Woodsy42 (who is a new blogger) has been kind enough to write this guest post from an English perspective. I intend to follow shortly with a post about the Scottish one, but I think many of his points are relevant to those north of the border.
Cense or Censibility
a guest post
The new 2011 UK census is fast approaching and while we have mostly all done them before and it’s no big deal this one is already creating some controversy.
I suppose in its favour we must acknowledge that filling in a form at home or online is rather less onerous than travelling across the desert to your town of birth with your pregnant wife on an ass and her having to give birth in a stable because the inns are full. The census has plagued mankind for over 2000 years, although the Bible doesn’t tell us what the questions were back then.
Most people, I suspect, have little problem with a basic people count, providing information like names, ages, and addresses feels relatively innocuous for most of us. Our 2011 form however has some questions which to many people seem exceptionally intrusive, indeed some sections appear more like a phishing exercise than a people count.
The full list of questions (England) is here but I will pick out a few.
They want to know about visitors staying overnight on March 27th. Every house gets a form and usual occupants are entered, so why do the government need to know exactly who wasn’t home on that one night and who they were spending the night with? Is this meant as a benefit cheat trap?
Do they really need to know how many rooms you have and how many are bedrooms? Maybe they think they will find gangmasters with houses full of illegal immigrants who are too stupid to lie? But it’s an odd question. My second bedroom is an office now the kids have left home, rooms are not inscribed with their use.
Then they want a complete cross-listing of every relationship between every person in the house, yet very strangely further down ask again for the marital/partnership status, why ask twice?
They ask what type of central heating you have, even the number of cars. Have they forgotten DVLA or is this a phishing expedition for unregistered vehicles? They want to know whether you regularly stay away from home and if so where, or if you have a second home.
Then there is a whole bunch of questions about your education and work, but it descends into asking if you were working last week or actively seeking work or waiting to start a job. This has nothing to do with population counts and Jobcentre should have this information. Maybe they just want to compare notes?
One question only, religion, is marked as voluntary, leaving the assumption that all the others are legally required, but whether they actually are is something I can’t easily find out.
You must decide for yourself whether you are prepared to truthfully provide all this information. I won’t advise anyone to break the law, but in your decision process take note that an American company have the contract to collate the data. While it’s true that the same company did the last census the American Patriot act has come into force since then allowing the US authorities to sequester US company data.
This means that you won’t just be telling the UK authorities that you have a holiday caravan in Rhyl and spent the night of March 27th there with the neighbour’s wife, you will also be telling the US authorities, and if Wikileaks gets in on the act Uncle Tom Cobley and all.