Responding to the ONS Beyond 2011 consultation on the future of the Census, the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), the leading think tank on longevity and demographic change has urged the Government not to scrap the decennial census.
But alongside support for a predominantly online Census, ILC-UK's response supports a greater use of administrative data. ILC-UK also calls for a debate on how other "big data" can help us better understand our society.
The Census, which was first conducted in 1801 when the population of Great Britain was just nine million, could either continue online every decade or use small annual surveys coupled with other government data to gather the information required.
ILC-UK have today published their response to the ONS Beyond 2011 consultation alongside a report of an event they hosted on the topic in November 2013.
David Sinclair, Assistant Director, Policy and Communications at ILC-UK said:
"Good quality, accurate and local information is vital if we are to understand the nature of our changing ageing society. We are however, concerned that abolition of the regular Census may make it more difficult to access some vitally important information about carers and caring and multigenerational households for example. We will lose access to very local data and are not convinced that the alternative option proposed is adequate.
"Government must open a national debate on how we can best understand our population. The potential of big data and crowdsourced collation of data is significant. Information already held in the private sector about individuals could help us better manage and support our ageing society. Amongst other things, the debate must consider privacy and issues around ownership of data.
"Over recent years Government and ONS has made more data available for the public to scrutinise. This is good news and a trend which must be continued."