Census investigators take to the streets

CENSUS investigators go out on to the streets in Sussex for the first time tomorrow (Wednesday May 4) targeting households who have still not filled out a census questionnaire.

Census ‘non-compliance’ staff will begin conducting interviews under caution with householders who are refusing to fill in their census form.

Failing to make a census return is a criminal offence under the 1920 Census Act and can lead to prosecution, a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.

Since Census Day on March 27, letters and cards reminding people that returning the census is required by law have been posted to households where there is no record of a form having been returned. The form should have been filled in and returned on March 27 or as soon as possible afterwards.

A workforce of 29,000 collectors across England and Wales has been visiting to offer help and support with completing the questionnaire since April 6 and leaving a reminder card with contact details where there has been no response to their call.

ONS Census Director Glen Watson said: “We are now in the final phase of follow-up and people need to act straight away to avoid the risk of a fine. We realise people lead busy lives and completing their census might not be at the top of their ‘to do’ list, but the time to act is now.

“Where people refuse to complete their form a formal investigation is undertaken and they can be interviewed under caution, evidence gathered and those details passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. A court hearing, a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000 may follow.

“The census provides vital information to enable planners to identify future local needs for housing, roads, school places, healthcare and other public services needed by local communities. It also gives a much clearer picture of how much society is changing over time.

“That’s why we need everyone to respond and why there is a legal requirement for everyone to fill in the questionnaire. Our emphasis has always been to help people complete and return their form as quickly as possible. Prosecution is very much the last resort.”

Census forms can still be returned in the pre-paid envelope or online via the census website at www.census.gov.uk

Census non-compliance staff will:

always carry photo id bearing the 2011Census and logos;

ensure people fully understand the consequences of non-compliance;

provide households with every opportunity to complete their census;

gather evidence of non-completion where necessary.

Anyone with any doubts as to the identity of 2011 Census staff should contact the census general helpline for advice: England 0300 0201 101.