Information about the armed forces community has not previously been collected in the census, except in relation to the occupation of those currently serving. Following feedback from the 2021 Census topic consultation, we committed to investigating the feasibility of linking administrative sources on those who have left the armed forces to data from the 2011 Census, to produce the outputs required by users.

Our understanding of the user need for information on those who have previously served in the UK armed forces and their dependents has grown since then. As such, we’ve been exploring three strands of research: further developing our understanding of user need, exploring alternative sources that could meet the user need, and developing and testing a potential question for the 2021 Census. This research has been concluded. We are intending to recommend inclusion of this topic in the 2021 Census.

Further question development work is being carried out to finalise a question before our recommendations inform a government White Paper in 2018.

Latest news and reports

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Past news and reports

19 October 2017, Update on meeting information needs on the armed forces community (veterans)

This note provides an update on our research on the armed forces community topic for the 2021 Census.

27 February 2017, Updated news on requirements for information on the armed forces

Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been working together to meet user needs for data about people who have served in the UK armed forces and their dependents. On 8 November 2016 we held a workshop to better understand the user need for the data. Since then, we’ve met regularly to find the best way to meet that need. This report provides an update on progress towards meeting user needs for data on the armed forces community.

9 January 2017, Armed forces workshop: summary of discussions

Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) held a joint workshop on 8 November 2016 with important stakeholders from across government, local government and the charitable sector. This workshop was to further understand their information needs for the armed forces community in England and Wales. We concluded that users need to know the numbers and location of persons who are serving, or who have served, in the UK armed forces. This is so they can commission and deliver appropriate services to meet the needs of this community and monitor their effectiveness.