Saturday 18 January 2020

Lord of all I survey

I came home one night in the New Year to find a fat envelope and a post-card stuffed behind a pot-plant on the windowsill. Not the postman - he knows better; but from Ipsos/MRBI the polling company, on behalf of the Department of Health. The DoH, in their Healthy Ireland initiative, had contracted Ipsos to carry out the National Household Study; a survey of a randomly selected 13,720 homes across the country to answer questions about
  • General Health
  • Smoking and quitting
  • The booze
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Social connexions
  • Health comms
  • Homecare services
What's not to like about participating? I live so rural (300m up a rough track and 500m from the nearest inhabited house), that it's nice to have someone visit. When I retire, I'll be sending myself letters and then pulling on the poor postman's lapel like crusty ancient mariner. Accordingly, I sent a txt to the number on the post card and said I'd be free for grilling on Thursday evening. Thursday came round followed by a vaguely familiar woman VFW knocking on the door with some ID and a tablet ready to survey me. VFW admitted that she'd been in our place four years earlier when she'd called as a Census enumerator.

She was a couple of years older than me, retired from the CSO and censusing, but doing similar work for a commercial company . . . for good money because Ipsos/MRBI's accountants wrote off almost all her tax against mileage and other expenses. I thought for half a tick that it might be the sort of thing that I could do for pin money in a year's time. Then again, I couldn't. It takes a certain type of person who is happy to knock on doors in the dark and ask people personal questions. Later on, when we came to questions about mental health and social exclusion I mentioned the fact that one of my neighbours had pitched himself into the river and drowned at the end of last year. "Oh you mean Paddy?". Whoa, forget about GDPR, it is not right to have people enumerating, questionnairing and censusing in their own community. It's just not anonymous any more, it has been filed in a mental rolladex of possible gossible. You see, she remembered from census times that I worked in The Institute and knew more than I did about an uncomfortable number of my colleagues.

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