Liaison effort to make sure all communities are counted

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The Independent Online

To ensure everyone is counted in the 2001 Census the Census offices, in addition to usual publicity, are conducting a community liaison programme to contact groups likely to find the census form difficult to complete.

To ensure everyone is counted in the 2001 Census the Census offices, in addition to usual publicity, are conducting a community liaison programme to contact groups likely to find the census form difficult to complete.

Since it is only the decennial census that can provide the baseline information about the population - needed for detailed planning at national and local levels - the Census Offices are making a major effort to ensure all groups of society complete their form.

And to ensure the 2001 census meets the information needs of the coming decade the Census Offices have consulted widely in order to ask the population the right questions with the questions being acceptable to the population and easy to answer.

The 1991 Census was the first to include a question on ethnic group. In response to consultation, this question has been extended in the 2001 Census to include additional categories allowing people to identify themselves as, for example, of mixed ethnic group, or Black British or Asian British. Where categories do not fit, people can write in their own preferred description.

There will be a new question on religion which, for example, will allow the South Asian population to be distinguished by religious affiliation and thus provide a better understanding of ethnic differences.

An additional question on general health will greatly extend the value of the existing question on long-term limiting illness by providing different measures of the health of the population.

And for the first time the voluntary provision of care to family, friends and neighbours, will be recognisedthrough the number of hours spent caring.

In the 1981 and 1991 censuses a question on educational qualification was restricted to post-A level. In 2001 this will be extended to cover all levels of qualification and will therefore provide a much fuller picture of the educational level of our society.

The 2001 Census will break from the past by asking the public to post their forms back to the Census Offices using pre-paid return envelopes. Enumerators will follow-up households who have not returned a form within four to five days after Census day.

The census should provide a tool for all sections of society, including, education, community groups, business and central and local government.

With the facility to complete forms via the web indications are the 2001 Census will deliver a product better than any previous census.

* Angela Dale is based at the Centre for Census and Survey Research, University of Manchester.

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