Census worker says 'system fault' caused repeat visits to wrong homes

‘The only explanation is a system fault’: Census 2021 worker reveals staff are repeatedly sent out to threaten people with £1,000 fines despite them having completed form – but bosses insist ‘there’s no IT issue’

  • Worker says they are: ‘Still being sent to properties who completed the census’
  • Chasing letters have been sent out to residents who died as long ago as October 
  • One woman received a visit from a worker on March 21 – the official Census Day 
  • Despite complaints, Office for National Statistics say there has been ‘no IT issue’ 
  • Have you been wrongly chased for a reply? Email [email protected] 

Census 2021 workers claim a ‘fault in the system’ has seen them repeatedly sent to houses to threaten residents with £1,000 fines for not completing the survey despite them having already completed the form – but bosses insist ‘there’s no IT issue’.

Have you been wrongly chased to complete the census?

Email [email protected] 

Yesterday it was revealed how scores of Brits who had already completed the census were being chased by workers and had received numerous letters threatening them with a £1,000 fine.

Many of those affected were elderly people who sent their forms back via the post, but others who completed the form online were also wrongly chased.

In some cases, forms had been repeatedly sent to addresses where the resident had died as long ago as October last year. 

Despite ‘thousands’ of letters being sent out by mistake, the Office for National Statistic has doubled-down and insisted there was no IT error with the £1bn scheme.

But one worker who has been sent to people’s homes believes there must have been.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they told MailOnline: ‘(We) are still being sent on a daily basis to properties who have completed the census by phone with someone at one of our call centres, or to households that report they’ve confirmed their completion with our contact centre. 

‘We’ve passed these addresses up through management and reported that we’ve been asked not to return, but they’re still consistently being reallocated to our workload. 

‘I think the only reasonable explanation is that there is in fact a system fault, though whether people running the show here are aware of it and just trying to save face or the situation isn’t being correctly communicated to them, I couldn’t say.’

The Office for National Statistics has told people who have received the letter to ignore it, if they have already submitted their census, but maintains that there have been no IT issues.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Census 2021 worker blamed a ‘fault in the system’ as the reason many Britons had been repeatedly chased to complete the form they had in fact submitted weeks ago

People who have completed the census are still being threatened with £1,000 fines, but the Office for National Statistics insists there has been ‘no IT error’, while also telling Brits to ignore the letters should they receive one

An ONS spokesperson said: ‘There are no issues with our IT systems. We have made Census 2021 the easiest ever to complete and had a fantastic response so far.

‘Our census field officers are knocking on doors where records show we have had no response. We are aware of some people who have started their census but not yet clicked submit. We encourage anyone who has not yet responded to do so as soon as possible.’

The spokesperson also stated there was no human error involved either. 

Paul Bainbridge told MailOnline his 91-year-old mother received a visit from a census official on March 21 – Census Day. 

He said: ‘Who sends people out chasing the day of deadline and frightening to death, clearly old people on their own. 

Census 2021 workers have been knocking on doors demanding people return surveys that they have already completed 

‘This is so wrong and needs addressing although now its too late.’ 

Completion of the nationwide survey, which is thought to cost close to £1billion, 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.

From May the ONS will begin the next stage of pursuing people who have not completed the form – which could see some people referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Wayne Phillips was one of dozens of people to write to MailOnline, claiming they had been repeatedly chased despite completing the census.  

Mr Phillips said: ‘I completed the online 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.

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.’

‘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”.’

Peter Thornley added: ‘I filled out my census form on the 21st March, as requested and was therefore very surprised to get a knock on my door a week later asking me to fill out my census. I said I had and the man took note. A few days later another person turned up stating the same thing.

‘Again I said that I had but agreed to do it again. I did the census again, not a major effort, and got a confirmation email.

‘I was very irritated therefore when I received what I felt was a threatening reminder leaflet saying that if I did not complete the census I might be fined £1000.’

The letter – said to be have been sent to thousands of people – encourages people to take the survey online to ‘save paper and taxpayers’ money’. 

Text in bold then warns: ‘You must complete the census by law or you could be fined up to £1,000.’  

Rachel, a distraught granddaughter, said: ‘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.’

Speaking on Wednesday, Gareth Clayton told MailOnline: ‘My dad passed away on the 6th September 2020 and my mum of 82 years old has received 3 letters with my dads name on chasing him up to complete the Census or he will get a fine of £1000. 

‘On all three occasions I’ve contact them and advised them that my dad has passed away. I’ve also provide them with a death certificate twice to provide them with a official documentation. 

‘This morning my mum called me to say that she’s had a fourth letter in this morning’s post and she’s very worried about getting a fine.’ 

‘Apart from the inconvenience, it’s not very nice for my mum to keep getting quite a threatening letters when she’s living on her own and especially during the current climate of the global pandemic when she’s been very lonely and a little scared for the last year or so.’ 

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?’ 

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.’

Sheila Bailey told MailOnline on Wednesday: ‘I received a letter telling me that I had not submitted and could face a fine and to please call a stated number, which I did. That recorded message offered the advice that if you had indeed completed your Census then just disregard the letter. 

‘To me, that clearly indicates that the ONS knew it was sending out letter to people who had completed their form. 

‘This is a huge waste of tax payers money and demonstrates a complete inability to organise the proverbial in a brewery.

‘I am still annoyed about it. It’s not rocket science.’ 

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.’ 

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 

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.’ 

Source: Read Full Article