About the 2021 Census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK's largest independent producer of official statistics. It is also the recognised national statistical institute of the UK. Every decade, ONS gather a census from all UK residents. We are the custodian of residential addresses. This means it is up to us to ensure ONS holds UK residents' correct addresses.

What is the census?

The census will help to give the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in England and Wales. The information you give helps decide how to plan and fund services in your local area. This could mean things like doctors' surgeries, housing, or new bus routes. It asks questions about you and your household to build a picture of UK residents. It looks at who we are and how we live. There is no other survey that gives as much information about our society and future needs.

Past, present and future of the census

The census takes place every ten years. The first census was in 1801 and the most recent in England and Wales on 21 March 2021. They need every household in England and Wales to take part to make it accurate.

Moving the census online

The census is moving to a 'digital-first' census. ONS wanted as many people as possible to fill in their questionnaire online in 2021. It is easy to do across any device. Most people will got a letter with a unique access code on it through the post. Then all they needed to do was to enter the code onto the website to fill in the questionnaire. ONS contacted everyone nearer the time to let them know what they needed to do.

Our changing needs

There are some changes to the next census, to make sure it collects the information our society needs. More relevant questions will replace ones we no longer need.

Getting the right information from the census

The census helps our government understand what our society needs now. It also helps us to understand what it will likely need in the future. The information it collects helps decide how we plan and fund services in our area. This could include schools, doctors' surgeries, emergency services, or even local support groups. Charities also use census information to help get the funding they need. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities. This is why it is so important we get it right.

ONS ran a census rehearsal to test the processes, systems and services before the census in 2021. It took place last October in Carlisle, Ceredigion, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. It gives ONS the chance to make sure things ran smoothly in 2021. It helps us review we are asking the right questions. This means we can get the right information to help plan services in our area.

Last updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2021.