Census goes online but no question about sexual orientation

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The next national census will be held on 27th March 2011. For the first time the marital status question will include a civil partnership option, but there will not be a question on sexual orientation.

Census questionnaires will be posted to households and can then be completed and returned on paper or online.

Every household is legally required to fill out a census form once every ten years.

UK Statistics Authority is responsible for the questions to be asked in the census for England and Wales.

It proposes new questions on citizenship, date of entry into the UK and the length of intended stay in the UK.

Other new questions are proposed in a government White Paper published yesterday to collect information about national identity and language. The Census must be approved by Parliament.

“Questions asking about income and sexual identity were considered, but are not proposed for the 2011 Census,” according to the Office for National Statistics.

Karen Dunnell, National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics said: “The questions proposed for the 2011 Census have been drawn up following much discussion and debate with different users.

“We balance the sometimes competing needs and points of view expressed during our three year process of consultation and testing and ensure that we are able to produce the high quality population estimates needed by every local authority, central government, and many businesses and individuals.”

Census information is used by government to help shape central and local policy making by showing exactly where investment in public services is most needed.

It is used to help allocate £100 billion of public funds each year.

The ONS announced last week that all of their major surveys on everything from households to the workforce will from January include a question on sexual identity.

Questions on ONS surveys are voluntary. Survey participants will be shown a card and asked: “Which of the options on this card best describes how you think of yourself? Please just read out the number next to the description. Heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual, other.”

A new Equality Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this week will extend the existing duty on public bodies to consider how their spending decisions, employment practices, and service delivery can affect people according to their race, disability, or gender to include sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, and religion or belief.

Without reliable statistics on how many lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people are in a specific area, it could be difficult for some public bodies to carry out their new duties effectively.

The ONS will be able to provide information on LGB people in a wide range of settings from the workplace to households.

This in turn will inform a local authority how many LGB-headed families live in their borough or how many lesbians live in a primary care trust area.

At present the only official government figure on the number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people came from Treasury actuaries who estimated they make up 6% of the adult population.