Wigan census engagement manager explains why survey is vital

Wiganers have been told why completing the census is so importantWiganers have been told why completing the census is so important
Wiganers have been told why completing the census is so important
Lauren Mullen, from Hindley Green, has explained why residents need to fill out the documents which are completed by every household in the country once every 10 years.

She said the information gathered is of vital importance to public authorities for shaping a vast array of policies for the coming years.

It is also a legal requirement to fill in the census, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) employing field officers to engage with those who do not return it on time and work through any problems which arise.

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Raising public awareness of the census, which takes place in March, has been made much trickier this time around due to Covid-19 and the current lockdown rules.

Lauren has been holding online sessions with community groups and grass-roots organisations in Wigan and is keen to take up opportunities to speak to people she has not yet met.

She said: “My role is to engage with the local community and spread the word of the census.

“I’m working really closely with the council, charities and community organisations to help people understand why the census is so important.

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“A lot of people might think it’s just a questionnaire coming through the door but by taking part in it residents can inform all the decisions on local services and shape their community.

“The census influences public transport funding and services, spending on health, education and more. It tells the authorities how many people are using the buses or something like the guided busway. It lets people know if there’s no doctor’s surgery in an area and there needs to be a new one. It includes information on house sales. It affects absolutely everything.

“This year my role is not without its challenges but it has been quite interesting to develop these relationships with groups despite not having met face-to-face.”

Lauren is hoping restrictions will be eased a little by mid-March to enable her to hold in-person meetings as well as remote ones.

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She is also looking for Wigan businesses to put up posters letting people know about the census.

There are a couple of major changes for the 2021 census, with a digital-approach first being taken which means residents will receive an access code through their door.

Lauren says this has generated most concern when she has been speaking to Wiganers so far but says there is no need for people to be worried.

She said anyone who struggles to use a computer can request a paper copy of the census and there should be no concern about data storage or privacy issues as all results are strictly anonymous and the findings are kept without being released for 100 years.

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Other changes include questions about the armed forces community, following a long campaign by the Royal British Legion, and about LGBTQ+ people.

Lauren said: “Veterans are being recognised for their armed forces background and this information will enable charities and councils to ensure they can deliver the best services to this community.

“The questions about the LGBTQ+ are strictly voluntary and about how people identify themselves in terms of sexual orientation.”

Lauren says the census organisers are very aware some people may not have come out to other members of their household but said they can request a separate copy of the census if they wish to answer these new questions.

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Anyone needing help to complete the census will be able to ring a contact centre which is in the process of being set up, and the documents will be available in a range of languages and formats.

Although the ONS will always seek to engage with people who do not return the documents, and the vast majority do comply with the legal requirement, Lauren does say that the absolute last resort will be the threat of a fine for not filling in the census.

However, she says she hopes people will largely see it as an opportunity to have their say on their area’s


She said: “I grew up in Wigan and live in the borough, so I’m part of the community and it’s really fun to meet people and learn about so many different aspects of the area.”

To find out more email [email protected]

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