Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Census 2011: Important 

The consultation document for the 2011 census is currently circulating, and at present the position of those running the census is that sexual orientation is among "those topics where there is insufficient evidence of user demand to justify inclusion in the 2011 UK census." From section 3.5 of the consultation document:

"A user requirement for information on sexual orientation has been identified. The Census is not seen currently as an appropriate vehicle for collecting this information. This is due to the compulsory nature of the Census and issues of confidentiality, disclosure and accuracy together with possible non-response effects. It is possible, however, that information about sexual orientation could be collected in other surveys."

It is vital that sexual orientation be included in the census, from an equality perspective as well as from the perspective of HIV and broader health planning. We now have civil partnership registration beginning in December, employment equality regulations in the workplace and a forthcoming Single Equalities Act. To have all this, and yet still be effectively invisible as a proportion of the population, is insane. The Single Equalities Act in particular will legislate "against discriminatory behaviour in the provision of goods, facilities and services for LGB people". What's the point if there are no reliable statistics available to assess what goods, facilities and services LGB(T) people need?

Moreover, it's annoying because it's encouraging people to think that it's okay to be ashamed of being queer; that, unlike the vast majority of other defining characteristics, sexuality is one which truly should remain in the bedroom and not in the streets. There is no other 'survey' which has the reach of the census; however much it affected response-rate, the responses a sexual orientation question would receive would provide a set of statistics otherwise completely unavailable.

Anyway, there's something we can do about this, but we only have a few days:

Responses to the survey can be made using the form found here (for 'Organisation' I think it's permissible to write 'none' if you don't represent any LGBT group) and should be sent to the following e-mail address: Censustopics@ons.gsi.gov.uk. The questions on the form are a little odd, but Annex A at the bottom of the consultation document gives help on how to answer them, and please feel free to contact me for suggestions too. But basically it's worth just repeating forcefully the need - for whatever reasons you think most compelling - for sexual orientation to be including in the 2011 census (1) for improved service, and particularly health service, provision (2) as essential demographic data, useful for academic and other research (3) for its interest with regard to the spread of LGB population across different geographical areas, age, ethnic groups and genders.

Please pass on this information and call for responses. We only have until Friday this week (5th August). In particular, pass on the information to any relevant organisations you know. One of the problems, and the reason there has been so little 'demand' is that a lot of the smaller relevant groups still haven't heard anything about this.

Hello Sarah,

My organisation has already put in a response to this effect.

Could you tell me where the bit in quotes comes from?

The Single Equalities Act in particular will legislate "against discriminatory behaviour in the provision of goods, facilities and services for LGB people".

I thought we didn't have a commitment on goods and services?  
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