1. Overview

This article focuses on the potential impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our operational plans for Census 2021, the adaptations we have made and the contingencies we are planning in light of this.

It is part of a series of articles published on 1 October 2020 updating our design and plans for Census 2021. These plans take into account our own experience and development of our end-to-end statistical design, including feedback from local authorities on our quality assurance plans and lessons learned from the 2019 Collection Rehearsal. More information is available in our overview.

The census is the largest statistical exercise that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) undertakes, producing statistics that inform all areas of public life and underpin social and economic policy. It provides a wealth of information at small geographies to inform local planning and decision-making. It is, therefore, vital that everyone takes part and is counted and that the statistics produced are accurate and meet user needs.

Proposals for Census 2021 were published in a Government White Paper in 2018, Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales. This set out quality objectives, the most important of which is achieving a high and consistent response rate (See Section 2: Census quality objectives and operational plans). The Census 2021 statistical design article sets out how the census has been designed to meet the quality objectives and deliver results that are fit for purpose and meet user needs. Sections 2 and 3 of that article cover the design and build of census operations and the process for monitoring and reacting to information received during live census operations, and should be read in conjunction with this article.

Earlier in 2020, the necessary secondary legislation was passed by Parliament setting out the questions to be asked and the arrangements for carrying out the census. In autumn 2019, we conducted a rehearsal of census data collection, our evaluation report of which is available on our website.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges to the operation of Census 2021. Since April 2020, the ONS has carried out scenario planning and undertaken regular readiness assessments; these assessments are published in the UK Statistics Authority Board’s minutes, available through the UK Statistics Authority publications page. The impact of the pandemic creates a new set of challenges for delivering a successful and inclusive census. This article focusses on how this has affected our operational plans, changes we have introduced already in response, our contingency plans, and how we will manage incidents that arise during live census operations. Other potential impacts, including on census data, are addressed in the Census 2021 statistical design article.

Section 2: Census quality objectives and operational plans sets out at high level our operational plan and quality objectives for the census; Section 3: Identifying the risks: scenario planning and potential impacts of the pandemic summarises how we have assessed the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Section 4: Operational response: design changes and management of residual risks describes how the principal activities across the main period of operational activity up to April 2021 could be affected by the main potential impacts of the pandemic and how our plans have adapted to cater for that risk, including both changes already made to our census design and contingency plans we are making. Recognising that we cannot predict all impacts, we also have monitoring and incident management arrangements in place to respond to incidents during live census operations, as set out in Section 5: Management of coronavirus risks and incidents during live census operations.

Having considered the range of potential impacts and having put in place these changes and contingency plans, we are confident in our ability to deliver a successful and inclusive census in March 2021 under existing government guidance and to adapt to any future changes in guidance.

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2. Census quality objectives and operational plans

The primary aim of the census is to provide a robust estimate of the usually resident population of England and Wales. To accurately reflect the country we live in today, the census requires high-quality data with high response rates, both nationally and across all areas and communities. To deliver this, the census has been designed to ensure that it is easy and convenient for people to complete and that people are appropriately supported throughout. This section sets out our quality objectives and a high-level summary of the operational activities through to June 2021 that will deliver them. Further detail of how these activities have been planned, and of the processing, coding and estimates processes, are contained in our census statistical design article.

Quality and operational objectives for Census 2021

In the December 2018 White Paper, Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales, we set out the success criteria for Census 2021, including our quality objectives.

Success criteria set out in the Census White Paper

"1.7 The strategic aims for the 2021 Census are based around the following success criteria. The census supports decision-makers throughout the country, with:

  • results that reflect the country we live in today by meeting quality targets which are as in 2011:

    • nationally accurate as measured by a confidence interval of plus or minus 0.2%, with bias less than 0.5% for England and Wales;
    • high-quality locally with 95% confidence intervals for all local authorities of plus or minus 3%; and
    • minimal variation within local authority area o response rate targets of 94% nationally and 80% locally in all local authorities, to support these quality levels
  • outputs that are timely and easy to use (first results within a year)

"1.8 The census is designed with respondents at the heart to meet the needs of high-quality data for decision-makers, so that:

  • the census is easy to complete, and rewarding for respondents, so 70% provide data without follow-up

  • ONS protects respondents’ data, ensuring the data are used for statistical purposes only, and is seen to protect respondents’ data in everything it does

  • census data reflect the needs of today’s society

  • the census will be predominantly online with 75% of responses provided online, and assistance provided to those who need it, to make this the most inclusive census ever"

As the White Paper sets out (in paragraphs 1.10 to 1.15), a central design feature for Census 2021 is ensuring that the census is inclusive. Our operational planning for Census 2021 therefore aims to ensure a high response rate not just overall but also with minimal variation in response across local areas and communities. We also aim to support a service that enables people to complete the census in a way that suits their needs and protects their data. We will make sure that every part of the population is covered, including all groups and sub-groups across the population of England and Wales, with a particular focus on hard-to-reach or more vulnerable communities such as students, the elderly, communal establishment residents, rough sleepers and non-English speakers. Our plans will also ensure that people are aware of the census and are provided with the means to take part, whether online or through a paper questionnaire, and with an appropriate level of support.

The 2021 Census statistical design article contains more detail on how we aim to achieve these quality objectives, from the earliest stages of design and build through to processing and outputs.

Overview of census operational activity

For the purposes of this article, the operational plans for Census 2021 can be divided into three distinct chronological periods: preparation, main collection activity and the subsequent Census Coverage Survey (CCS) and non-compliance work. While some activities span two or more of these periods, each period represents a step change in the operational activity, in terms of both support services and the level of interaction with respondents. We are working closely with a number of partners and suppliers on our plans to deliver the census. This subsection provides a high-level summary of activities undertaken in those three periods; Section 4: Operational response: design changes and management of residual risks revisits those activities and their exposure to the potential coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts described in Section 3: Identifying the risks: scenario planning and potential impacts of the pandemic.

Preparation: up to February 2021

The preparation and awareness-raising activity is the main focus up to the point when direct contact is made with households at the end of February 2021. With census materials already being printed by our suppliers and community engagement staff already being recruited, these operational preparation activities have begun. The Census 2021 campaign website is already online, providing information for the public and stakeholders; as we move into the main collection activity period, the website will also host the online questionnaire, online help and other assistance.

The principal activities in this period include:

  • printing of paper questionnaires and preparation of automatic reading and coding of responses

  • printing of other census materials, including publicity, material for field force and initial contact letters (ICLs) to households and individuals

  • community engagement, building awareness of Census 2021 in communities and through engagement with local authorities – supported by a national communications campaign

  • recruiting, equipping and training the census field force, including community engagement staff (from summer 2020) and the wider field force (from November 2020)

  • providing operational support for census delivery (from September 2020)

Main collection activity: late February, March and April 2021

This is the census campaign period, centred on Census Day: Sunday 21 March 2021. It begins a month earlier, with the despatch of cards letting householders know when Census Day is, the start of the communal establishment (CE) count, and the launch of the national communications campaign. Soon afterwards, ICLs and paper questionnaires (including an access code for online completion) will be despatched to invite people to take part in Census 2021. We expect up to 75% of households to complete the census during this period without the need for follow-up either through letters or visits from census staff.

The core activity over this period changes from 23 March, when the emphasis moves to encouraging non-responders with reminder letters and in-person visits. The field force will reach its peak strength of over 30,000 people as it undertakes this follow-up work in April 2021.

The principal activities in this period include:

  • printing and despatch of paper questionnaires and access-code letters

  • printing and despatch of reminder letters as needed

  • community engagement promoting response, including completion activity – supported by a national communications campaign

  • providing public support, including Census Support Centres and Contact Centre

  • providing operational support for census delivery

  • capturing, coding and processing of responses

  • deployment of field force – up to 23 March, the field force will be supporting wider engagement work and promoting completion of the census; from 23 March, they will be carrying out follow-up visits to encourage response where people have not completed the census; and parallel work by CE officers will include delivering questionnaires to establishments and their residents and promoting response

For further detail on the design of this activity, see Sections 2 and 3 of the census statistical design article.

Census Coverage Survey and non-compliance: May and June 2021

The ONS's census activity from May 2021 will be primarily focussed on processing and estimation to produce outputs from the data provided by responders to the census (see Section 4 of the census statistical design article). However, there will also be operational activity related to data collection during this period.

This work is more targeted than in March and April, with the CCS covering a sample of approximately 350,000 households, which helps assess the accuracy of the census responses. In addition, non-compliance work focussed on those who have not yet completed the census will be carried out. While conducted on a smaller scale than the field force work in April, the level of direct face-to-face interaction will be greater. This is because both the CCS and non-compliance work rely on engagement with people at their homes, including a voluntary, interviewer-led survey in the CCS covering households, individuals and CEs with up to 50 residents as well as non-compliance visits to households to follow-up non-responders to the census.

The principal activities in this period include:

  • deployment of field force

  • conducting the CCS, with around 4,500 field staff conducting short face-to-face interviews over a four-week period and recording the results on handheld devices

  • non-compliance, with staff visiting those who have not completed the census after the follow-up work by the wider field force

  • providing public support via the Contact Centre

  • providing operational support for census delivery

  • capturing, coding and processing of responses (continues beyond June 2021)

For further detail on processing and estimation, including the CCS, see Section 4 of the census statistical design article.

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3. Identifying the risks: scenario planning and potential impacts of the pandemic

Planning for Census 2021 was well underway, and the 2019 collection rehearsal already completed, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the UK. As the potential implications of the pandemic became clear, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began to assess its likely impact across the range of activities necessary to deliver a successful census. Through continued assessment focussing on a range of scenarios for the pattern of restrictions and disruption, we identified the main potential impacts and how they would affect operation activities to deliver Census 2021.

Scenario planning

To understand the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the delivery of Census 2021, the ONS developed a set of scenarios in April 2020 based on the latest academic thinking from Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University and Oxford University. These scenarios are summarised as:

  • operational restrictions in place for three months with up to two months transition back into normal operations by the end of July 2020

  • as per the first scenario, but restrictions are re-imposed in October 2020 for a further three months but back into normal operations by February 2021

  • as per the first scenario, but with a rolling set of: (a) planned restrictions for up to a year based on three months restricted and three months unrestricted and (b) unplanned restrictions for an undefined amount of time over an undefined period

We scheduled a series of "readiness assessment points" over the course of 2020; these review critical success factors against the latest COVID-19 modelling. This process of readiness assessments was externally assured as part of the mid-point strategic assessment undertaken by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority in July 2020.

Potential coronavirus impacts

We have established the main potential impacts that the coronavirus pandemic could have on different areas of census operations. The next section of this report sets out how we intend to mitigate these impacts.

National and/or local restrictions on social distance

A period of lockdown or other increased restrictions would affect the ability of census field staff to engage face-to-face in communities or with individuals and households. Workplaces could also be affected, including suppliers' factories or delivery services and offices (such as the ONS's Census Headquarters and the Contact Centre).

National and/or local restrictions on travel and transportation

Travel and transport restrictions could affect the distribution of materials and the capacity of the field force to engage with communities or to visit households to promote completion of the census.

Public perception and respondent behaviour

COVID-19 infections and restrictions are also likely to have an impact on public perception and behaviour. People may be less willing to answer their door to the census field force, less inclined to seek in-person help at our Census Support Centres, or engage less with their community groups and contacts who might be working with us to promote census completion. This could mean a general diminution of engagement or it might mean a change in the medium through which engagement happens, for example, with more calls to our Contact Centre and greater engagement with community groups online and through social media.

Economic impact

Census operations could also be affected by the wider economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the strength of the employment market might affect the number and quality of applicants for field staff roles, and economic circumstances might affect the ability of suppliers to undertake contracted work for the ONS.

COVID-19 Infection

Of utmost importance to the ONS is the health of both census field staff and the public with whom they interact to deliver the census. With respect to COVID-19, we need to address the risk of transmission in addition to mitigating the social and economic impacts associated with the pandemic.

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4. Operational response: design changes and management of residual risks

This section sets out how the main activities in the delivery of the census listed in Section 2: Census quality objectives and operational plans are likely to be exposed to the potential impacts identified in Section 3: Identifying the risks: scenario planning and potential impacts of the pandemic and how we have responded to that risk. It describes the changes already made to our operational design as well as the contingency planning steps we are taking.

We recognise that we cannot predict every eventuality around the potential impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Therefore, while this section describes the changes and contingency plans we have made, Section 5: Management of coronavirus risks and incidents during live census operations sets out how we will monitor and react to any risks that arise beyond our existing assumptions or that could not be predicted and built in (such as localised incidents that cannot be built into a general design).

Preparation: up to February 2021

Printing and personalisation of questionnaires, letters and other materials

This activity faces exposure to coronavirus effects through the impact of national or local restrictions on the supply, production and delivery of printed material. It is particularly acute in the final weeks, when initial contact letters (ICLs) inviting people to take part are printed and prepared for despatch.

Design changes have already been implemented through the introduction of coronavirus safety precautions, including signage and social distancing measures in line with government guidelines. Our contingency planning includes managing the ongoing risks through assurance of the supply chain for raw materials and monitoring of infection rates to enable early warning of local restrictions.

The addressing of ICLs and paper questionnaires also relies on an accurate Address Frame, following address check work by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Because of the pandemic, we have increased clerical address checks in place of previously planned field address checks during summer 2020, which has brought advantages described in Section 2 of the census statistical design article.

The wider supply chain for the census, including printed materials, has critical operations located in a number of sites across England. The continued operation of many of these services during the first period of coronavirus restrictions provides us with confidence in the provision of these services during future restrictions.

We continue to work closely with our suppliers across the supply chain, improving our understanding of the nature of the activities in each location and how these activities are likely to change over time from September 2020 to August 2021. This enables us to understand how the exposure of each service to the coronavirus pandemic’s impacts changes over time. Contingency plans have been put in place appropriate to each service, including the ability to introduce additional shifts, to move some aspects of production to another site, and to allow remote working for some services.

Community engagement

This activity faces exposure across all five impacts listed earlier: national and/or local restrictions on social distance and on travel and transportation; COVID-19 infection; public perception and respondent behaviour; and economic impact.

Where our plans had envisaged community engagement to principally be carried out face-to-face and in person, the risks of infection, restrictions and public perception mean that there could be significantly less scope for this form of engagement. However, we have found that many community groups with whom we planned to engage have moved online. Design changes have already been implemented to enable an increased focus on online engagement with these communities as a mitigation if required, should face-to-face engagement opportunities be lost because of coronavirus restrictions. This would also allow our community engagement staff to engage with larger numbers of groups, as virtual interactions are not restricted by the need to travel and physically be in the room. To facilitate this online engagement, we are equipping our community engagement teams with the ability to engage with communities securely through social media. This online engagement may also provide a wider benefit to our community engagement if there are not coronavirus restrictions in place: with more groups interacting with their members online, there is greater scope for online engagement alongside traditional in-person engagement.

The pandemic’s impacts could also affect our communications campaign, which works with community engagement to reach those groups who may be vulnerable or less likely to complete the census. Our contingency plans include potential changes to the channels used for communications, including moving from out of home (for example, outdoor poster advertising) to digital platforms. This messaging could include bespoke messaging around the support available to complete the census and help to mitigate the impact on community engagement.

There is also a risk of an adverse impact on local authorities' ability to support the census because of coronavirus impacts. In particular, it may affect their capacity to support the field operations (for example, with meeting rooms), support online completion, support local publicity and media relations, and share important information with census officers.

We continue to engage with local authorities on a regular basis, enabling us to explore what support they are able to provide. We will also monitor infection rates, to enable early warning of potential local restrictions.

Recruiting, equipping and training field staff

This activity faces exposure to coronavirus impacts because national and local restrictions on social distance could affect our ability to recruit and train candidates. In addition, the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic could affect the attractiveness of roles and the supply of candidates.

Design changes have already been implemented to address this. We delayed the initial recruitment of community engagement staff to a later point in summer 2020 and introduced a virtual candidate journey to remove the need for face-to-face contact. We have developed "point of use" training materials to create flexibility in the training to account for any further changes in the impact of and guidance relating to COVID-19, and we have reviewed our training, operational and HR policies and procedures to account for the risk of transmission.

Volatility in the employment market has the potential to have an ongoing impact. This could be positive, for example, in providing a larger field of good quality candidates – as we found in our recruitment of community engagement managers in summer 2020. However, it could also create problems, for example, an improvement in the economy potentially providing attractive alternative employment opportunities and creating retention problems for the census field force. We are working closely with local authorities and community groups to promote these roles, to ensure that there is a strong field of candidates available irrespective of economic conditions. Our contingency planning includes continuous monitoring of recruitment market and candidate feedback to keep us informed of trends that might affect field force recruitment and retention.

There is also a risk of exposure in the supply chain for equipment and materials for field staff, through the impact of social distancing or transport restrictions. The supply of materials was covered earlier in this article. To reduce the risk of late delivery, we have purchased field electronic devices in bulk ahead of the previously planned date.

Operational support for census delivery

We need to be able to provide a wrap-around service to support all collection operation services, to ensure they perform as a coherent whole and are able to meet the demands of optimising response to the census in all situations.

This activity faces exposure across all five impacts listed earlier: national and/or local restrictions on social distance and on travel and transportation; COVID-19 infection; public perception and respondent behaviour; and economic impact.

Design changes have already been implemented to address this with preparations for a “hybrid” approach, which replaces the assumption that the census would be run by staff sharing office space with a combined approach that enables people to work from home or the office and allows all colleagues to work together virtually. Building on our experience of working virtually during the period of coronavirus restrictions, we are putting in place a resilient virtual communication solution that enables collaborative working and can facilitate the high-frequency ad hoc communications between teams needed to support complex operations like the census. We will ensure that teams and suppliers are well practiced in operating virtually in preparation for live census operations. We have also undertaken additional work on succession and continuity planning to ensure that it is clear who will pick up the work of those in critical roles if they become sick and unable to work.

Main collection activity: late February, March and April 2021

Printing and despatch of reminder letters, paper questionnaires and access-code letters

The issues and solutions affecting supply, production and despatch described earlier in this article will remain through March and April 2021, while this activity changes from general production to being responsive to needs for reminder letters and requests for paper questionnaires, new or replacement access codes, and other materials. We do not anticipate operational problems affecting delivery of questionnaires and ICLs, as our delivery partners were able to continue operations during the national lockdown in 2020 and any localised delays can be accommodated within our existing initial contact timetable.

Deployment of field force

The risks around national and/or local social-distancing restrictions, COVID-19 infection and public perception could also impact on how we manage, direct and support field staff, which will increase significantly from March 2021. Design changes have already been implemented to address the risks around social distancing and infection through investment to equip the field force with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with government guidance. Our contingency planning includes further research into what adjustments may be needed to our doorstep routine to help field staff and respondents interact safely and effectively. Should a member of the field staff display COVID-19 symptoms, this would be handled through test and trace and through staff absence procedures.

We are preparing contingency plans that would enable us to adjust the timing of the main collection activity, if that was deemed necessary to deliver the quality criteria objective of the census in the situation prevailing at the time. As set out earlier, our plan is for the extent of the deployment of the field force and their direct interaction with respondents to increase significantly from 23 March with the focus on follow-up activity; however, we will be monitoring infection rates across all local authority areas throughout the full collection period and can also, if required, adjust the timing of this increased level of activity. While the risks, design changes and contingency measures will remain broadly the same through the period, the level of risk will increase with the increase in numbers and in direct interactions with respondents after 23 March. One design change relating to field staff activity in this period is that the main field force will not cross the threshold to enter a household but instead will conduct their work on the doorstep; this does not apply to communal establishments (CEs), where field staff can enter the establishment but not individuals’ rooms.

The risks attached to CEs differ from those for wider field force activities because of the level of face-to-face contact built into the plans. Census materials will be hand-delivered to CE managers; residents will receive either an initial contact letter with an access code or a paper questionnaire (also with an access code), dependent on the type of establishment and the likely propensity to respond online. Under current plans, our CE field staff will be able to cross the thresholds to enter an establishment to carry out their work but not an individual resident’s threshold. Staff will follow the latest guidance, including the use of PPE and, if necessary, any disinfection of papers required when delivering questionnaires and letters. Follow-up contact will be made using a combination of phone calls and visits; however, if restrictions are in place, we could move to carrying out more telephone follow-up and fewer in-person visits. Our contingency planning includes further research into different measures that might be required in the event of a full lockdown that makes hand delivery impossible. Our plans for room-level tracking of responses in CEs only apply to students in halls of residence, minimising the extent of individual visits required across delivery and follow-up periods in other types of communal establishment.

Community engagement

The issues and solutions affecting community engagement described earlier will remain through March and April 2021, as the emphasis in census operational activity changes from awareness-building to encouraging people to complete the census and then into follow-up work. One significant part of this is the plan to run census completion activity in communities, in addition to other engagement activity. This completion activity would be exposed to the impact of restrictions, infection, and public perception and behaviour as well as the potential issue of venues (such as libraries and community centres) being unavailable. We will ensure that census staff attending events are provided with PPE and use other precautions, such as social distancing, in line with government guidance; however, we cannot guarantee that we can totally alleviate people’s concerns, and there may be people who are still unwilling to attend in person. Other measures such as Census Support Centres, the Contact Centre and online help will also be available to support people to complete the census. As in the preparation period, our campaign messaging can be used to mitigate some of the pandemic’s impacts; this could include bespoke messaging around the support available to complete the census.

As described earlier, our contingency planning includes further work with local authorities, to explore what support they are able to provide, and the monitoring of infection rates, to enable early warning of potential local restrictions.

Public support

This activity includes both providing the means to complete the census and providing support to those who need it, such as through Census Support Centres and the Contact Centre. Census Support Centres will be set up across the country to provide in-person assistance for those who need help and to provide internet connection for people to complete the census. The Contact Centre will provide guidance and help, including dedicated Welsh-speaking advisors and a telephone helpline with interpreters to help those needing assistance in languages other than English or Welsh.

This activity is exposed to risks around national and/or local restrictions on social distance, COVID-19 infection and public perception, both in terms of public accessibility and use of Census Support Centres, and the capacity to staff and equip other services.

Design changes have already been implemented to provide greater support for those whose capacity to complete the census may be particularly affected by coronavirus restrictions or health concerns, including support to complete the census over the telephone. In sites providing support, COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place, including signage and social distancing measures in line with government guidelines; Perspex screens will also be provided in Census Support Centres.

Our contingency planning includes monitoring of infection rates to enable early warning of potential local restrictions and the development of contingency options in case COVID restrictions require the closure of a Census Support Centre. A critical part of our contingency planning is having communication plans in place to ensure local authorities and respondents are kept informed of how support services are being changed during a period of restriction, to ensure they are able to access the support they need to complete the census. For example, targeted letters will be sent out to inform the public of any changes to the services available in the case of local lockdowns.

Operational support for census delivery

The issues and solutions affecting operational support described earlier will remain through March and April 2021.

Capture, coding and processing of responses

This activity turns census responses into data for the production of statistics; this is the start of the process that will lead to the production of census outputs. It covers the scanning and capture of data provided on paper questionnaires as well as the coding of responses and the processing of data.

This activity is exposed to risks around the impact of national and/or local restrictions on social distance. Design changes have already been implemented including signage and social distancing measures in line with government guidelines. Our contingency planning includes monitoring of infection rates to enable early warning of potential local restrictions and the development of contingency plans for local restrictions.

Census Coverage Survey and non-compliance: May and June 2021

The Census Coverage Survey (CCS) is a voluntary, interviewer-administered, doorstep survey, delivered immediately after census. Its purpose is to improve the accuracy of census results by identifying households that were missed in the census or individuals within households that were missed. It enables us to make accurate estimates of the number and characteristics of people not captured in the census.

As the census is mandatory, non-compliance staff will visit those who refuse to complete the census. These people with be identified through the field force's follow-up work or through the Contact Centre. They will be visited at their homes or CEs, and continued refusal may result in prosecution.

The main activities in this period are the deployment of field force and ongoing public support, operational support, and capture, coding and processing activity. The main differences between the earlier field force deployment and that for CCS and non-compliance is that the scale of activity for the latter is significantly smaller but the level of direct interaction with individual respondents and non-responders will be greater. The restriction on field force crossing the threshold to enter a household does not apply to the CCS; however, this remains something done only by invitation from the householder and only if the field officer feels it is safe to do so. Non-compliance staff will work in pairs, for personal safety reasons, and will need to cross the threshold to either complete a questionnaire or undertake an "Interview under Caution".

As for the wider field force deployment, the risks for CCS and non-compliance deployment are around national and/or local social-distancing restrictions, COVID-19 infection and public perception potentially affecting how we manage, direct and support field staff. Similarly, changes have already been implemented to address the risks around social distancing and infection through investment to equip the field force with PPE in line with government guidance. The risks to the other, ongoing activities during this period will be managed as described in previous sections; similarly, our contingency planning on whether adjustments to the doorstep routine are needed will include consideration of the unique roles of staff engaged in CCS and non-compliance work, to ensure that they and respondents can interact safely and effectively.

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5. Management of coronavirus risks and incidents during live census operations

While we can plan for many situations and impacts, we are conscious that incidents may occur that go beyond our assumptions or that are too specific for general design changes, such as local lockdown restrictions. Therefore, it is important that an effective and comprehensive wrap-around service is in place to monitor and identify risks as they arise and to manage our response during live census operations.

We monitor infection rates daily to track developments over time, both nationally and as they affect different parts of the country. This monitoring will continue through the live operations period, until August 2021, enabling us to respond in a timely way to any increase in local infection rates across England and Wales.

To ensure that we can respond appropriately to both pandemic-related and other incidents during the live operations period, we:

  • continue to develop our suite of contingency actions plans, including incidents relating to the pandemic ranging from transmission between two people to restrictions being put in place at a local level or nationally

  • will have trigger points for potential implementation of these contingency action plans for each of our activities, based on the reported infection rate locally and the nature of the operation at that time

  • will rehearse the implementation of these contingency action plans to ensure we are well practiced in their use ahead of the main collection phase period

Our existing incident management service performed well during the 2019 Rehearsal. This service will cover all sources of incidents we may encounter during live operations, and it will also be used to ensure rapid, rigorous and visible management of pandemic-specific incidents.

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