Here we tell you more about the census, why it’s important, how you can take part and all the other essential information you may need.
What is the census?
The census is a unique survey of all people and households in England and Wales that happens every 10 years. There’s simply nothing else that gives so much detail about us and the society we live in. It tells us what our needs are now and what they’re likely to be in the future. It also gives a snapshot of how we live, for future generations to look back on.
The information given by the public during the census helps local authorities plan and fund public services. It informs where billions of pounds get spent, for instance on things like roads, schools and hospitals.
Information from the census is also important in helping lots of other people and organisations do their work. Charities and voluntary organisations often use it as evidence to get funding. It helps businesses to understand us as customers and, for example, decide where to open new shops. Plus, those doing research, like university students and people looking into their family history, use the information.
Without the census – and without people in your local area talking about themselves and their household – it’d be much more difficult to do this. That’s why it’s so important that everyone takes part
What does the census ask?
The information collected during the census helps to create an in-depth picture of our society. It will also identify important trends that will help organisations plan services and allocate funding in the future.
To achieve this, the census asks questions on a range of topics, including information about:
- individuals, such as their name, age, sex and marital status
- households, such as family relationships
- the homes we live in, such as their location, the number of people living there and what facilities they have
When it comes to questions about how people describe themselves (religion, ethnicity and national identity), everyone will have the opportunity to identify as they wish. We actively encourage people to complete the questionnaire how they feel best represents them. We’re engaging with community groups to ensure that everyone knows they are free to identify how they choose and how to do so.
New questions to reflect the needs of society
It’s important that the census sheds light on long-term trends, while also reflecting the changing society in which we live today. The census 2021 will ask questions on three new topics. These are:
- previous service in the UK Armed Forces
- gender identity
- sexual orientation
The UK Armed Forces question will gather information on past service in the UK Armed Forces. This is to help organisations support veterans in line with the Armed Forces Covenant – a promise between our country and those who have served it.
The questions on sexual orientation and gender identity will give better information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations. This will help organisations to combat any inequalities these groups may face and show where services are needed.
Only those aged 16 years and over will have these questions. The sexual orientation and gender identity questions are also voluntary, so you will not have to answer if you do not want to. People can also request an individual questionnaire and give their answers separately from others in their household if they wish.
When will I get to complete the census?
- Every household receives a postcard telling them the census is coming between the 22 Feb – 3 Mar 2021
- Electronic questionnaire and digital support services go live on the 23 Feb 2021
- Every household receives a pack telling them to join in now – and how to do it between the 3 – 13 Mar 2021
- Census day is the March 21st
- Last day to complete your questionnaire online or order a paper questionnaire will be 4 May 2021
Each household in England and Wales will get an invite to take part in Census 2021. Census 2021 is “digital-first”, which means that people will primarily be encouraged to complete the census online. Therefore, an estimated 90% of households will receive a census pack in the post.
This pack includes an access code that enables online completion of the household questionnaire. The remaining 10% of households will receive a paper version of the questionnaire as part of their pack. We will send these paper questionnaires in areas where we’ve identified residents are more likely to need them.
Although online participation in the census is encouraged, anyone can request a paper version of the questionnaire from Census 2021 field staff or via post by calling the contact centre for free. The online census caters for any number of people in a household. Whereas, if more than five people want to complete the paper version, they will need an additional continuation form. It’s easy to request these for free,
from Census 2021 field staff or via post by calling the contact centre. It’s also possible to request an individual questionnaire if people would like to give answers separately from others in the same household.
Will there be support available?
There will be local community engagement staff on hand throughout the census process with resources, advice and practical support that will enable everyone to join in.
What happens to my data?
The safety of everyone’s information is top priority. Electronic data will be handled on systems securely managed to UK government standards and within the ONS’s control. Paper forms will be securely scanned and passed to the ONS by a contractor meeting the ONS’s security requirements.
When the ONS publishes statistics from the census, they’re completely anonymous. They do not include any personal information and individuals cannot be identified from census data. Personal census information has protection by law. It’s a crime for anyone to share it.
Government departments dealing with any applications the public have made, or any payments or services they receive, cannot see their census information. For example, it cannot be used to influence benefit claims, a residency application, immigration status or taxes. Private organisations and individuals such as landlords will not have access to personal information.
Personal information will not be used to sell the public anything or to find individuals. In turn, we’ll never sell census information.
We will keep census records anonymous for 100 years. Only then can they be seen by future generations, for example, by those who have an interest in family history. The records will always be kept secure.
If you have any further questions about The 2021 Census and what it means for you please visit www.census.gov.uk