Furious Britons have blasted Census 2021 as ‘diabolical after workers were repeatedly knocking on the doors of people who had already returned their survey – while letters were threatening them with £1,000 fines.
In one case, a woman who died last October was still being chased to reply to the survey at the start of April.
Have you been wrongly chased to complete the census?
Despite a host of people complaining online, the Office for National Statistics has insisted ‘there is no IT issue’ and told recipients to ignore the chasing letter.
Completion of the nationwide survey, which helps inform the development of Britain’s infrastructure, including housing, transport and education, is mandatory.
The original day set aside to complete the survey was March 21, those who do not complete it could face a £1,000 fine.
The ONS has no firm date to respond by, telling MailOnline today: ‘There is no absolute deadline but our current plan is the online questionnaire will remain open into next month.’
But a delay in the service means even elderly Britons who completed the survey early are being hounded to give back their answer.
Census 2021 workers have been knocking on doors demanding people return surveys that they have already completed
Workers have been sent to doorsteps asking for the form to be returned, and letters have been posted formally warning of the fixed penalty notices.
The ONS has said anyone who was wrongly chased to send off their Census should ignore the letter.
Wayne Phillips told MailOnline today: ‘I completed the on line census and sent it in and got a confirmation – two weeks later I got the letter saying I hadn’t completed it or had completed it incorrectly and saying that’s an offence with a £1000 fine.
‘I am not elderly, not easily intimidated by official letters, but I did feel the need to call the helpline.
‘I did so and a really nice chap told me that those letters have been issued in error and without specific reference to knowing whether it’s been completed or not.
‘He also said that “thousands had been sent that week”.’
Rachel, a distraught granddaughter, wrote: ‘Hello, my Nanna died in October 2020 and the house has been vacant and is now sold.
‘You have sent 3 forms to the house so far but no one is there to answer the questions.’
Michelle Gregg, from Manchester, wrote: ‘My 89 year old Mother has no online access so completed a form which I posted on 20/3.
‘Now received 2nd chase letter threatening £1k fine -she is very upset. How can I check whether you have it?’
Some elderly people have received letters threatening them with £1,000 fines, while in one case, letters have been repeatedly sent to a grandmother who died last October
Census 2021 timeline
March 21: Census Day. Britons were expected to respond to the 10-year survey that helps inform how infrastructure is developed.
March 22: Since then, Census 2021 workers have been chasing for replies by knocking on doors and sending letters. Workers are expected to continue working until the end of April, but the ONS says the ‘online questionnaire will remain open into next month’.
May 1: The ONS expected to begin ‘non-compliance field activity’ at the start of next month. According to the ONS’ website: ‘the main aim of the non-compliance operation is to support householders complete a census return.
It adds: ‘If the householder is adamant that they do not wish to do so, the non-compliance team will complete several forms including witness statements and Interview under caution forms which will be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.’
Andrew Hargreaves said: ‘The operational delivery of the @Census2021 is diabolical. I’ve now done it twice.
‘Stop writing to me. Stop sending ppl to my door. I did it. I chased you for a code. I’ve done it & I’m not doing it again.’
Keeley O’Flaherty said: ‘My parents who are dealing with cancer! Filled in form sent it off to you.
‘You’ve now sent 2 people to her door to demand the form and now sent her an abusive letter saying you will find her £1000 this is not acceptable.’
Paul Brooks added: ‘Why during a pandemic you are sending someone to my 86-year-old mum’s to say she hasn’t completed the census.
‘She has told you twice on the phone she posted it prior to the deadline.’
A statement on the ONS website explains the content of the letters being sent to people who have not replied.
It reads: ‘The warning letters clearly indicate that failing to complete a census questionnaire is a criminal offence under the Census Act 1920 (as amended) which is punishable by up to £1,000 fine and a criminal record but the main aim of the non-compliance operation is to support householders complete a census return.
‘If the householder is adamant that they do not wish to do so, the non-compliance team will complete several forms including witness statements and Interview under caution forms which will be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.’
An ONS spokesperson said: ‘There is no IT issue. We have made Census 2021 the easiest ever to complete and more than nine out of 10 households have already submitted their form to help shape services like school places and GP surgeries.
‘But we want to make sure everyone counts and we encourage everyone to respond as soon as possible.
‘This is a major operation across England and Wales and our census field officers will be knocking on doors where records show we have had no response.
‘We are aware of a small number of cases where people have been contacted after responding.
‘This could be because the questionnaire was not submitted correctly online or forms have only recently been posted back.
‘Anyone who has already completed, should tell a field officer who visits and ignore a reminder letter.’
- Have you been wrongly chased for a reply? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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