Census 2021 - Why taking part will help improve services in Peterborough

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Unless you have avoided the advertising blitz, or been one of the few people not to have a postcard come through their letterbox, then you will know the Census is fast approaching.

On March 21 households across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be asked to fill in details including their age, race, occupation and relationship status.

And while there may annoyance at having to spend the time answering the questionnaire, or concerns over privacy, the Census is very important for improving services in Peterborough.

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Not least because of regular grumblings from senior politicians that the city misses out on funding which is allocated on outdated population figures based on the previous Census in 2011.

The Census is taking place on March 21The Census is taking place on March 21
The Census is taking place on March 21

Nicola Warnock is the Census engagement manager for Peterborough, and she told the Peterborough Telegraph: “We’re just coming out of a massive pandemic and it’s really important to understand how the population has been affected by that and what this might mean for services moving forward.

“This informs big decisions, things like healthcare, schools and bus routes; how the population is growing, how it’s changing; if you have an area with a particular community there who may well have different healthcare needs to another area. All of that information is really important to the local authority.”

The previous Census had a huge impact, for instance allowing the Mental Health Foundation to find those more at risk of mental ill health and give them the support they need, or to build a picture of different communities, something which will be pivotal in Peterborough.

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One of the biggest challenges locally is engaging with groups who either view the Census with suspicion or who will struggle to fill it out.

“There’s an awful lot of support available,” explained Nicola (see below),

Some communities are “very engaged,” she added, while others are “more mistrusting of the system and believe it’s the Government trying to snoop on them which absolutely it isn’t. It’s about trying to give them that reassurance.

“This isn’t a government exercise. The Office for National Statistics reports directly to Parliament - they’re not a government department or political, they just provide statistics to help the Government put services in place that we all rely on.

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“The data which is provided is completely confidential even though you are asked to give your name and the names of those in your household. That is removed before those statistics are made available. It’s not passed onto any other government department. For example, it can’t be used to inform benefits application decisions or housing applications - that doesn’t happen.

“There are Census’ happening across Europe and the US did theirs recently. I’ve had questions asking ‘I spend part of my time in the UK and part of my time in Europe, do I need to complete in both countries?’ Absolutely, you do.”

To help with the completion of the digital first Census, the Peterborough Asylum and Community Refugee Association (PARCA) and Gladstone District Community Association (GLADCA) are offering assistance to residents who need it, for example language support.

And after March 21 work will continue across the city to make sure households who have not filled in the Census do so as soon as possible.

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“There will be a field operation,” explained Nicola. “For households that haven’t completed a few days after Census day there will be field officers chasing up with those households and that will be to say ‘you haven’t completed, do you need any help? Is it that you’ve forgotten? Do you need a new access code? Would you prefer a paper questionnaire?’”

The access code will enable residents to complete the Census online which is the aim for most households, with the results coming through around a year later.

For those who choose not to take part they could be fined up to £1,000.

A Census is held every 10 years, and this time around there are new questions on whether you have been in the Armed Forces - which is aimed at making sure veterans are supported - and on gender identity.

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The questionnaire can also be filled out before March 21 and updated ahead of the day.

Further information can be found at: https://census.gov.uk/.

Where can I get help in Peterborough?

There are two Census Support Centres in Peterborough which can help people, by appointment, to complete the Census.

They are at Unity Hall (telephone: 01733 563420) and Gladstone District Community Association (01733 566343). If you pop your postcode into: https://census.gov.uk/en/find-a-support-centre/ it will bring up your nearest support centre.

What other support is available?

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There is a national Census helpline which can be contacted on 0800 141 2021 (TEXT RELAY 18001). You can access lots of support using this option, which include:

. A paper questionnaire

. Telephone completion

. An Easy Read information leaflet which uses pictures to support the meaning of simple words. This is designed for a reading age of eight

. Braille guidance

. Large print paper questionnaire: available on request

. Electronic questionnaire - the eQ is designed with accessibility guidelines and is compatible with most assistive technologies.

The Census website is where people go to complete online where there are also lots of resources to help people complete the Census, including:

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. Language guides and a language support line: 0800 587 2021

. Accessible formats and guidance.

There are videos about the Census on YouTube, including an introduction to the Census - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqiL7Ys9vkLHnvWxUNdYEGQ.

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