looking particularly at some very
deprived areas and the difficult places to go, where even with
door knocking, it is a challenging arena to go into
politicians do go door knocking [in Southwark], they find some
properties where the only people who speak English are the children.
[In Westminster] only 30% of children in school
speak English as a first language, so that means 70% of their
parents probably didn't, and very possibly still don't
127. Barry Quirk believed that ONS and its contractors
could benefit from the specific experience and knowledge of London
local authority staff:
"So the important issue is the way in which
Capita recruits and the extent to which local authorities' electoral
register people, who have managed the electoral register, say
from late September to late November, can use the lists of people
that they have to advise Capita, so that when Capita is hiring
it is actually hiring people who know the area and do work like
this in the area anyway. I think it is crucial that people know
the area rather than just being brought in, because they simply
won't know the local turf otherwise."
We concur. We recommend that in its final preparation
for the Census ONS should work closely with local authorities
to learn from their experiences of electoral registration.
128. We consider that diversity in the 2011 Census
field force is going to be crucial to ensuring high response rates
in areas which have been selected for hand enumeration. We are
concerned to note that, despite the assurances given about the
Capita contract, the recruitment process for the 2011 Census field
force in London may not be geared to provide a sufficiently diverse
pool of enumerators.
129. We recommend that ONS and Capita work intensively
with Jobcentre Plus and local jobs partnerships in London boroughs
to ensure that advertisements for 2011 Census field force roles
are actively targeted to reach as diverse a cross-section of London's
communities as possible.
130. Following recruitment, we recommend that
ONS takes particular care in assigning enumerators to neighbourhoods
where forms will be delivered and collected, to ensure the best
match between enumerator and local community.
43 Q 125 [Glen Watson] Back
Draft questionnaire pages have now been published in the Census
Regulations 2010 (SI., 2010, No. 532). Back
Ev 54 [Office for National Statistics] Back
Cm 7513, para 3.1 Back
Cm 7513, para 3.2 Back
Cm 7513, para 3.6 Back
Q 130 Back
Q 134 Back
Q 135 [Guy Goodwin] Back
Ev 56 [Office for National Statistics] Back
Statistics Commission, Report No. 22, Census and population
estimates and The 2001 Census in Westminster: Final Report Back
Ev 57 [Office for National Statistics] Back
Q 149 Back
Ev 60 [Office for National Statistics] Back
Q 57 Back
Q 125 Back
Ev 81 [Demographics User Group] Back
Q 178 Back
Q 137 Back
Ev 72 [London Borough of Lambeth] Back
Ev 58 [Office for National Statistics] Back
Q 38 Back
Q 39 Back
Q 46 Back
Q 182 Back
Qq 66 and 149 Back
For example, the London Borough of Hackney [Ev 79] Back
Q 139 [Glen Watson] Back
Q57 [Damian Highwood] Back
Q 139 Back
Q80 [Sir Robin Wales] Back
Q 207 Back
Letter of 8 July 2009 from Sir Michael Scholar KCB to Rt Hon John
Healey MP, Minister of State for Housing, Department for Communities
and Local Government, available at www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/reports-correspondence/index.html
. Dr Tony Wright MP, Chairman of the Public Administration Select
Committee, and Councillor Ian Swithenbank CBE, Chairman of the
LGA Group's Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government,
have also written to the Minister in similar terms. Back
Q 208 Back
Q 30 Back
Shaun Flanagan (Q 211) suggested that the Department for Communities
and Local Government had lead responsibility for determining the
issue. The Government's Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information
(APPSI), in its submission to DCLG's consultation on policy options
for geographic review from Ordnance Survey, has indicated that
lead responsibility for resolving the issue has now passed to
the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: response
dated 9 March 2010 on www.appsi.gov.uk . Back
Q 35 Back
Q 36 Back
Q 74 Back
Helping to shape tomorrow, Cm 7315, para 4.20. Back
Ibid. para 4.21 Back
Ibid. para 4.22 Back
Q 24 Back
Q 130 Back
Q 146 Back
Q 119 Back
Q 94 Back
Q 83 Back
Q 119 Back
Qq 27-28 Back
Q 31 Back
Q 151 Back
Q 152 Back
Q 96 [Damian Highwood] Back
Q 110 Back
Q 182 Back
Q 107 Back
Q 108 Back
Q 7 Back
Q 108 Back
Q 168 Back
Q 94 [Duncan Whitfield] Back
Q 74 [Colin Barrow] Back
Q 169 Back