Thursday, 14 April 2011

Strike 1 - census office

The much trumpeted last ever census ever to be conducted in the uk, because the country's too poor ever to attempt it again, promptly arrived on 27th March 2011.

Being an online-hawk (albeit with small wings that periodically furiously flap), I decided to complete the form on net a couple of days after receiving everything in the post, and well before the cut-off date which was officially highlighted in bold if my memory is to be believed.

I didn't, however, click that final submit button, as I had no idea whether anyone would be staying here at any time ever again, let alone overnight on the 27th March 2011.  The likelihood was no-one, but if forced to answer by having a pair of hot-tongs waved in front of my face, i'd have probably indicated whilst sweating profusely that the probability was 99.9999999% that no one would be.  In reality it turned out i was 100% correct, I was indeed here;  but at the time, a few weeks before the deadline, I didn't know; and wanting to be a dutiful citizen I specifically - especially after reading the blurb which said you could complete as much as possible, and then whatever you had filled in but not yet committed would be used as your answer - waited, before even thinking about pressing the 'button'.  A button presumably put there for clairvoyants.

So everything was filled in.  Apart from that bit, because I didn't know. After all it wasn't the 27th.

The 28th arrived.  I went, 'bugger!'

Imagine my surprise then when, on the 13th April 2011 (yesterday), whilst cursing my environment, the doorbell sprang into life.

Normally, after picking up the intercom, you're either blasted by wailing shrieks, squeaks, whistles or pops, as the "saw them coming" system on the one hand attempts to connect both ends via different communications protocols and magnificently fails, to the other of pretending it's not really a working system, and showers you in silence.

I knew something was up when I heard a crystal clear and chirpy voice pipe through the wires saying, "I'm sharna from the census office.  We don't have a record of you completing the census."

"What?" I retorted.  Thinking they're happy allowing their underlings to poison you, but don't fill in a form and its "oh, we'll be down on you like a truck of cement as obviously you're a naughty citizen, you, yes you!"

"I'm from the census office.  We haven't received your form."

"I filled it in online."

"You filled it in online?"

Oh and a parrot.


"Okay", a brief moment of hesitancy aimlessly drifted before the official sprang back to life.  “I'll mark it down then," and she was gone.

This was all undertaken via an intercom which normally decides it's not going to co-operate.  Think of the lifts in the hitchhikers guide, but far less friendly for most of the time.

Moral?  Always take a a hammer to something electro-mechanical, it saves fretting about it turning into skynet01.


  1. Interesting - I had a similar knock at the door today. I had completed the census on line and had good reason to wait until the actual day because there was a very good chance that my son wouldn't be here that night. I'm sure it said that the information would be collected regardless whether you clicked the submit form or not! I'm my worried that i also completed the form on line for two elderly family members too and they will be freaked out if they get the same knock at the door!

  2. I spoke with Steven from Census Processing. Apparently there was nothing on screen indicating answers would be submitted after the cut-off date. As he said "it will only be received in our system after the submit button is clicked, all answers so far will have been saved."

    I refrained from pointing out that it was already in their system, so it's already been received, and returned to the site and clicked the submit button.

    The good thing is you can still go online and simply finish the process. So if you do that for your family members there shouldn't be a problem.

    If you are still concerned though, give them a call on 0300 0201 101 and then press '0' on your keypad a few times to speak with someone - instead of listening to the interminable never-ending recording.

    Usually when something appears to good to be true, I take a snapshot, or appropriate snippet of the page, ensuring I don't wake up soon after wondering whether I was stuck in some unedited dream sequence, but sadly not on this occasion.

  3. It's interesting that Steven from Census Processing said that it wasn't on the screen as I read it somewhere and in fact the person I've just spoken to(number on Census form) confirmed I hadn't imagined it. What it meant was the the information would be collected when the site closes on 6 May.

    Of course i should have clicked the submit button(happy to admit my mistakes) but I find it incredible that they don't have a way of finding out who has completed and saved the form on their site. I wonder how much money it's costing to send people round chasing up forms when they already have the information.

    I tried to go back to the site(as soon as the Census man had called yesterday) my completed/saved form had disappeared(which to me implied that they had collected the information) but it seemed to be giving me the option to add another.

    It appears my choices are to either keep getting reminders until 6 May when they will collect my on line version, or complete another form.

    i completed the three forms a couple of weeks before the date. I wasn't sure where my son would be on that date. The other two forms were for three very elderly people and I was concerned that if something happened to one of them before the census date it would a real hassle getting my submitted form changed. I had long finished thinking about the census by the due date and I'm afraid a busy life just took over.

    Still paying for it now. Lesson learnt - click the submit button!

  4. Hi

    I'm sure no one is really interested, but I went back on the website and managed to find my forms again. All submitted now(complete with reference numbers) so feeling much happier now. Thought I'd show the text from the screen at the end of the census form which led me to believe that it didn't matter whether I clicked the submit button or not. Think it may have been worth adding that it wouldn't be collected until 6 May 2011 and that you would be classed as not completing the form until this date. It may have made me think twice about making sure I did click that Submit button! I also wish the two census staff I spoke to could have confirmed that I would be able to go back into my on line form – I asked this question to both and neither seemed to know.

    Your 2011 Census questionnaire is now finished.
    You and other members of your household will not be able to access or change your information once you click "Submit".
    If you wish to check or change your answers, please click on the relevant section of "Your progress".
    By clicking "Submit", you declare that this questionnaire has been completed to the best of your knowledge and belief.
    Please click "Submit".
    If you do not submit your questionnaire, your responses will automatically be collected when the online questionnaire closes

  5. People are always interested, just shy.

    Good to hear you managed to submit, have you been able to do the same for your elderly family members?

    Looking back though, it really shouldn't be any surprise, as the government pours billions into IT projects which are eventually scrapped. A report from the National Audit Office relating to the 2009-2010 period indicated that over £600 million was wasted on various IT projects.

    It is disappointing that the census staff turned out to have even less information about this pertinent part of the process than those of us completing it, especially with a £1,000 club waiting in the wings for anybody daring not to fill it in.

    Least not forget, a lot of the staff are probably temporarily employed for this census, and once it's completed, collated and shovelled out in bite-sized tasty sounding portions, that's it. They'll be out on their collective ears, along with thousands more national & local employees, faster than Cameron can put Clegg back in his box again.

  6. Yes, all three forms officially submitted and I have reference numbers to prove it. Feel(for a reasonably intelligent women) I've made a bit of a mess of this. Still all done now and I can forget about it for another 10 years(if there is another one!)

  7. In this 'you need a receipt for everything' moment we live in, I would say that's a wise precaution and a mess is the last thing you've made of it.

    In keeping with this era of transparency, perhaps they should also include with the stats: a) the number of people who (like both us) thought it would be an automatic submission, and b) how many of the census staff knew what they were talking about!

    Hopefully that's it for good. I'm sure they'll probably farm it out to Tesco's or Sainsbury's as either will probably have a far better idea of what people's lifestyles, spending habits, and with a bit of analysis, religious preferences are by all our spending habits.