Under FOI legislation, could you please supply me with the following information relating to the 2011 Census.
1. What was the overall response rate in terms of numbers and percentages?
2. What areas were the 20 lowest rates of response by % ?
3. In those 20 lowest response % areas, what was the number of Census forms not returned?
4. How many fines have been issued in relation to the non-return of Census forms to date?
5. For fines not issued, what are the reasons for this?
6. Could you catergorise the reasons for non-returned Census forms in terms of numbers for each reason?
7. What is the policy for following up the non-return of census forms?
8. In what cases will the non return of a census form not be followed up and fined?
You might be interested to know that a wealth of information about the 2011 Census is available on the ONS website including information on response rates.
Answers to your specific questions are as follows:-
1. The 2011 Census England and Wales person response rate is the number of usual residents for whom individual details were provided on a returned questionnaire divided by the census estimate of the number of usual residents - 52,638,800 divided by 56,075,900 = 94 per cent.
For an explanation of response rates, return rates and coverage rate please see the paper on the website at
2. Person response rates for each local authority in England and Wales are shown in a spreadsheet ‘census response rates’ which can also be downloaded from the above link. I have extracted the 20 areas with the lowest person response rates and these are shown below at Annex A.
3. As you will see from the explanatory material, the number of census questionnaires not returned is not a measure of response rates. It is therefore not possible to answer this question meaningfully. Some questionnaires were returned as being undeliverable which would have included addresses that were not residential, that had been demolished, or where the occupier was deceased. Similarly, some questionnaires sent to such addresses will not have been returned.
4. ONS is not responsible for issuing fines for non return of census forms. The decision to prosecute in cases of a refusal to make a census return is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service. The imposition and amount of a fine is at the discretion of the Magistrate within the limits of the standard scale under the Criminal Justice Act 1982. There have been 205 prosecutions and fines have been imposed in all but one case.
5. As explained above, it is the decision of the Magistrate whether or not to impose a fine, and so ONS is not able to answer this question.
6. This information is not collected.
7. Over three million reminder letters were sent out in several tranches soon after Census Day, and almost 30,000 field staff were employed to follow-up those addresses from which a census questionnaire had not been recorded as being received. Field staff were encouraged to visit those addresses where no questionnaire had been received as many times as they could and at varying times of day in order to maximise the likelihood of contact with the householder and thus secure a return. If, however, during such a visit, field staff received a refusal to complete the questionnaire, they created a refusal report form and the information was passed to the non-compliance team.
The non-compliance investigation was undertaken by specially trained Non-Compliance Officers who conducted formal Interviews under Caution as required by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Throughout England and Wales over 12,000 cases of refusal were visited by Non-Compliance Officers. Of those contacted, several thousand subsequently completed a questionnaire. Cases were then selected for referral to the Crown Prosecution Service based on the availability of robust evidence of a persistent refusal. However, at any stage during the prosecution proceedings prior to a conviction, if the householder chose to make a return, such proceedings were then suspended.
8. All cases of reported refusals were followed-up, but, as explained above, the decision whether or not to prosecute is the responsibility of the Crown Prosecution Service. Instances where it was thought not to be in the public interest to proceed to prosecution may have included such mitigating factors as recent bereavement, physical or mental illness, and/or insufficient evidence.