This week I met with the Royal British Legion to pledge my support for the ‘Count them in’ campaign. This campaign is being run because the Royal British Legion maintains that statutory and voluntary service providers are currently unable to fully meet the needs of the Armed Forces community as there is limited and patchy data available concerning their profile, needs and location.
This is disappointing given both the commitments that have been made by the UK Government in respect of honouring the Armed Forces Covenant, and the fact that the last census left us knowing more about the UK’s ‘Jedi Knight’ population than about those who have served their country.
The next census in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be conducted in 2021. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for the practical delivery of the census in England and Wales, whilst National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for delivering Scottish and Northern Ireland censuses, respectively. The UK Statistics Authority is responsible for coordinating the census arrangements across the UK, but it is for the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly to determine what questions feature in the final census documents.
Through its own research, the Legion has estimated that there are currently between 6.5 and 6.7 million members of the Armed Forces community living in the UK, which accounts for around one in ten of the general population. Yet despite numerous attempts to survey this often hidden community, there remains no definitive and comprehensive data to corroborate this population estimate, or accurately map the profile, needs and location of members of the Armed Forces community.
I continue to support the Royal British Legion in their calls for a modified census to count all members of the Armed Forces community. If the Government finally allow this small change to be added, local councils will have the ability to identify and support people who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
This is the second year this campaign has run. The Government were presented with the opportunity to change the census last year, but ignored calls to do so. I am proud of the Royal British Legion and all the good work it does. The least the Government can do is support the Legion in its work and this would be a perfect way to do so.
Rest assured if the Government ignore our calls to implement this change to the census I will continue to campaign for this small but important change.