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WARD'S WORLD: Census or senseless?

If you haven’t seen the recent multitude of adverts featured in newspapers, on television, online or just short of having a brick thrown through your window with a note on it to let you know, there is a national census taking place next Sunday.

This happens every ten years or so and the reason behind it is, and I quote: “The census gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales.”

Note it’s only England and Wales and none of our colonies, until further notice.

John Ward's census package.
John Ward's census package.

For starters, without appearing to be nitpicking, this is a non starter to begin with as not everybody resident here will go through this process as we often learn through the media that there are far more people in this country nowadays than we know about.

Some have chosen to be with us via the backs of vehicles, inflatable beds to boats etc and it’s not racist before anybody throws their rattle out their pram as it’s a fact of life that we have no idea of how many people are here ‘officially’ that arrived by way of the airport or seaport.

So any ideas as to how many there are on our island is going to be a few digits out – it’s a bit like catering for a wedding reception where you think there are 50 invited guests plus bride and groom, only to find out a few decided to celebrate but without an invite.

However, with all these wonderful, if at times bewildering, adverts of late about this event, I have heard people saying they ‘had their papers come weeks ago’ but so far nothing has arrived here.

So I thought (on March 9) as it was getting close to the said time, I would go online to see what had happened to our forms.Online are the various boxes or hurdles to navigate through: tick as required, and request a ‘bumper fun pack’ or the actual paperwork in real terms.

To actually take part in this online census, you need a 16 digit ‘household access code number’ and, of course, I don’t have such a number as I have not received any paperwork with it stamped on – so far, so bewildering then.

In between my requesting and receiving this momentous ‘bumper fun pack,’ while going for a newspaper one morning I overheard two people in a queue, at six feet apart, with one discussing his census fun pack arriving.

He was explaining he did not have the internet and at 83 years of age had no reason to want it. So that’s that sorted then. His friend asked why he couldn’t just fill the forms in like last time to which he replied there weren’t any to fill in as it’s all online or ring a phone number for help.

I thought this can’t really be on as I know of people who are also ‘not online’ but by choice or they don’t have any need for it or whatever.

On March 11, my bumper fun pack did arrive – or so I thought – as all it is a single sheet of paper with, you will be pleased to learn, the sixteen digit household access code number but yes, no forms to fill in

And there is a threat or promise of ‘things to come’ in the form of a £1,000 fine for not filling it in. This could possibly help in the shortfall from car parking fines being down due to people not being able to travel – that’s my theory anyway.

On March 13, another fun pack came, basically identical to the one received the day before but with a difference.

Both are identical as in addressed to The Householder in each case, same address, post code but each form has a different 16 digit household access code.

How come one address has two different access code numbers? And, assuming I go online, which number do I use?

If I insert one and not the other, will I be fined £1,000 for not taking part or is there another address in a parallel universe, which might explain my missing mail and parcels over the years.

There is a small helpful leaflet and on the back page there is a delightful bit of information at the end on the back page: “Our local Census Support Centres will be available while the census is happening.”

‘They can help you if you are not confident online, you do not have a computer or you need help completing on paper.”

What paper?! It would have been handy to have had the paper version in the first instance as it’s assumed that everybody has a computer and internet access.

As our internet service is of the yo-yo system as in it’s up and then its down, then it’s... but I think you get the general picture.

Quite why broadband can’t be on the same level of access as electricity, water or gas as in at the press of a switch or turn of a tap is a mystery of life it seems.

Some may suggest that sending it in paper form is wasteful due to the effect to rain forests etc, but considering how much junk mail we get, what’s the difference as if this is so mightily important shouldn’t all options be otherwise employed?

From another viewpoint, if our ‘habits’ are so important, surely a tie-up with some supermarkets to get information might save a few headaches as everything bought and a ‘loyalty card’ is used, that information is recorded in the bowels of whatever.

Once I have finished scribbling this I will indeed ring the ‘helpline’ to see which one of these forms or rather the access number on either I have to use.

As the emphasis seems to be on using the internet, perhaps I have, along with many others possibly, missed out on receiving my (supposed) Government-issue computer in order that I can fulfil my census.

Another line of thought is, as I explained above if you have been paying attention, there is another address same as mine in a parallel universe, which might explain where my computer has got to.

So based on that theory, should I put in a claim for my missing Government-issue computer and if this is the case, which courier service do I submit my claim to?

Possibly working for this department, it’s perhaps on the same level as being ‘Santa Claus’ in a department store at Christmas time as the work is not overpowering but the holidays must be fantastic.

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