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2009 Census Rehearsal

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2009 Census Rehearsal for England & Wales

The 2011 Census is a vast undertaking that requires millions of people to get involved and share in helping tomorrow take shape. It’s vital that everything goes to plan and we can be confident of capturing a true picture of the nation as it stands on 27 March 2011. 

What’s new for 2011?

The 2011 Census for England and Wales features a number of innovative systems and processes and an expanded set of questions which will include national identity, citizenship and migration.

For the first time, the questionnaires are being posted (rather than hand delivered) to all households in England and Wales. Each household will need to complete their questionnaire online, or fill in the paper questionnaire and return it by post. A dedicated contact centre and an online help centre will be available to answer any questions people have about what information they need to provide and how they should complete and return their questionnaires.

Questionnaires will be automatically tracked throughout the process and census staff will follow up with households that do not respond and/or need help completing their questionnaire.

New systems are in place to monitor progress and direct the follow-up operation. 

What happened in October 2009?

A rehearsal took place with around 135,000 selected households in Lancaster, the London Borough of Newham and Ynys Môn (Isle of Anglesey) on 11 October 2009. These areas included a cross-section of the population and the different types of housing that people live in. A smaller scale test also took place in Birmingham at the same time.

The purpose of the 2009 Census Rehearsal was to carry out a full evaluation and review of the census design for 2011 and included the testing of:

Online services and telephone helpline . In 2011 people will, for the first time, have the option to fill in their census questionnaires online. Each questionnaire bears a unique code which the user will enter when they log into the online service. If they are unable to complete the questionnaire in one go, they can save what they’ve done, return to it later and then simply click to submit their answers.

We needed to make sure that the questionnaire is easy to complete and that we have provided all the online guidance possible to make the process quick and simple. The rehearsal tested the online questionnaire, online help centre and the census helpline and monitored our performance in handling high data volumes and online activity.

Address information and delivery systems . We need to reach every household within a given area. So we needed to test that our address database is accurate, complete and up to date - and track the progress of every questionnaire throughout the process.

Field operations . More than 35,000 census coordinators, enumerators and other field staff are being recruited for the 2011 Census. We needed to test our success in engaging and recruiting enumerators who are able to contact, persuade and help householders to respond.

Community understanding . The 2011 Census includes comprehensive engagement with all local authorities and community representatives in England and Wales. Their grassroots knowledge and expertise will help us to understand the needs of people living in the area and encourage them to take part. Each of the three local authorities that took part appointed a census liaison manager and assistance census liaison manager to work with us and help us to test that we are able to reach as many people as possible with our key messages, paying particular attention to community groups representing older people, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, faith communities, and people with language or learning difficulties.

Public awareness. The 2011 Census is an opportunity for everyone in the UK to help shape their communities. We need to build a rapport with local authorities, businesses and individuals to explain how their information will be used to help plan and deliver services in the future. The rehearsal helped us to make sure that we will do this well.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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