Family Resources Survey: information for people taking part

Guidance for participants in the Family Resources Survey (FRS), an annual study of the income and living condition of people living in the UK.

Below is some brief information about this important study, and why you have been asked to take part. If you have any further questions please ring the number on the letter you have been sent.

What is the Family Resources Survey?

The Family Resources Survey is an annual study of the income and living conditions of people living in the UK.

The study is carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The study provides vital information. This helps the government develop and monitor policies that help everyone, from single people and families with children, to those with caring responsibilities and older people.

What is the Family Resources Survey about?

The FRS is wide ranging and asks households about the following issues that may affect everybody at some time in their lives:

  • income and benefits
  • occupation and employment
  • education
  • tenure and housing costs
  • health and ability to work
  • household food security
  • caring needs and responsibilities
  • family circumstances, childcare and child maintenance
  • pensions
  • assets and savings

Why have I been chosen?

Your address was selected at random from the Post Office’s list of addresses. This is why the letter sent to you is addressed ‘to the resident’ and not to a named person.

To make sure the results are more representative of different groups of people we rely on the participation of everyone asked to take part in the study. No one else can take your place.

You don’t need any special knowledge to take part. Most people who agree to be interviewed enjoy the experience.

Who are the interviewers?

Some interviews are conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and NatCen Social Research (NatCen).

Both organisations have a vast amount of experience in the conduct of surveys of households and individuals.

ONS is the government’s largest producer of statistics and is responsible for the 10-yearly population census. NatCen carries out social research for the DWP and many other organisations and government departments.

The interviewer will have a photo identification card, which he or she will show you. Always ask for identification from any caller not known to you.

How are the results used?

The results help us build a picture of the incomes and circumstances of different groups of people. It is only with good information that decisions on policy issues can be made. The results from this study help the DWP answer questions like:

  • how many households take up all the benefits and tax credits they are entitled to?
  • how many households ‘gain’ or ‘lose’ when taxes, benefits or the economic climate changes?

The results are important for a wide range of government and non-government bodies, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a number of charities.

How will my personal information be used?

The following information outlines how and why your personal information will be used and the standards those taking part in the survey can expect from DWP. It should be read alongside the wider DWP personal information charter which contains further information, including about your rights.

Data Protection Legislation

Data protection legislation determines how, when and why we can process your personal data. ‘Personal data’ means any information which can identify a living individual. ‘Processing’ means any action or set of actions performed on personal data, including:

  • collection
  • storage
  • alteration
  • dissemination
  • deletion

These laws exist to ensure that your data are managed safely and used responsibly. They also provide you with certain rights in respect of your data and create a responsibility on the DWP to provide you with certain information.

Identity and contact details of the data controller

The data controller is the person or organisation who decides what personal data shall be processed and for what purpose. DWP is the data controller for the FRS.

Our contact details are:

Family Resources Survey
Surveys Branch
Department for Work and Pensions
6th Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London SW1H 9NA


Purposes for which personal data are processed

Personal data collected for the FRS will only ever be used to produce statistics or undertake research.

Data protection laws do not allow personal information to be used or processed unless some specific conditions are met.

For personal data, processing for the FRS is undertaken on the basis that it is necessary for “a function of a government department”. This is allowed by section 8 of the Data Protection Act, and Article 6(1)(e) Public Task of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR).

For special category of personal data, such as information about health, most processing for the FRS meets the condition that it is “necessary for the purposes of … employment, social security and social protection”. This is allowed by section 10 of the Data Protection Act and Article 9(2)(b) of the UK GDPR, plus, Schedule 1, Part 1, Paragraph (1) (a) of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Recipients of personal data

We treat the data we hold with respect, keeping it secure and confidential. To support statistical production and research, we will sometimes allow access to the information we hold where it is lawful to do so.

How long can personal data be stored?

Data protection law requires that personal data is kept for no longer than is necessary to fulfil the purposes for which they were originally collected. There is an exemption that allows information held for statistical or research purposes to be kept for longer periods. We will only continue to hold personal data where it is still used to produce statistics or carry out research in the public interest. In addition, we de-identify (or anonymise) data at the earliest possible opportunity.

Published 10 January 2013
Last updated 23 March 2023 + show all updates
  1. Revised guidance for participants in the annual Family Resources Survey (FRS).

  2. Revised guidance for participants in the annual Family Resources Survey (FRS).

  3. First published.