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Counting what counts

Policy and Information leader, Jonathan Tautari talks about the upcoming Census and why disabled people need to be counted.

A Census is all about counting people.. The word ‘census’ is Latin in origin and was used during the Roman Republic when people wanted to keep track of males fit for military service.

The New Zealand census is far broader. All New Zealanders are counted and information about them recorded. The information helps the government deliver the right services to the right places. Census data is the basis for a lot of policies and services.

The next New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings will be held on Tuesday, 5 March 2013.

In previous blogs, CCS Disability Action has discussed the invisibility of people with a disability, particularly children. Public attitudes and a lack of disability awareness contribute to this invisibility. However, not being able to accurately count the number of people with a disability in our own communities also prevents good planning decisions.

We think it’s important for disabled people to be counted in this year’s census and want to encourage disabled people to participate. CCS Disability Action recognises that disabled people have been undercounted in previous censuses(censi). The reasons for this undercount are unclear . On one hand it could be an issue of not having information provided in appropriate formats. On the other hand, it could be that the benefits of participating still remain, justifiably, elusive for disabled people.

CCS Disability Action believes good decisions, whether they are made by local or central government, need to be founded on accurate information. Census data is the basis to good decisions. Some examples of where disability data collected by the census can be used are:

  • Assisting in making decisions about the allocation of funding and resources
  • Monitoring the implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy
  • Assisting in identifying priority areas for policy intervention where social and economic outcomes for disabled people are compared to the general population
  • Undertaking research and analysis into different aspects of the lives of disable people
  • Data for town planning and for reviewing a range of government programmes     

Lastly, we want to encourage people with disabilities to participate in the census. Statistics New Zealand, who are in charge of the Census, aim to tell the story of New Zealand through statistics that are relevant, accessible, and trustworthy. In order for future decisions and planning to count for us, we need to be counted first!

3 Responses to “Counting what counts”

  1. I’ve always filled in the census, but I’ve been always concerned whether my handwriting was readable. And I didn’t want to ask my support person whether they could fill it in for me. I think this could be one of the barriers to full participation. I recently read something that this years census will be available online. It will be interesting to see whether it can be filled in online.

    Using technology to do this years census may see an increase in disabled people completing this years census. I will certainly be taking advantage of the online census.

  2. Valerie Wong says:

    It is so important that disabled people participate in the upcoming Census. The danger of undercounting is that politicians and bureaucreats then fail to make provision for adequate resourcing of disability support services, which has obvious implications for disabled people and their families. Policy makers are always using statistics and data to justify their actions. Let’s give them the right numbers to ensure they make the right decisions.

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