9 March 2011

Census and senseless

Back in October last year I applied for one of the 35,000 jobs available on the 2011 census. Part-time, short term contract, ideal. Upon invitation I did the sift tests on-line which were onerous but necessary and then had my interview in November. I was advised by email the next day that I would hear whether my application was successful or not within 2 to 3 weeks. Taking into account that I have 18 years of public service behind me I thought I stood a good chance, so I sat back and relaxed and waited. And waited and waited...I'm comatose from all this relaxation now.

First week of February my pulses were set racing by an email in my in-box but alas a false alarm. It had a strangely familiar message, we'll let you know within 2 to 3 weeks, we've been very busy and we're sorry. I thought they could not possibly make the same mistake again. Wrong! I'm still waiting.

I went in search of further information for there is no way of actually ascertaining from Capita, recruiting on behalf of ONS, what is going on. A telephone call reveals nothing and they will not pass your call on to a supervisor nor will they call you back. I found the recruitment page on Facebook, pressed 'like' (how I dislike that) and discovered a world of hundreds (if not thousands) of people in the same position as myself. A few remarks upon the page illicited no response and so I mentioned I may have to write to my MP to question the recruitment process and whether or not it was being run efficiently. Nada. So I sat and emailed Richard Shepherd and then copied and pasted the contents to the page.

Wham! A response. Firstly it seems all it needed was for someone to speak out and open the floodgates, which allowed the oily waters to flow freely. We all felt the same. Secondly most of the posts critical of the recruitment process were deleted. Strange that. Thirdly I received a private message via Facebook from the 2011 recruitment team saying:

Thank you for your comment on the Census Facebook page.

We have taken your comments on board and we have raised this internally with an aim to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

I appreciate that I am very unlikely to now get a job but I was incensed by the delays.

This is the letter I wrote to Richard Shepherd. It explains exactly why this whole episode has annoyed me so much.

I am one of many who applied for a temporary position arising because of the 2011 census. My application was submitted in October last year and I then participated in the on-line sifting process spending some considerable time going through the scenarios that were detailed and selecting my answers. I was then invited for a telephone interview which was conducted in November 2011.

One day later I was advised by email that I would be advised of the outcome of my application within 2 to 3 weeks. I heard nothing until the first week in February when again I was advised by email that it would be 2 to 3 weeks before I would be advised of the final outcome. I have heard nothing since.

I keep my eye on the Facebook page for Census 2011 and it appears that there are many in the same position as myself still awaiting an email. All that ONS do is say we're sorry, we're busy and you will hear soon!

I am not writing to you to ask that my application be chased up but to pass on my worries. If this is the way that Census 2011 is being conducted, when job applicants are kept waiting for months on end for a decision then it hardly inspires faith and confidence in how the collection of the census as a whole will be conducted. If this were a private company keeping job applicants waiting for what is personally over three months, then questions would be asked as to the efficiency of the company. I now ask that question about census 2011. I believe serious questions should be raised as to how the whole census is being handled.

As a keen Family Historian I have a very sharp sense as to how important the census is. Not only does it provide the government with very vital and important statistics that will aid allocation of finance and planning but it is also an historical record available for future generations. I am saddened that such an historical and important process appears to be being brought into disrepute because of what I perceive as inefficiency of a government department. I feel qualified to make such a statement because I worked for HMRC for 18 years in a mid-ranking position.

I do hope that you can look into this for me and perhaps allay my fears.

I'll let you know what happens......

But don't relax too much, it may be longer than 2 to 3 weeks before you hear anything........


  1. this is brilliant, such tenacity. Do let us know how you get on....

  2. Thank you! I will. But please don't hold your breath. I have now discovered that 300,000 applied for the 35,000 vacancies...seems Capita cannot cope. Wonder if ONS will ask for a refund?

  3. Here's hoping you get a little bit of work that's not too taxing. (Geddit?!)

  4. And 107 days after my interview I finally get news and it's that I've been offered a job! Still haven't heard from my MP though and in the meantime I've written to the National Statistician, who is head of the ONS and the Comptroller and Auditor General at the NAO about how government money is clearly not being used either wisely or efficiently in this recruitment process!

  5. Well congrats on getting the job! Especially after all that effort.