Make your mark
FAMILIES all over England and Wales have been completing the census online, using the access code sent to them in the post. They know that, by taking part, they are helping make sure their family and community get the services needed now and in the future.
Three mums tell us why it’s so important to them…
Colette Arora: ‘We are proud to live in a diverse culture’
COLLETTE Arora, 39, is a teaching assistant who lives with husband Sumit, 40, a mortgage adviser, and their two sons Shaurya, four, and Ranveer, three, in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
“I’m looking forward to filling out the census this year,” says Colette. “It helps the Government plan for families like mine so we have the right services – such as schools and healthcare – to meet our needs.”
Colette’s family understands all too well that this isn’t just “nice to have”. Healthcare provision, which the census helps decision makers plan for, is a matter of life and death.
“Lockdown has been hard for us, as Sumit has been recovering from a brain tumour,” Colette explains. “In September 2019 he flew to visit his mother in India. The air pressure on the flight made him feel dizzy. The same thing happened in the lift at the airport, and he fell over.
“Sumit received the diagnosis in India. He had to undergo surgery immediately. I took the children out of nursery and flew to India to be with him. The operation went well, but the doctors said the tumour was malignant and some traces could not be surgically removed.
“So they performed radiotherapy, and we were told we would have to wait six months to see if that was successful. In January 2020 we flew home, hoping to start afresh, but then Covid happened. I was scared for my husband as he was vulnerable.
“Our special bond as a family got us through this ordeal. Sumit has since had two MRI scans, and there is no sign of the tumour returning. The boys have been darlings. I feel so lucky to have such a lovely little family.
“In spite of everything, we have enjoyed spending time together. We’ve always been close. Sumit and I have been married for six years and everyone always says what a great couple we are. When we had the children, our love and respect for each other became even greater.
“And because we couldn’t go out, I arranged for an ice cream van to visit every Sunday. It gives the boys something to look forward to.
“The pandemic has brought all sorts of families together, we are proud to live in a diverse culture. Sumit has lived in the UK for 21 years, and I moved here five years ago. The census is an important record of who lives in England and Wales, and we are proud to be a part of that.”
Thea Jaffe: ‘The Government needs to know how many of us there are’
“Imagine trying to put a mini Jim Carrey to bed every night,” says Thea Jaffe, who is a single mum to six-year-old Mo. “Mo has that same creative energy – he riffs away on random subjects to his teddy bear.”
To highlight the challenges single parents face, Thea is eager to fill in the census on March 21. “The Government needs to know how many of us there are, to allocate funding,” she says.
At least Thea, a client manager for a language school from North London, never expected single parenthood to be easy. “I’d only had a few dates with Mo’s dad, so discovering I was pregnant was a shock. My GP said that at 29 I was the perfect age to be pregnant. Was he crazy? I’d told him I was single, my family was in America, that I rented a studio flat and had zero savings. But, later, his comment hit me. Really, what was I doing in life that was more important than having this baby?”
Thea contacted Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families. “I bonded with another expectant mum in my situation and we spent our weekends watching One Born Every Minute.”
Thea has no regrets, even though finances are a struggle. “Managing on one wage, even a decent one like mine, is tough. We live month to month and share a bedroom. We can’t afford holidays.”
The first lockdown was tough. Thea had to juggle work and looking after Mo. “He had too much screen time and too many cookies,” says Thea. “We had fun though, growing carrots and tomatoes on our balcony and laying Astroturf in the living room to make a garden.”
This lockdown, Mo’s dad is more involved. “He comes round to school Mo every day,” she says. “It’s the first time I’ve had this much help. Some of my friends teach all day, then work until 3am. Horrendous.”
Organisations like Gingerbread can help, and Thea knows they rely on the census to illustrate the need for their services. Having taken an online comedy course during the first lockdown, Thea now organises Zoom comedy nights to raise funds for the charity.
Thea’s proud of her boy, and that their little family will be recognised on the census. “Mo’s happy,” she says. “And, the most important thing, he knows he’s loved.”
Jeanette Lloyd: ‘A household of several generations is normal in the old censuses’
Jeanette Lloyd, 67, a retired primary school teacher from Caerphilly, South Wales, shares her home with her husband Ken, 69, and three generations of her family – mum Dorcas, 97, daughter Sarah, 36, and grandson Leo, 16.
“I’ve been researching family history during lockdown, back to the 1700s,” Jeanette says. “Several generations living in one household is common in the old censuses.”
Fortunately, Jeanette’s four-bed house is bigger than the cramped cottages of her forebears. When Sarah moved back home with baby Leo they had a bedroom each, and when Dorcas moved in six years ago, Jeanette and Ken converted their extension for her.
“We were back and forth to Mum’s in Cardiff, helping out, so it made sense,” Jeanette says. “Mum is very independent so she has her own phone line.” Dorcas is content in her own company, doing crosswords and watching Tipping Point and The Chase. She joins the family every Sunday for lunch – and enjoyed the VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations in May 2020.
“Everyone on our street had afternoon tea in their gardens,” Jeanette says. “Sarah styled her hair in a victory roll, I hung up bunting and played Glenn Miller records on my old gramophone. Mum missed the actual VE Day parties in 1945 because she lived way out in the countryside.”
Jeanette often picks her mum’s brains about family history. “She remembers events from 60 years ago so vividly,” she says. But Dorcas also loves seeing today’s younger generation – her great-grandson Ralph, four, and his brother Max, one – on videos sent by their mum to Jeanette’s iPad. The wonders of modern technology – having a teenager in the house can be useful.
“My grandson Leo sets up the FaceTime chats with my quilting group,” Jeanette laughs.
She knows how important Census 2021 is for the next generation: censuses aren’t only useful for looking back – decision makers use them to make spending decisions on future schools, hospitals and services, allowing big families like hers to remain happy.
“It’s great, all living together,” Jeanette says. “There’s always somebody around for a chat.”
THE census is a survey that happens every ten years and gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. By taking part, you will be helping make sure that you and your community get the services needed now and in the future. The personal information you give us in the census is kept safe and confidential by law.
Census Day is Sunday, March 21, 2021. Every household should complete it by then or as soon as possible after. It takes around ten minutes per person.
For more information, visit census.gov.uk
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