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More of us are buying groceries online, we are feeling lonelier than we did two years ago and 84% of internet users are now online daily as a result of COVID-19.

How do we know this? Because You Told Us.

Monday 1 June, 2020

The Central Statistics Office is calling on people to help tell Ireland’s story

More of us are buying groceries online, we are feeling lonelier than we did two years ago and 84% of internet users are now online daily as a result of COVID-19.

How do we know this? We know ........Because You Told Us.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is appealing for people to play a vital role in telling the story of Ireland and help our field staff collect the information that will chart the effect COVID-19 is having on our society.

Before the introduction of guidelines restricting people’s movements, more than 100 CSO interviewers would visit 30,000 households every three months. The information gathered helps inform decision-making across a range of areas including health, welfare, the environment and the economy.

However, this work has changed completely since COVID-19. Field work is now carried out by letter and telephone instead of face-to-face. While it is understandable that response rates have fallen at this difficult time, low response rates affect the quality of the information collected. That is why the CSO is calling on people to play their part in telling Ireland’s story.

In the words of one of our field staff, Deirdre Hannigan, who is based in Dublin, the way she works has changed significantly: “No more house calls and face-to-face interviews. No more trudging around the city with a heavy bag. The work becomes a vast sea of letters, envelopes, stamps and information literature. Driving is replaced with desk work, letter writing, licking envelopes and postage; initiation of contact is by written invitation and phone call; rings on doorbells replaced with patiently waiting for the phone to be answered or wishing for a call back.”

According to Fiona O'Riordan, Head of Division - Social Collection at the CSO, responding to these surveys is more vital now than ever.

“We have measured Ireland's economy through good times and through bad. Taking part in our surveys is important because the statistics we collect are used to make policy decisions and to plan for the future. The information you give us means we can create a very accurate picture of Ireland, our lives, our economy, our health and our happiness.

Our surveys are 100% confidential and your personal details are never shared with any government departments or organisations.

The information collected during this difficult time in particular will help us chart the changes taking place in our lives now so generations to come can understand the seismic shift our society is undergoing. The CSO understands the severe difficulties now being faced by everyone. We wish to thank all survey respondents for their support to date. However, it is only by collecting survey information that we will be able to report on the effects COVID-19 is having on our economy and society.

As part of our awareness campaign, ‘Because You Told Us,’ we want to highlight the importance of getting people involved in our surveys. If you are asked, please participate in a confidential CSO survey as they have vital national importance.

A random sample of people, living in both urban and rural areas, are selected from the Census maps. Any letter you receive from us in the post is printed on CSO headed paper, and there will be a unique reference code on the letter which you can verify with the interviewer. The interviewer’s name and contact number will be on the letters. An appointment can be scheduled with the interviewer at a time that suits you.

We know some people might be afraid of divulging personal information or may fear a letter from us is a scam. To reassure the public, we always advise anyone who receives a survey request from us to ring us on our LoCall number 1890 252 293. We can then confirm the authenticity of our letter to you and explain that we will never, under any circumstances, share your personal information with anyone.

Your voice matters. The information you give us in our telephone surveys will help planning and inform policy formulation. This is as important now as it ever was. If requested, please participate.”

.#TellUsIreland #CSOIreland
Learn more:

What are members of the CSO field staff saying about their new working environment:

Marian Ryan, Co-ordinator Mid West Region, who currently has a team of 11 interviewers

Marian’s Story: 'Mid-March 2020 everything changed in our world due to the arrival of COVID-19 and for us in the CSO the real challenge was how to continue our work in this changed and very scary environment. Our field interviewers are experts in face-to-face interaction with the public, explaining the type of information and the important uses of the data we collect.

As a co-ordinator of a team spread over eight counties my new role was one of motivating and supporting my interviewers in the challenges thrown-up by virtue of their new method of working. Frustration was one of the main emotions felt by interviewers in trying to connect with householders by letter and hoping for a call back at any time of the day. It often requires several letters to the same household to convince them of the importance of engaging in our survey. The new way of doing things requires a lot of patience and perseverance. I find myself on the phone supporting and encouraging the interviewers more than ever as they frequently become disheartened when responses are low.

The questions in our survey related to COVID-19 often results in interviewers hearing very sad stories and situations that this pandemic has visited on households. Co-ordinators need to be aware of the effect this can have on our interviewers and be supportive and encouraging and always available at the end of a phone to provide a listening ear.

Unprecedented is the buzz word of these times and no one envisaged this new working environment. Our conviction of the importance of the data we collect at the CSO and how it can be used in decision-making by our government in the future to help provide the framework for our recovery keeps us motivated in rising to the challenge. The slogan "Your Community, Your County, Your Country" is well chosen for these times.'

Ber O'Mahony, Survey Interviewer based in Cork

Ber’s story: 'I miss my job. My job entails interacting with people one-to-one, meeting them at their doorstep, chatting, smiling, and explaining the importance of the surveys.

Since COVID-19, I feel I am cocooning at home - unable to see the faces of householders taking part in our surveys. Unable to establish a warm connection with them.

It is very different for householders to receive a letter or postcard from an unknown person requesting their help. Currently, I have to hope - hope and wait - that householders will take time out of their day to call me back. If you get a letter or a postcard from me or one of my colleagues working around the country, please give us a ring.'