Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Census 2011 - Northern Ireland - Could Do Better?

I completed my census return on April 24, popped it into the envelope provided and dropped the envelope into the town post-box later that evening. I presumed that would be the end of the matter.

A few days later an enumerator called for the return and I told her that it had been posted on census day. Much to my surprise I then found the above rather menacing card in my letter-box about May 4. My house number is beside the box so the card would not have been left at the wrong house by mistake. There was also no replacement questionnaire, despite the statement on the card.

What was I to do to avoid the risk of such a punitive penalty? I rang the census helpline number on the card; it was an automated response but didn't appear to deal with my problem; you sort of lose the will to live after you've been through three stages with three or so choices in each. After some rummaging around in the phone-book I eventually found a number that had a human being at the other end. What a relief. It was even more of a relief to be told that, yes, my completed form had not only arrived but that its arrival had been listed on the NISRA database. Apparently a second numerator must have called, discovered that I was out and left the card, but not the questionnaire, in my letter-box.

Should the Registrar General read this, I may receive an apology and an explanation as to why such threatening missives are despatched. There is no admission on the card that the problem could be caused by an error in their own system and no phone number on the card that would allow the public to easily effect a remedy.