NEWS2 September 2011

Councils told to cut down on ‘intrusive’ questionnaires

Government News

UK— Local authorities have been told they don’t need to conduct “lifestyle or diversity” questionnaires of their residents, after some councils were criticised for asking too many questions about race, religion and sexual orientation.

Councils have a statutory duty to collect information on how their policies affect protected groups, but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles (pictured) said today that diversity questionnaires were not necessary.

Questions about gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation and other topics are often included in non-compulsory equality monitoring forms by local authorities, employers and other bodies. But some councils have been accused of going too far by asking these questions of people applying for library cards or making complaints.

Pickles said in a statement today that the new guidance was designed to cut red tape “in the interests of economy and efficiency”.

“At a time when taxpayers are watching their pennies, the last thing councils should be doing is sending out unnecessary and intrusive questionnaires,” said Pickles. “Local residents shouldn’t be asked to reveal detailed personal information just because they’ve enquired about getting their bins emptied or how to join their local library.” Cutting down on such surveys, Pickles said, would “save taxpayers’ money and protect the privacy of resident of all backgrounds”.

But councils have pointed out that equality monitoring forms are voluntary, and are used to make sure they are properly serving all parts of the population. Councillor Paul Convery of Islington Council – which was criticised for including an equality monitoring form in its library membership applications – said: “The point here is that we want to know the extent to which new library users reflect the demography of our existing library users and our population, or not. This is a pretty standard business principle: know your customers – not intimate details but basic stuff.”

A council spokesman added that the questionnaires were “fairly standard” and entirely optional – if you don’t want to say anything “you can still join the library”.


1 Comment

13 years ago

I feel both equality and diversity and lifestyle questions should be considered seperately. My view is on the cuts to diversity and equality questions. As long as equality questions are asked following best practice principles, it is difficult to see how they could be intrusive in 2011 unless their is substantial duplication and oversurveing. As a disabled person I would benefit from being asked all of equality questions joining my libary and feel the majority of people don't mind answering the questions to help people like me. I feel questions on disability status should be tailored to the social model of disability to find out how they can help. Having mainstreemed equality questions in my research work, I feel that the MR industry should do more to share good research practice and consider accesibility of the survey more carefully to minority groups to avoid biasing the data. I would highly recommend the MRS training courses on researching disabled and ethnic minority people could be a huge help to research agencies in encouraging the public sector on the value of asking D&E classification questions.

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