St Mary Magdalene † St Bartholomew † St Alban †
Sunday 20th March 2011
By now, most of us – or someone in our household – will have received a copy of the Census Form, a long white and purple document headed ‘Household Questionnaire’.
Some people resent the request to fill in the form: they find it intrusive and feel that the government already knows too much about us.
Others perhaps are fearful that if they fill it in, the council, the police, or the immigration authorities will discover irregularities which we would rather they didn’t know about.
But if we don’t fill it in, we take away one of the best ways which government, local authorities, schools, hospitals and public services have of finding out what they should be doing, whom they are serving, and what our needs as a borough, a city, and a country are.
And ‘needs’ is a vital word in all of this. The people who will lose out most, if the census figures are inaccurate, are those who need most; a poor borough like Newham is likely to do worse in terms of money from central government if it can’t point to the numbers of children in need of schooling, to the numbers of families living in overcrowded accommodation, to the number of adults out of work, and a whole range of other facts which indicate how many of us and our neighbours struggle to live well.
The census may not be a perfect way of measuring who, what, and how the people of this country are – but it is the one which will be used for planning how we should live for the next few years.
Fill the form in! And if you feel it’s the wrong kind of form, start your campaign for a new way of measuring now, in good time for 2021, when the next census is due to be held.