1. Introduction

The Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) collects information on spending patterns and the cost of living that reflects household budgets across the country.

The study provides information about household spending patterns, which is used to update the contents of the consumer inflation basket of goods and services. It is also used to provide information about food consumption and nutrition. It is an important source of economic and social data for government and other research agencies.

The study is conducted throughout the year across the whole of the UK and is the most significant consumer study undertaken in the UK. The results are essential for understanding society and planning to meet its needs.

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2. Why is this study important?

We need high-quality information about individual and household spending patterns and the relationship between diet, nutrition and health.

The study enables us to provide information on changes in spending patterns and the cost of living that reflects household budgets throughout the country.

The study also informs government policy about changes in diet.

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3. Why should I take part?

Whatever your circumstances, they are relevant to this study.

Obtaining information from as many selected households as possible is the only way we can get a complete and accurate picture of the nation's spending patterns and changes in diet.

By taking part in the study, you will ensure that your experiences and circumstances become an important part of the bigger picture of life in the UK today and will be helping to influence matters that affect us all.

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4. What is involved?

An interviewer will arrange a suitable time to visit you to conduct the interview.

All questionnaire data are collected face-to-face using computer-assisted questionnaires.

The interviewer will collect information about how you manage your household finances.

The interviewer will also ask each person to keep receipts and to record details of their expenditure.

If there are children in the household they too are encouraged to record their expenditure.

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5. How will the information be used?

Government departments use the results of the study to identify how and where they should be using public resources.

They use the information to check how different groups in the community are affected by existing policies and to inform future policy changes.

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6. Who is carrying out the study?

The Living Costs and Food Survey is being conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the government's largest producer of statistics.

We compile independent information about the UK's society and economy, which provides evidence for policy and decision-making, and for directing resources to where they are needed most.

The ONS also plans and runs the census in England and Wales. The 10-yearly census, measures of inflation, the national accounts, and population and migration statistics are some of our highest-profile outputs.

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7. Will I be paid for taking part?

To reflect the importance we place on your assistance, a gift voucher will be sent to each adult person interviewed who also completes their record of expenditure.

Children, aged 7 to 15 years, who record their expenditure will also receive a small gift voucher.

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8. Do I have to take part?

Our work is very important and we need your help to make our studies successful. Every year about half a million people help us by taking part in our studies. No-one has to take part if they do not want to, but for us to paint an accurate picture of our society, it is vital that we interview as many people as possible, from all walks of life.

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9. Is the study confidential?

Yes, UK legislation allows us to collect and process your data to produce statistics for the public good.

Your information will be treated as confidential as directed by the Code of Practice for Statistics. It will only be held for as long as it is being used for producing statistics. The statistics produced will not identify you or anyone in your household.

Survey information is also provided to other government departments, approved organisations and approved researchers for statistical purposes only. Details on who can access this information can be found on the approved organisations and government departments page and the approved researchers page. All statistics produced will be subject to the Code and the same standards of protection will be applied to your data at all times.

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10. Why have I been selected?

Households are selected at random from the Royal Mail's Postcode Address File. About 20,000 addresses are selected. Once selected we cannot replace you with another household. This means your participation is very important to the success of this official study in ensuring that all groups in society are properly represented.

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11. What is ONS’s responsibility to the public?

You can read about the commitments the ONS makes to those taking part in its studies in our ONS Respondent charter for surveys of households and individuals.

If you have a question about how we process your personal data or want to find out more about your rights under data protection legislation, please see our data protection page for more information and the contact details you will need.

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12. Who can I contact for further information?

If you have any queries about taking part in the study, please contact us on 0800 298 5313. The opening times for the phone line are:

9am to 6pm Monday to Friday

9am to 1pm Saturday

We would appreciate your suggestions on how we can improve this or any of our studies. It would also be great to hear from you if you are happy with the service you have received.

You can email us at surveyfeedback@ons.gov.uk.

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13. Sharing data with our service providers

We sometimes share selected information with our service providers to help us run our surveys. We only share the personal details they need to know. To find out more about each service provider's commitment while they are handling your information, please visit their websites. In this study we work with other organisations to provide the following services:

  • sending your thank you gift; our service provider for this is Pluxee, a subsidiary of Sodexo

helping us get in touch with you; our service providers for this are Totalmobile and NISRA

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