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Why I don’t consent to the census

Filling out the census

The government says it will impose fines of up to £1,000 for those who don’t fill in its compulsory census – a heavy-handed approach that makes me want to rail against it like a rebellious teenager.

Sure it may be useful for the government to know a bit more about its citizens, but should it have the right to force us to fill it in and threaten us with a £1,000 fine?

My colleague Martyn Saville argues that it does, but these tactics make me (not known as a conspiracy theorist) question its motives.

Census guilty of information overload

The very first census (dating back to 1801) showed little information other than the number of people in the UK and the occupation of the main householder.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the government needs to know almost everything about me: name; sex; occupation; relationship status; the state of my health; my educational qualifications; who I work for; what I do and how I get there… the list goes on.

Why?

According to the census website the information it collects is ‘used to help plan and fund services for your community – services like transport, education and health’. This information will be protected and private for ‘100 years’.

What happens to our data?

I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, how will telling the government if I have an ‘overnight guest’ on the day I fill in the census really help fund services? Do they really need all the information they collect?

Currently, there’s a debate raging around data minimisation and online companies such as Google, who some argue are collecting too much data. Shouldn’t the same questions be asked of HM Gov?

I’m also sceptical about how private my information will be. The government’s track record in looking after personal data isn’t great, not to mention the fact that the UK is well known as the ‘leaky bucket of Europe’.

The EU Commissioner is currently proposing, again with relation to being online, that we should have the ‘right to be forgotten’ – i.e. to regain control of our data. Should governments be exempt from this?

Jedi mind tricks

At the last census a reported 390,000 people declared their religion as Jedi and 7,000 people said they were witches.

Is this just high jinks or am I not the only one who has serious concerns about how their data will be used? With a ‘Count Me Out’ campaign gaining momentum and whispers of growing numbers of people planning to boycott the form, it seems likely I’m not alone here.

Perhaps, some people think £1,000 is a risk worth taking when it’s their privacy at stake.

Do you share these concerns or are you happy to fill the census out? Read why Martyn Saville loves the census and thinks it should go even further.

Are you for or against the 2011 census?

For (60%, 391 Votes)

Against (40%, 257 Votes)

Total Voters: 648

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Comments

Wavechange, in 2018 there were approximately 11.9m residents in GB over 65, accounting for 10.8% of the population, compared to 3m in 1950. Covid, as tragic as it is, has taken about 127,000 lives over all ages, the majority being the elderly. According to a report published by the ONS the number of over 65’s is expected to increase to 17.7m by the middle of 2021, equal to 24% of the population.

See: ons.gov.uk – Living Longer: is age 70 the new 65?

Immigration needs to be selective and regulated to coincide with the country’s fluctuating needs, in order to maintain an equal balance between both emigration an immigration- just one of many valid reasons fo the present census.

When you look at the weather forecast on BBC news tonight, take note of the number of lights emanating from major English cities in particular, to give you some perspective of their ever increasing expansion. It’s quite revealing in comparison with the north of Scotland, but as beautiful as it is, not everyone wants to live there when they retire,

I agree with you, Beryl. It has concerned me for years that the population has grown so much. I remember thinking that 55 million was too many. Let’s hope that we do control the number coming into the country.

Drought, famine, epidemic, war, pestilence, have had no effect in reducing the world population. Whether or not they come to the UK they will still be there, needing food and water. I see no way to control population that will leave adequate resources for the reduced remainder. Apart from infertility.

At some point an equilibrium will be attained but that will not be a pleasant outcome – although, perhaps, for those who are there, they will not know any better.

Coincidentally I have just been watching Dr Iain Stewart’s documentary on BBC2 titled ‘Earth: The Power of the
Planet,’ the main theme of which describes how the earth has survived over millennia and how it will continue to survive and replenish long after another catastrophic collision with another meteorite or asteroid which caused the demise of the dinosaurs, or the potential self destruction of the human species through global warming or pollution.

Paul S says:
1 April 2021

Don’t worry Beryl, the population reduction is already underway. By 2030 there will many less people on the planet and I would disagree that covid has taken 127000 lives. If you have any other illness and given a pcr test that will invariably prove positive because of the fraudulent nature of the test then you will die WITH covid not OF it. Annual mortality figures are little different from previous years and lower than most years before 2009. The whole covid ‘pandemic’ (it’s not a pandemic, hence the quotes) is a deliberate fraud to impose global communism on the world. Don’t believe me? You will when they’ve removed more freedoms than they already have and keep us imprisoned indefinately, but the rest I agree with you on. D

DerekP says:
1 April 2021

Nice April fool – thanks 🙂

”Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity; and I am not sure about the universe.”

Albert Einstein

I think one should worry more about the quality of the people coming into this country, rather than quantity. Most countries are populated by a variety of individuals. People come and go. Some stay. I, for one, embrace diversity. While I enjoy the company of kind, helpful and honest people. A lot of people come to England to enjoy the higher standard of living. And who can blame them? We all want a better life. I would not like to be in a position to tell people who can come and who should not. Or even worse, who should go, once they got here. It’s a complex subject.
I was surprised to see how many people actually leave Britain every year. Should the people over there turn their noses up at them too? I doubt they do, since the migrants leaving England do so with substantial bank accounts, following house and land sales. But money is not the real measure of a person. Far from it.
I guess It is far easier to control who is coming over borders nowadays anyway. Not so much when the vikings were coming over, uninvited, a while back. It was a lot harder to say no to them, what with the long axes, scary beards and impenetrable shields. One should count his blessings, I say.

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claire says:
7 April 2021

These figures are wholly inaccurate and misleading, by design. The majority of ‘covid’ deaths were deaths within 28 days of a PCR test which is known to generate significant false positives. Actually, approximately 3500 people, under 65 with no underlying health conditions have died OF covid. See the stats and click the tab ‘death by condition’ Statistics » COVID-19 Weekly Total Deaths Archive (england.nhs.uk)

Patrick Taylor says:
26 March 2021

Patrick Taylor says:
Today 17:58

“London is the most spied-on city in the world. Numerous CCTV cameras have been placed across the city to help reduce the crime rates in the city. Cameras are placed on lampposts, buildings, train stations, and on main roads. According to the estimation by the Big Brother Watch (BBW), there are approximately 51,000 cameras that are run by the police to help watch citizens in the capital. According to a civil rights group called Liberty, on average a Londoner is captured on camera about 300 times daily. According to BBW, 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras are found in Britain. The numerous cameras help the police in solving crimes, managing traffic congestion, and even during accidents for the rescue teams. There have, however, been concerns as to whether these cameras have really helped in reducing crimes as evident by numerous crimes witnessed. BBW activists have been advocating for the governmental implementation of effective guidelines for the new code of conduct for the CCTV users. ”

worldatlas.com/articles/most-spied-on-cities-in-the-world.html

The runner-up four cities are in the US and China. Given the small, relatively, UK population possibly England would be among the most surveilled. Legislation is a very interesting one as there are several hundred years of accumulation. I know our tax rules are amonst the largest and most complicated.

However the census is not really that dangerous. After all if the intelligenvce services want anything they will ask the NSA who have access to all the stuff that many many people supply for free on Facebook, Google and Amazon. Those nice people at Google also mapped many countries with Streetview. Handy for the public also.

Debbie Martin says:
26 March 2021

It’s the invasive questions asked and also personal questions asked to if its really done to help the local councils plan adequate services then its failed miserably .

You could be right Debbie. When hard facts hit local politicians chaos ensues. Census data is only one of many measures and in essence the census is a historical record whereas what planners need are reliable forecasts and predictions. In a world of fast-changing technology historical records become less useful.

At best, the personal questions can only confirm or refute broad trends and are more for sociological interest than serious service or infrastructure planning. A ten-year cycle is far too long these days to be of much use in tracking population movements at a granular level.

In the space of a year the survival rate for the Covid disease has changed dramatically illustrating how unreliable predictions can be, but the unknown trajectories of long-Covid have become the more concerning issue as they tie up more hospital beds for longer. The 2011 census returns were unlikely to have been much help during the coronavirus crisis except for showing where higher populations of elderly citizens were located – but that would be well known anyway, and be more up-to-date, from a DWP postcode analysis. [Somewhat surprisingly, the epicentre has turned out to be coastal and rural Essex rather than the former industrial city centres.]

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of similarly invasive questions being asked in online job application forms for national minimum wage jobs at major UK retailers.

Personally, I do not see how the ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs (etc.) of any person is going to affect their suitability for serving me in a shop or for bringing parcels to my door (etc.).

Hence, I wonder why employers ask these questions. I really hope it is not just so that they can produce metrics on their employees backgrounds, in order to show that they are equal opportunities employers.

If so, I think that would be an unfortunate unintended consequence of success in achieving diversity in the workplace.

I think your third paragraph hits the nail on the head, but I don’t think that should be done at the pre-recruitment stage as it could be used for positive or negative discriminatory purposes.

In large organisations all job applications go via the HR division and personal names and identification details are detached before the résumé is forwarded to the shortlisting panel, but even that can be revealing of background origin.

Personnel selection is a fascinating activity and I recall learning about the ‘horns or halo’ effect within the first few seconds of a candidate entering the interview room. Sadly the exercise has become heavily freighted with political correctness these days.

Steve says:
27 March 2021

This dissenter does not use a mobile. I won’t run Windows 10 on my PC, even with a telemetry blocker ( by default it key logs everything you type and records voices near your computer and uploads them to a cloud set up with your Microsoft account). I do not do Facebook, never have. I have remained anonymous online for 21 years. I’m not qute sure why Amazon got a mention, but I don’t use them these days either after the Chinese invasion. I have boycotted all things Google for years, and that includes blocking the Google analytic script web sites, including this one, use to phone home to Google to build data profiles on everyone, which if you’re stupid enough to open Google accounts, identifies you.

It’s precisely because I have actively protected my privacy that I am so appalled that the UK Census has been gifted to Google, undermining everything I have done to avoid them, and as with the last US company with the 2011 Census, once the data has been migrated from this country it is no longer subject to UK or any remaining EU laws, it comes under the US Patriot Act. That is why the CEO of the ONS is lying through his teeth when he claims our data will be held securely and not divulged for 100 years – they already gave it away to another country.

And to DerekP, yes this country most definitely is the most surveilled and legislated nation on Earth, and long has been. Other countries may have the same ambition, but few of them, such as Putin’s Russia and North Korea, and you have to really start quoting the likes of them to find equivalence, have the same financial ability to deliver on it like the UK does. That is what is frightening, there are no limits here, and when anything additional is suggested the subject is dominated by elderly people who say “I have nothing to hide” instead of “why is the State wishing to nosey into my business”.

To Beryl, not completing the Census has no impact on your identity or your ability to access services, indeed it’s the very fact that the DWP, HMRC, the NHS, councils etc all have much of this information which makes the real purpose of the Census so suspect. Why, for example, do people need to be asked if they have ever married or had a Civil Partnership, or if these have been dissolved, when there are already legal records made of all marriages and divorces.

I don’t think differentiating between committing an offence and a crime is of any consequence when engaging in topics concerning government mandatory legislation, which clearly states “You will get a criminal record if you’re prosecuted for not completing the census and found guilty.”

census.gov.uk – Will I Get a Criminal Record?

Dissenting people need to be presented with the facts, when they are in a much better position to understand the rationale behind the questionnaire, which puts them in a much better position to make their own decision to either proceed with, or abstain from it.

“The census is mandatory, however, questions on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity are voluntary and will be clearly marked as voluntary questions.”

The above is an excerpt from: ons.gov.uk – Data Protection Impact Assessment for the 2021 Census.

To Steve, some evidence to back up your allegations would be much appreciated.

Steve says:
27 March 2021

Beryl, having a criminal record does not affect your identity. Your ID is not based upon you appearing in a Census every 10 years. And if someone broke the law they are still able to access health care, housing, benefits – the things you listed. Just about the only thing it might affect, and then only if seeking new employment, is work opportunity, and then only for a limited time before it became as spent conviction.

You don’t seem to understand that when questions about minority difference are presented as “voluntary”, and people decline to answer them, statisticians will assume the reason for declining is because you are in that minority. It operates as a trick question.

I gave the example of why a heterosexual would not decline to tick straight, but there are reasons why a gay or bisexual person, one who has not outed themselves through already ticking the question about same sex partnership, may hesitate to do so. So a person who had provided earlier answers to suggest they are maritally single who then declines to answer sexual orientation is taken to be gay or bisexual.

Similarly if a person chooses to decline to answer they self-identify their gender as male or female, then matched to already being asked if they are male or female they are then assumed to be hiding something.

And this question “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth? (This question is voluntary)” follows “what is your sex”. If you have already stated your sex and then decline to answer the voluntary question they know the likely answer.

This sequence of questions, and duplications, will not be an accident of design, every single invidious element is considered very carefully, not to show respect to peoples privacy, but to obtain datasets.

Steve, I am afraid I am unable to comment on the validity of ‘trick” questions. I have provided you with sufficient evidence, and you must make your own decision on whether to complete the census, or not based on these facts.

If you find this difficult to do, may I suggest you take some time out to carefully evaluate all the pros and cons, (positives and negatives), and the consequences that could befall you personally if you decide not to go ahead and complete it. The choice is yours and yours alone to make. Good luck!

Steve says:
27 March 2021

Thank you, I along with the millions of others will deal with this our own way, like many of the 40% on the poll here from the last time did.

And if in 2031 you hesitate when they perhaps start asking how many sexual partners you have had, whether you ever had an abortion, or some other intrusive issue without any valid funding or forward planning foundation, but which some focus group nobody can identify supposedly said was perfectly fine to ask, you can count on me to be here lending you 100% genuine support, and of the same opinion as now – that they should mind their own goddamn business.

That is all which separates every person posting here. Eventually, and without protests, the Census will demand to know things which overstep your own personal boundaries, and others, even if they are unaffected by those specific issues, will understand instead of simply saying “it’s the law” and to pay up.

Steve, thanks for your detailed replies and good luck.

[Moderator: this comment has been deleted as it did not adhere to the Community Guidelines. Please remember to stay on topic with the discussion, and to respect and critique others’ arguments, not the person or people making them].

Most of us think for ourselves. We may come to different conclusions. Telling someone else they are wrong is trying to impose your own views on another thinking person. There is no right to do that. We should just all do what we believe is OK and leave others to do the same.

If only we did think for ourselves. It seems that some have not yet learned how to do that yet, they are still waiting for Big Brother to tell them what to do.
Posting a comment is called voicing an opinion. It is neither right, nor wrong. Although it is a right :-). My right. A human right, if I’m not wrong :-). It all depends where you are coming from. Or where you are going. It could be both. It is also a right I defend. You coming here to tell it is not right to voice my opinion doesn’t feel right. I agree we should all do what we believe is right and leave others do the same. Right? Yet you are telling me what is right and what is not for me to say. It’s called double standard. Wrong? You tell me.

It seems that your last comment must have hit home, Steve. Hence the ‘no reply’ :-G. Hopefully, after a bit of time it will also sink in. Deep.
Very well put. Thank God for people like you. I congratulate you on having the guts to speak your truth and stand up to tyranny. Respect.

I do not know how many people are unhappy with the participating in the census. I do hope that during the next ten years their concerns are taken into account. Perhaps we can plan services adequately on the basis of a 95% completion rate. It has been acknowledged that some people are likely to be unhappy about answering certain questions by making them voluntary, which is better in my view, than collecting false data.

As I said earlier I have completed my census return in full but I am concerned that some people will acquire a criminal record by not participating. If they are forced, will their responses be honest and useful?

I imagine (wonder perhaps) whether the proportion of people dissenting and giving incorrect information has been around the same from the start. I expect it is small enough to have no significant effect on the use to which the aggregated information is put.

If those who don’t respond (or maybe don’t respond honestly if forced to respond) are not going to significantly affect the information collected, is it worth going round homes, demanding responses and warning of the penalties of not responding?

I am more worried that websites I visit placing cookies on my computer so that I can be provided with targeted marketing.

I guess the rationale for making the census compulsory is to ensure that a majority of citizens complete it.

Hence also the justification for sending out officers to chase up and help obtain missing responses.

Those things both sound worthwhile to me.

But beyond that, I’m not sure that much can be gained by fining those who absolutely refuse to comply.

Whilst the census is intended to serve the public, tracking cookies on websites only exist for the benefit of site owners. Targeted marketing can be an annoyance and it is certainly no crime to take steps to avoid it.

I am not opposed to people being reminded to complete their response and it would be useful if officers offer a paper form as an alternative to completing their return online. We were all offered the option of requesting a paper form online (!) or by phone, but not everyone gets round to doing what they are asked to do the first time.

I am not so sure that census officers will make visits to every address for which there is no return. It would be a costly and time-consuming exercise for perhaps little benefit. The ONS is not going to comment, of course, and there might be areas where there are numbers of no-returns that make a visit in the night fully justified.

As Wavechange says, there will be those who just haven’t got round to it, but there will also be some who might need help doing it, and some who adamantly refuse to do it. Different techniques might be needed in each case but they won’t know which until the door is opened. Existing ‘intel’ might allow the census office to contact the residents by phone or e-mail before making a visit and then deciding how to handle it. Some in the ‘not got round to it’ category might respond satisfactorily to a form in the post so no visit is required.

I don’t expect I’ll be opening the local paper any day now and finding a list of refuseniks in our area, although we do have some old eggs and tomatoes handy should the opportunity for civic action present itself.

Sending a form to those who have failed to respond would be a good idea, John, especially since many people will not be keen to answer the door during the pandemic.

How would you ever know how many people refuse the uninvited intrusion upon their lives and privacy perpetrated by a government upon a law passed 101 years ago anyway? You seem to have a very active imagination. Have you ever stopped to think that you may be one of the few that DID allow his privacy to be trampled upon and willingly gave information away? Maybe it’s you that are part of a minority. Could that be a possibility too? Rather than look down upon the ‘dissenters’, as you call them, as if they are not people like yourself, take some time to reflect on what motivated you to acquiesce to such a request? If the answer is ‘fear of punishment’, that would be great cause for concern.

Steve says:
27 March 2021

If they’re aiming for a 95% return rate that means they are anticipating around 1.6 million households, equating to perhaps 5 million people, do not supply details. There hasn’t been anything like this level of householders being prosecuted previously. Following the 2001 Census only 38 people were fined, and in 2011 it was 270, where only 4 people were fined the full £1000 (the average being £218).

https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/noncomplianceproceduresrelatingtothe2011census

Clearly the more invasive and personal the questioning, as now, the less likely there will be a higher compliance, or accurate data if forced.

To try taking people to court over this during an economic downturn and pandemic would be especially cruel, if it is statistically unnecessary. If we are to concern ourselves only with law it should also be ilegal to send census staff to peoples homes now when we remain in lockdown and you are not allowed to have people who are not part of your household in your garden, not just your home, and it would be a moot legal test case to determine if this was considered an ‘essential’ visit. At least Scotland had the good sense to delay their Census until 2022.

Perhaps we should insist the ONS is prosecuted for breaking lockdown laws if they try to harass people on their doorsteps with their band of superspreaders.

The electoral register is a similar example in many ways. A confidential legal document you cannot reproduce, photograph or remove from a Post Office, but which was sold off and migrated to China to be digitised and is now up for purchase at 192.com. That information is often used to try to track people down, including by abusers, and it also forms the backbone of international scam phone calls because it reveals who the vulnerable elderly UK households are (age ranges are shown) and their phone numbers unless they choose to be on the edited register and are ex-directory like me.

That should demonstrate what can happen to our ‘confidential’ data. And we don’t hear of many prosecutions for not registering to vote either.

Modern technological advancement has created a form of ‘privacy paranoia’ in some susceptible people, which has given rise to lawyers contacting psychologists over concerns about the increasing number of people affected by the loss of privacy through their Smart phones and related devices.

See: http://www.hayesconnor.co.uk – Psychology and Data Breaches. The emotional impact of privacy violations.

I wouldn’t go to them. None of their male practitioners wear neckties. For a firm of solicitors it’s just not legal.

From my motorcycling days:
Q. What do you call a biker in a suit and tie?
A. The Accused.

There are still plenty who wear a necklace and a skirt.

Steve says:
28 March 2021

If they’re aiming for a 95% return rate that means they are anticipating around 1.6 million households, equating to perhaps 5 million people, do not supply details. There hasn’t been anything like this level of householders being prosecuted previously. Following the 2001 Census only 38 people were fined, and in 2011 it was 270, where only 4 people were fined the full £1000 (the average being £218).

https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/noncomplianceproceduresrelatingtothe2011census

Clearly the more invasive and personal the questioning, as now, the less likely there will be a higher compliance, or accurate data if forced.

To try taking people to court over this during an economic downturn and pandemic would be especially cruel, if it is statistically unnecessary. If we are to concern ourselves only with law it should also be ilegal to send census staff to peoples homes now when we remain in lockdown and you are not allowed to have people who are not part of your household in your garden, not just your home, and it would be a moot legal test case to determine if this was considered an ‘essential’ visit. At least Scotland had the good sense to delay their Census until 2022.

Perhaps we should insist the ONS is prosecuted for breaking lockdown laws if they try to harass people on their doorsteps with their band of superspreaders.

The electoral register is a similar example in many ways. A confidential legal document you cannot reproduce, photograph or remove from a Post Office, but which was sold off and migrated to China to be digitised and is now up for purchase at 192.com. That information is often used to try to track people down, including by abusers, and it also forms the backbone of international scam phone calls because it reveals who the vulnerable elderly UK households are (age ranges are shown) and their phone numbers unless they know/choose to be on the edited register and are ex-directory.

That should demonstrate what can happen to our ‘confidential’ data. And we don’t hear of many prosecutions for not registering to vote either.

Steve says:
28 March 2021

Ah, assuming paranoia if people wish to keep their innermost private matters secret. To retain what is in their heads for a time when they feel safe enough to reveal it, if at all, and to whom.

And to keep it from both the State’s knowledge, which within their personal experience have been regressive or criminalising, and alos from their household’s knowledge or consideration, because the ONS wishes a nominated householder to be the person completing the questions on their behalf, asking them, or imagining what the answer might be if they cannot ask.

If anyone actually believes they have no secrets then let’s see them publish their medical history online, get printed or disc copies of them, which you can legally request, and also place them on your garden wall, otherwise someone might suggest you are paranoid if you don’t demonstrate that you have nothing to hide.

Fortunately when the government planned to make digital GP case-notes available to the State and security services, and to unspecified “researchers” from pharma companies who would be allowed to contact people, a million Britons became aware of these plans and signed an opt-out form someone legally uncovered they could generate, scuppering the whole ‘care.data’ plans.

The power of protest is a wonderful thing.

I hear you, Steve. It’s sad to see the ill effects authority induced fear has on people’s psyches. Even on the minds of those that are are intelligent enough and should be able to see things more clearly. It can be pretty devastating and sometimes requires nothing short of divine intervention for its reversal.
What’s fascinating is that although we are communicating in the same language, the grovelers(that’s for the people who call us ‘dissenters’) can’t seem to comprehend what we are saying to them .It’s like we are looking at the same thing, but see it as something different. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. When one has been condition into thinking that has to relinquish his power into the hands of a higher, benevolent authority, he will stop questioning that authority. I guess we must be compassionate enough to see the Stockholm syndrome at work. No amount of intellectual, factual evidence can counteract the false reality perceived by a mind trapped in fear. Instead of thanking us, they see us as the enemy. A lot like the Matrix scene, when Morpheus takes Neo for the first time into the Matrix simulation. The people who are trapped in the system think of us as the enemy, until we manage to help them free themselves. Problem is, they also have TO WANT to be saved.

I expect that someone, somewhere has a list of names and addresses and they, or their computers, tick off the census forms as they arrive. This data base probably highlights the addresses of those that have not returned a census form. For the record, I took ten minutes to do mine, posted it and forgot all about it. I always smile at the idea of male, female or other. I have yet to meet an “other” and I doubt whether anyone in this world can claim to have done so except those who indulge in the paranormal. More seriously, it really boils down to what is done with the information we have submitted. If it is used for a variety of statistical purpose as an anonymous set of data, then it might be helpful to the country in assessing how best to run it. If it is used to target individuals and interfere with their lives, then it is indeed invasive and threatening. I suppose the census could do this inadvertently if the data suggested a course of action for a section of the population and this led to legislation. In education, the data gathered is used for assessment of progress in learning and deciding the next steps to take. Most schools have an in depth knowledge of their children and can give a personal, year group and school based description of their cohort. They can answer any “what if?” questions and their success as an education establishment relies on doing just this on a regular basis. This is an example of data being gathered and used for the benefit of the children and their parents. Extrapolate that, and it can be seen that data, used correctly, can be really useful in society. As has been pointed out, many clandestine and retail organisations know a lot more about us than we would wish them to. I am far more worried about them than the government census. When the government ceases to be democratically elected and we become a one party state, my view on this might well change, until then I wish them luck with my census which is churning round in a huge pile with a few million others, in some office, somewhere in the UK.

I thought the rehearsal for the 2021 census was interesting. https://www.ons.gov.uk/census/censustransformationprogramme/testingthecensus/2019collectionrehearsalevaluationreportforcensus2021englandandwales
A lot of care seems to have been taken to get it right.

Do we need to perpetuate the census? Is it worth the £40 per household it seems to cost? Are other data systems sufficiently accessible and integrated to get all this information from existing sources without a dedicated form? If it is, it might well lead to more accusations about the lack of our privacy.

I expect a very high percentage of the census forms have been submitted on-line and will be digitally translated onto the database. Paper forms will probably be scanned into the on-line format and then dealt with in the same way. I don’t know whether the paper copies will then be archived; I can’t see the need to do so once the data has been extracted.

I was amazed to read that 17,000 field officers had been recruited by the ONS and wondered why such a large number were needed if the majority of returns were done on-line, but perhaps that is because the non-returns are so thinly and widely scattered that it will require a lot of staff to gather in just a few each to complete the task within the period allowed.

Given that a lot of the money allocated by the government to local authorities, the NHS, voluntary organisations, and various projects relies on population and demographic factors it is desirable to conduct a basic headcount and profile for each part of the country to ensure accurate and equitable allocations [before the politicians get their hands on it for contrived ‘levelling up’ purposes] but if other controversial issues get in the way of that essential process then I see no point in continuing with the census in its present form. There are other ways and techniques for acquiring the necessary information without spending £900 million on it and taking several years to spit out the bits.

Amazing what people do with the money, when they didn’t have to work hard to get it, isn’t it? You, I and the rest of the population may see no point in continuing with the census in its present form(or at all). However, the big money making, usually corrupt and squandering mob that governments are could not care less about what we, the taxpayers, think. They are made of people that had a burning desire to get there, into a position of power. And now they are enjoying the big salaries and perks that come with the job. When would people realise that governments are a good idea in theory, that fails miserably in practice?

The CEOs and staff of some charities earn significantly more than the Prime Minister is paid. 🙂

VynorHill, you seem to underestimate the power of the AI. Do you really stand 100% behind all that you hold to be true for you? Because to me, just because someone wraps a poison pill in sugar coating does not change the way I look upon it and there’s no way I am going to put that into my mouth. Same with this so called census. No matter what they tell us, no matter what good intentions they try to hide it under or attach to it, it remains the same: an invasion of privacy. I am old enough(if not wise enough yet) to know I should judge a tree by its fruit. I am yet to be convinced that that tree I am talking about produces fruit that are even remotely close to being healthy for us.
Now, most of us agree that they have most of the data anyway, from centralised databases that are all under their their control. They add a few more seemingly harmless questions amongst the others. Put together, they now get to paint a better picture of us. Now, why would that be, I ask you? And please don’t say ‘it’s for our own good’! Please! I stopped believing that a long, long time ago. Nobody should be falling for that anymore, not after what has been happening around the world lately. It’s all about control.
You say that ‘Most schools have an in depth knowledge of their children and can give a personal, year group and school based description of their cohort. They can answer any “what if?” questions and their success as an education establishment relies on doing just this on a regular basis. This is an example of data being gathered and used for the benefit of the children and their parents.’ I’m very worried about some of that wording. ‘Their children’!? Heck no! They are OUR children. ‘Cohort’. Wow, I guess some see our lovely, unique beings that we call children as being that. I don’t. But OK, let’s agree to disagree. But please don’t believe for a second that schools have the benefit of the children and their parents at heart. I know some of the teachers are good people and indeed they want the best for our kids. But they are not many, unfortunately. I urge you to read a book called ‘Dumbing us down’, if you have the time. And if you don’t, please make some time. It can even be listened to, or read online as a free PDF. Our children deserve that much from us.

Gatto’s book (‘Dumbing us down’) is sadly deficient in several aspects; from the simple fact that glowing testimonies, forewords and a great deal of other padding occupies the first third of the entire book, to the sad observation that nothing, absolutely nothing he says is new nor original, then to the fact that most of what he says is based on his own unfortunate experiences teaching in New York, with its immense litany of social problems, its relevance to UK schools is partial at best.

That there are major issues with UK education, however, cannot be denied. and some aspects of what says are applicable. But sadly the current model of teaching is dictated by what is fiscally possible, which produces a framework within which the best teachers still do amazing work, Home schooling is a better option in some ways, providing the parents are capable of delivering it.

Thank you, Ian, for bringing your knowledge to bear. Under the muck we discover gold.

Phil says:
4 April 2021

” Home schooling is a better option in some ways, providing the parents are capable of delivering it. ”

That’s a big “providing”, some parents aren’t fit to be parents let alone teachers.

Yes, it’s a bonus if you have parents or close family members who are enthusiastic teachers but we have to help everyone else.

DerekP says:
4 April 2021

I did a bit of maths tutition, using HegartyMaths, with a friend’s daughter yesterday. As Phil said, tutoring such work will be quite a big ask for many parents.

Luckily I’ve always enjoyed maths, but I’m a bit out of touch with current school practices and terminology.

Yesterday I relearnt about the application of the term “bus stop method” to hand division. Some of what I see in modern maths homework suggests that it s targeted a bit too much at budding Sheldon Coopers as opposed to mere Howard Wolowitzs.

Teaching in a workplace academy also taught me a more modest approach to teaching, in which it was expected ( /hoped) that all learners would (sooner or later) pass every course they were asked take. To help achieve that, learning outcomes and timescales were carefully matched to real workplace needs.

Phil says:
4 April 2021

Enthusiastic and knowledgable. I doubt many parents have a broad enough knowledge base to cover all the subjects a child needs. Especially if they need to be prepared for any examinations for an apprenticeship or university.

The truly interesting aspect of education is the fragmentation of it. From years 1 – 9 ‘subjects’ as such are not necessarily of any real importance. The two most important – English and Mathematics – can be taught as part of a general coverage approach. It’s really only from year 9/10 onwards that specialisation should play any real part.

Watching the boat race today I was struck by the number of ‘subjects’ covered. Time, distance, acceleration, flow, strategy, heading – just showing that to a class of enthusiastic 12 year-olds and then showing the kids how to apply various observational skills would cover about a week’s ‘normal’ schoolwork.

Steve says:
29 March 2021

“I suppose the census could do this inadvertently if the data suggested a course of action for a section of the population and this led to legislation.”

You’ve got it in one.

If the political wind changes, more than it already has in this divided country, regressive politics will replace progressive. No freedom is ever set in stone for all eternity, and for the first time in human history the State has been given a list of those most likely in our society to find themselves recriminalised. Very tellingly, this identifying information has been obtained not as the result of a mass expression of individual liberation taken by the individuals affected, but via the blanket media coverage of wall-to-wall threats if they don’t.

And, if I may add, with the kind help of those amongst us who gave them the information just because they asked for it. Well done people.

terry says:
1 April 2021

the census would be fine if our data wasn’t being sold to private companies like
ancestry.com who blackmail us to see our own heritage ,what was the point of the
freedom of information act if the only thing we really want to see is being denied.

Terry – Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk are both licensed by the National Archives as official partner websites to offer census searches to the public. It is free to search on these sites, but there is a charge to view full search results and digitised images.

Information from censuses from 1841 to 1891 (inclusive) are available from Ancestry. Information from the later ones in 1901 and 1911 is available from Findmypast who will also make the 1921 data available early in 2022. Other websites also offer search services.

It is possible to view the census records free of charge on site at The National Archives in Kew [south west London], at many libraries and record offices, and at FamilySearch Centres worldwide. Many local and county record offices also hold microfilm or microfiche copies of the census returns for their own area, excluding 1911.

There is obviously a cost involved in providing search facilities so a small charge for accessing the records in your own home seems reasonable to me. Some families made their own records of births, deaths, marriages and places of residence which were kept up and handed down through the generations.

Phil says:
4 April 2021

Ancestry has the 1901 and 1911 censuses and the 1939 survey.

This Conversation (originally published 24/03/2011) is now closed due to the discussion frequently straying from the intended topic.

Thank you for all your contributions.