As you may know, the next national census is to take place at the end of March 2011. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is working with local authorities and community groups to make sure the 2011 Census accounts for population diversity: special attention is being paid to hard-to-count, under-represented groups, including:
- disabled and/or very elderly people
- ethnic minority groups
- faith communities
- non-English speaking people
- unemployed people
- people on low income
- students and other young adults
- gypsy, traveller and other groups where response has historically been low
The data from the census will be used to guide government policy in the provision of medical services, schools, social services, care homes, employment & training, policing, and many other services. Funding is also allocated to different areas based on the census figures.
For example, over £100 billion per year (over £1 trillion in the decade between each census) is allocated from central government to local authorities and to NHS Primary Care Trusts. Census information is used to try to ensure that this funding is distributed appropriately between different parts of the country to meet the needs of local populations. If census forms are not completed, then funding will not be allocated where it is needed, and over ten years, this can amount to a lot of lost funding for an area.
To ensure that as many census forms are completed as possible, faith groups are being asked to encourage their congregations to complete them and to assure them that the information is treated anonymously and is not passed to tax or immigration departments. Once the forms have been collected, they are not made public for 100 years.
There is a particular problem within the Buddhist community of forms not being completed. Not only is this an issue within some ethnic Asian Buddhist communities, but also for western people who practice Buddhism but are reluctant for various reasons to indicate this on the census.
For these reasons, the NBO is mounting a campaign to encourage all to complete the census, and for all who practice Buddhism, mindfulness,meditation and who regard Buddhism as worth supporting, to tick the Buddhist box on the census forms and to encourage others to do the same. A large increase in the number of Buddhists on the census could have a large positive impact on the general quality of debate and publicity for faiths in the UK and in the current ways that religion is regarded and taught in schools in the UK.
See the NBO page on the campaign.
If you require information about the census in another language then try here: 2011.census.gov/~