Programme Related Questions
- What is the Beyond 2011 Programme and why is it needed?
- What are the options?
- What is this consultation about?
- What do you mean by ‘administrative data’?
- What administrative data are you investigating?
- Is this all being done to save money?
- How much do the two options cost?
- Does this all mean there won't be another census like there has been in the past?
- What are you doing to protect my personal information?
- Will you be sharing my data with other organisations?
- Have you thought about using commercial data, for example, from supermarkets, banks and credit agencies?
- The scope of the Programme is England and Wales. What is happening in Scotland and Northern Ireland? What about UK data?
- What about people who want to investigate their family history or family tree?
- What legislation do you need?
Every 10 years, for over 200 years, every household in England and Wales has been required to respond to the census. The 2011 Census successfully provided population statistics that will be used for the next decade by planners, policy makers and researchers across the public and private sectors.
Our population is changing rapidly, and the need to understand these changes will continue. Improvements in technology and in government data sources also offer new opportunities. The purpose of the Beyond 2011 programme is to assess the different possible approaches to producing population and housing statistics and to provide advice to Government and Parliament on the best way forward.
Our research has resulted in two possible approaches to taking the census in future:
A census once a decade, like that conducted in 2011, but primarily online.
A census using existing government data and compulsory annual surveys.
Both methods would provide annual statistics about the size of the population, nationally and for local authorities as we do at present. A census using existing data and surveys would provide statistics about the characteristics of the population every year, while an online census would provide more detailed statistics but only once a decade.
The two approaches bring different advantages and disadvantages and users’ views on these will differ. It is important that the Parliament’s decision is founded on good evidence so the consultation asks for your views on what really matters. The public consultation runs for the full 12 weeks - 23rd September to 13th December 2013.
This is data that is already collected by government to provide a service or to meet an operational need. This data would be reused by ONS to produce an annual estimate of the population in local areas.
Sources currently being researched include those held by the Department of Health, the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Education and the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Only basic information is passed to ONS (for example name, sex, data of birth and address). All personal identifiers are changed by ONS to anonymous, but unique, codes so that data from different sources can be linked together, but no individual person can be identified.
After every census, we review how to conduct the next one. The best use of public money is always a consideration, but this is not our only consideration. People are living in increasingly diverse arrangements and technology has improved considerably over the last decade. We are looking to determine the most efficient way of producing good quality statistics that support users needs.
An online census once a decade is estimated to cost around £625m per decade (in 2013 prices). This works out at around £1.10 per person per year.
A census based on administrative data and large annual compulsory surveys is estimated to cost around £460m per decade (in 2013 prices). This works out at to around £0.80 per person per year.
Both methods would provide good value for money. The cost of an online census once a decade is comparable to other countries.
No. No decision has been made yet. One of the approaches on which ONS is consulting is a census taken once a decade like that conducted in 2011, but the majority of people would be expected to complete it online.
The data we use is for research and analytical purposes only and we are only interested in producing statistics, not information about individuals.
Before any analysis is carried out, all personal identifiers such as name, sex, date of birth and address are changed by ONS to anonymous, but unique, codes. This means that no individual person can be identified. We are making use of the minimum data possible.
We have been consulting closely with privacy experts in developing our approach.
Any data received is only used for statistical purposes and we do not share any personal information with other organisations.
Have you thought about using commercial data, for example, from supermarkets, banks and credit agencies?
ONS has no plans to use commercial data.
The scope of the Programme is England and Wales. What is happening in Scotland and Northern Ireland? What about UK data?
The Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executives have responsibility for their own censuses and are undertaking their own research, details of which can be found on their websites. Close collaboration is in place with them so as to manage the consistency of UK statistics.
Many people make use of the individual records released after 100 years from historic censuses to support genealogical or social history research.
Clearly the world will be a very different place by the time that records from a 2021 census would be released and the information environment unimaginably different.
ONS’s role is to produce statistics rather than register individuals or households, but we are keenly aware of these uses of census information and have been discussing options for future archiving of statistical sources with The National Archives. It is not yet clear what would be possible if we were to move to a census approach using administrative data but we welcome views on this as part of the consultation.
Existing primary legislation allows a census to take place, but does not require a census.
As with the 2011 Census, an online census in 2021 would require Parliament to agree specific secondary legislation, setting out the census date and the questions to be asked for example.
A Census method based on administrative data and surveys would require Parliament to agree new primary legislation, to enable easier data access for ONS and to make it a legal requirement for households to respond to any new surveys.