It is now just under six months until the Census in England and Wales takes place on 21 March 2021. This major event requires considerable planning, design and quality assurance. Our plans for 2021 build upon lessons learned from previous censuses, the 2019 Rehearsal, best practice in statistical design and our research and testing.
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 is essential that we get it right for the good of the nation, and that the whole population has the chance to provide the information that can help to ensure their communities are well served.
On 1 October 2020, we set out in three articles our plans for:
- running the 2021 operation safely and securely during the coronavirus pandemic
- how we are further improving the plans for the operations following the 2019 Collection Rehearsal
- our overall statistical design for Census 2021, including the approach to quality assurance
In the light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have refined our plans to ensure that everyone can provide their information safely and securely.
We have already started to print the census questionnaires and our Census Engagement Managers are now in post. As we continue our plans with contingencies in place, we are now in a strong position and are confident of delivering an outstanding Census in 2021.Back to table of contents
In 2019, we undertook a Collection Rehearsal, which showed that our systems worked and integrated end-to-end in the way we expected. This enabled us to achieve response rates comparable with our rehearsal in 2009.
The rehearsal taught us many lessons, including the need to improve our management information to quickly identify areas or groups with lower than expected response rates. It also identified the need to improve our recruitment and training processes. Full details can be found in the full evaluation report for 2019 collection rehearsal in England and Wales.
We have also learnt lessons from our close work with other National Statistics Institutes that undertake a traditional census – most notably New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA.Back to table of contents
The statistical design for Census 2021 sets out our approach to ensuring that we count everyone and only count them once. It sets out a range of methods that have been used in the past and enhancements to these to make use of the increased availability of Management Information.
At the heart of the design is maximising response and minimising undercounts. The rehearsal identified the importance of having quick and timely management information, a well-trained field force who encourage response and very strong community engagement. We have built on all these areas since the rehearsal.Back to table of contents
We will continue to monitor and refine our plans as guidance changes over the coming months to ensure we run a successful, safe and secure Census in 2021 in England and Wales. We are also working with National Records Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency to ensure we continue to produce the UK-wide population statistics necessary.
You can find out more about the design of the census and what we have done to develop the questions for 2021, as well as the latest news and updates on progress towards census 2021.Back to table of contents