Sunday 21st March was an important date because the census is once more upon us. Every ten years the effort is made to count the UK population to obtain a detailed picture of life in England and Wales. The answers help local authorities and the central government make decisions on planning and funding public services including housing, health and education.
Official publications emphasise that failing to complete the census is an offence that can result in a fine. The question is, how can rough sleepers participate in the census if they have no home address to receive the form?
This year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has stated that the census is “online first”. But, how do rough sleepers fill out the online form with no access to a laptop or the internet – especially during a lockdown?
Some rough sleepers are unwilling to participate because they are suspicious of the government and prefer to remain “under the radar”. This is understandable but can work against them when the government comes to choose funding allocations based on census responses.
The ONS has stated that:
“…in the build up to the Census 2021 our census engagement managers will be getting in touch with shelters, hostels, day /night centres to organise times for our census officers to visit and provide paper questionnaires and guidance on filling them out.”
Our job is to motivate and support rough sleepers to ensure that they can actively participate in decision making progresses that will directly affect them.
Rough sleepers count so count all rough sleepers.