Overview

The conduct of the entire Census 2021 operation will be assessed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority, against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

The Code of Practice for Statistics (“the Code”) provides producers of official statistics with the detailed practices they must commit to when producing and releasing official statistics.

The Code ensures that the statistics published by government serve the public. When producers of official statistics comply with the Code, it gives users of statistics and citizens confidence that published government statistics are:

  • of public value
  • high quality
  • produced by trustworthy people and organisations.

The assessment process involves three phases. These cover planning and consultation, strategies for developing and disseminating outputs and, finally, an assessment of user needs versus outputs, post-publication. Each phase sees:

  • the Office for National Statistics (ONS) compile and submit the report to the OSR
  • the ONS publish the report on the website
  • the OSR assess the report, speak to census teams and census data users, and publish requirements
  • the ONS act on the requirements and publish its response

All reports for the National Statistics assessment process will be available from this webpage.

Phase 1

In June 2019, we published our initial report How the ONS is ensuring the 2021 Census will serve the public. This was our first step towards measuring progress against the Code. This coincided with similar reports published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

As well as considering this initial report, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) engaged with users and other stakeholders about their views on Census 2021 plans, progress and outputs. We wish to thank those individuals and organisations who have engaged with the OSR and given feedback for the assessment.

The information presented to, and gathered by, the OSR informed its first report published in October 2019. The report, 2021 Censuses in the UK – Preliminary findings, details the preliminary findings from the assessment to that point. The OSR considered how much engagement and development activities undertaken by the three census offices, in preparation for Census 2021, complied with the Code.

While the OSR identified areas of strength, and was encouraged by progress and plans, it highlighted areas for the census offices to focus on. These were set out in several actionable findings. To comply with the Code, the ONS, the NRS and NISRA needed to address these findings.

The three census offices are working, together where necessary, to address these findings. We aim to enhance the public value, quality and trustworthiness of the data and statistics produced from Census 2021 across the UK.

The report, Response to actionable findings from Phase 1 of the National Statistics Accreditation, published on 15 June 2020, details our response to the OSR’s findings. It also provides further evidence of how we are complying with the Code.

The NRS and NISRA have also produced similar reports detailing their responses to the OSR’s findings.

The OSR have reviewed the actions ONS have taken to address the actionable findings from Phase 1. A letter from the OSR to ONS, published on 11 September 2020, identifies:

  • actions taken by ONS which are particularly noteworthy
  • some areas where further action is needed

We will continue to report our progress towards addressing the OSR actionable findings as part of Phase 2.

A letter from OSR to NRS and a letter from OSR to NISRA reviewing the actions taken to address actionable findings from Phase 1, were also published on 11 September 2020.

Phase 2

The phase 2 report How the ONS is ensuring Census 2021 will serve the public good: January 2021 progress update, published on 28 January 2021, provides an update on our progress to gain National Statistics accreditation. It will be used as part of the evidence base by the OSR when assessing our compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics (“the Code”).

The report includes details of:

  • our continued response to the OSR actionable findings

  • how practices, processes and procedures of the Census 2021 for England and Wales have and will continue to meet the three pillars of the Code: trustworthiness, quality and value

  • the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Census 2021

A similar report for phase 2 of the National Statistics accreditation has been published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). A phase 2 report from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) will follow in winter 2021 in line with their census being in March 2022.

As part of the assessment process, the OSR continually seek to gather users and stakeholders’ views and experiences of the Census 2021 for England and Wales. If you would like to share your views and experiences you can do so via their Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK webpage, where there are some questions available to answer.

Phase 2 will confirm the England and Wales’ Census 2021 National Statistics accreditation status and will be complete before the first census outputs are released in 2022.

Phase 3

Phase 3, due to begin in Summer 2022, will be led by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). They will assess user needs versus outputs, post-publication of Census 2021 statistics.