Your 2021 calendar may look a little sparse on the events front, but there’s one big date in March that will be recorded in history. That’s because on March 21, data collected from millions of people in England and Wales will form Census 2021.
A census has been held every decade since 1801, except in 1941 because of the Second World War. A mini census was held in 1939 so that everyone could be issued with a National Identity Card.
The first thorough survey of England was in 1086 when William the Conqueror ordered a detailed list of land and property known as The Domesday Book.
Naturally, much has changed since then, with 2021 introducing new questions on the armed forces and gender identity and, for the first time, the onus is on getting people to fill it in online.
When is it?
Census Day is March 21. From the start of March until May 3 you will need to record the answers to the census questions with the information as it stands on March 21. It can be done before March 21 or after, until May 3. The form should take around 10 minutes to fill in.
Why is it so important?
Data is used to help not only local authorities but organisations like charities and not-for-profit organisations to help evidence funding bids and the need for support services.
Knowing what your community’s needs are helps organisations like councils plan and fund public services in your area and across England and Wales. Information you give informs where billions of pounds of funding is spent on things like transport, education and health.
Charities and voluntary organisations often use it as evidence to get funding. It helps businesses to understand 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.
Why isn’t Scotland taking part?
Scotland had a census rehearsal in October 2019, along with other countries in the UK. Scotland has decided to move their next census to March 2022 due to the unprecedented impact of Covid-19, and to try to maximise response rates.
England and Wales decided to go ahead as it is a digital-first census. The Office for National Statistics is satisfied that the England and Wales teams have been able to plan, test and adapt the operation in light of Covid-19.
How do I fill it in?
Households will receive an invitation to take part in early March - most will receive an access code to complete the census online but in areas where broadband access is limited paper questionnaires will be sent.
For those who can't access the online form, a freephone contact centre will be going live at the beginning of March for people to request and access support. Paper questionnaires and large print paper questionnaires can be allocated, as can telephone capture and guidance in other languages, including braille.
Will my data be protected?
Data provided on the census form is secure, it is never used to identify anyone and is not shared with government agencies or sold to third parties. Nothing will be published that can lead to identification of people individually.
Can I see the census results?
No, specific information has not been made available to the public since the Census Act 1920, which made it an offence to disclose personal information held in a census until 100 years after the date they were conducted. Until then, they are held by the Office for National Statistics.
In about a year's time, details of statistical trends will be published to help local authorities and organisations understand the area they live and operate in. Identifiable information will not be included in these trends.
What’s different this year?
For 2021, two new questions have been added.
The first is to identify veterans. If there are grants needed for veterans, or if there are support services needed for veterans, the data gathered from this new question will provide an accurate number of veterans in an area, so if the British Legion, for example, wants to put a case forward to build a new centre, it can understand from ONS data which areas may be most underserved.
The second new addition is a voluntary question on gender identity. This question in the survey reads: "Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?"
This aims at generating more robust data on gender and sexual identity so that organisations can provide the services and support functions that may be needed.
How can I get more involved?
The census is currently recruiting a variety of temporary jobs at www.censusjobs.co.uk.
Primary and secondary schools are encouraged to participate in the schools programme, with curriculum specific activities to get involved with:
www.letscount.org.uk - the address for the primary school programme
www.censuseducation.org.uk - the address for the secondary school programme
Follow @Census2021 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
www.census.gov.uk is the main Census 2021 website