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Census 2021

The census is coming. By taking part, you can help inform decisions on services that shape your community, such as healthcare, education and transport.

What is the census?

The census is a unique survey that happens every 10 years. It gives us a snapshot of all the people and households in England and Wales – the most detailed information gathered about today's society.

Who runs the census?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the census in England and Wales.

Why it is important for your to take part in the census

It’s important that you fill in your census questionnaire. Without the information you share, it’d be more difficult to understand your community’s needs and to plan and fund public services.

In one way or another, your information touches the lives of every single person living in England and Wales, whether it’s through using census information to plan new schools, doctors’ surgeries or bike lanes.

You must complete the census by law. If you do not, or if you supply false information, you could be fined up to £1,000.

Your privacy and personal information

Your information is protected by law. That means government officials dealing with payments or services you receive cannot see it.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the census in England and Wales and is independent from government. Your details are protected by law and information published is always anonymous. 

Personal topics included within the census

The census asks you about your ethnicity, national identity and a voluntary question about your religion.

For the first time, it also asks anyone aged 16 years or over about service in the UK Armed Forces and a voluntary question about gender identity and sexual orientation.

It’s up to you to decide how you would like to answer each question. Do it in the way that you feel best represents you. You can identify as you wish using search-as-you-type online and write-in options on paper.

How and when to complete the census

All households will receive a letter from the ONS outlining how to complete the census online, including a unique access code, starting from the end of February.

Census Day will take place on Sunday 21 March 2021. All households are urged to complete the census on this date, or you can fill yours in as soon as you get your access code in the post.

Your answers should be about the people who usually live in your household on this date, even if you're filling it in before then.  If you’ve responded before 21 March and things have changed, you can let the ONS know.

To start your census online, you will need your unique access code which will be included in the ONS letter posted to your address.

Online help for completing the census

The census should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and 10 minutes per person.

Other ways to complete the census and alternative formats

The ONS aim to make things as easy as possible for everyone, but if you need help taking part in the census, there’s a wide range of support services available.

You can request support for yourself, or someone else, including:

  • guidance and help in many languages and formats
  • a paper version of the questionnaire, if you prefer
  • accessible census guidance, for example, in braille.

There is a help area on the census website. It covers everything from who to include on the questionnaire to how to answer each question.

Online help for completing the census

If you cannot find what you need there, there’s a dedicated contact centre where census staff will be on hand to give help over the phone, in a web chat or on social media.

Support completing the survey after Census Day

After Census Day, at the end of March and into April, ONS census field officers will be visiting households from which they have not received a completed census form. They will encourage people to complete the census and help you to access further help if you need it. The ONS field officers will never need to enter your house.

The ONS field officers will be working in the same way as a postal or food delivery visit. They will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and working in line with government guidance.

Be scam aware

  • At no point will you be asked for your bank details or any payment.
  • Help to fill out your form is free.
  • You will not receive any payment for completing the census, so any offers of money in exchange for your account details will be fraudulent.
  • No-one will enter your home in relation to the census.

You can report a fraud direct to Action Fraud online or on 0300 123 2040.

More information

Visit the census website for more information and advice