Census help is at hand to avoid £1,000 fine

With well over a million census questionnaires already returned, Scotland’s Registrar General is starting to send letters to people in the Scottish Borders who refuse to take part, warning that they could face a £1,000 fine.

The census questionnaire was meant to be filled in on census day, March 27, and most of the 2.5 million forms were expected to be returned within the following few days. But the country’s 6,500 census takers have already filed reports on around 200 including those in householders in the Scottish Borders who have so far specifically refused to fill in the once-a-decade form, and now Registrar General Duncan Macniven is set to write to them.

Mr Macniven said: “The census is so important to the nation that Parliament has decided that householders who don’t complete and return their questionnaire can face prosecution. So everyone in the Scottish Borders should fill in their questionnaires as soon as possible.

“We will offer extra help and support for those who are finding it difficult to complete their questionnaire – especially the elderly, or people whose first language isn’t English or people with disabilities. Our census takers will offer this when they visit the households across the Scottish Borders that haven’t yet returned their questionnaire.

“It’s my responsibility to provide reliable census statistics, which will give evidence of what Scotland, its local communities and its people need from the UK Treasury, the Scottish Government and local authorities. With personal details removed, the anonymous census statistics are a vital part of securing funds and allocating them fairly and planning services for us all.

“I am now writing to householders who have already told our census takers that they refuse to take part. I will highlight the help available, offer a replacement questionnaire and stress their legal obligation to be included in the census. We will be gathering evidence and will report them to the Procurator Fiscal to consider prosecution. Ultimately, people can face a fine of up to £1,000.”

Mr Macniven emphasised: “I want to reassure people that they are not at risk of a fine if they are willing to accept the help we offer or if they have been away and complete their questionnaire when they return. I would much rather have a completed questionnaire than a successful prosecution.”

Over the next few weeks when census takers call at houses to offer help they will be able to explain the census questions, offer advice and arrange translations.

The census takers will highlight the range of support material available which includes: large-print questionnaires; the questions and guidance in braille; audio clips of the question online and CD; questions translated into British Sign Language (BSL) online and DVD.

If someone has trouble filling in the questionnaire themselves then a friend or family member can fill it in for them and sign the declaration on their behalf.

All census takers have been security checked and have signed an undertaking that they will protect the privacy of the information on the questionnaires. They will all carry official photographic identification.

Anyone with doubts about their authenticity can contact the helpline: 0300 123 1702.

More help and support visit: http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/en/help/