Census 2021 statistics for England and Wales have achieved National Statistics accreditation.

National Statistics requirements

For Census 2021 to achieve National Statistics accreditation, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) assesses the entire operation against the Code of Practice for Statistics. The OSR is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority.

The Code ensures that statistics published by the government serve the public. It does this by setting out practices that we must commit to when producing official statistics. When government statistics comply to the Code, the statistics are:

  • of public value
  • high quality
  • trustworthy

OSR’s assessment of Census 2021 statistics takes place in three phases. These are:

  • phase one, planning and consultation
  • phase two, strategies for developing and providing outputs
  • phase three, an assessment of how well our outputs meet user needs, taking place after the publication of the statistics

At each phase:

  • we must publish a report to the OSR, that shows how we meet the Code
  • the OSR must assess the report and speak to the census team and data users, before publishing further requirements
  • we must act on the requirements and publish our response

Phase one

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. The National Records of Scotland (NRS), responsible for the census in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), responsible for the census in Northern Ireland, also published similar reports.

The OSR reviewed these reports and engaged with users and stakeholders about their views on Census 2021 plans, progress and outputs. In October 2019, the OSR published their 2021 Censuses in the UK – Preliminary findings report, which considered how much the engagement and development activities undertaken by the three census offices, complied with the Code. The OSR identified areas of strength, but also areas for improvement that the ONS, NRS and NISRA needed to address to comply with the Code.

The three census offices worked closely together to address these findings. On 15 June 2020, each census office published a response, providing further evidence of how we were each working to comply with the Code.

These reports are:

On 11 September 2020, the OSR published a letter to ONS, a letter to NRS and a letter to NISRA, which identified actions taken that were particularly noteworthy and some areas where further action was needed.

Phase two

On 28 of January 2021, we submitted our phase two report to the OSR, How the ONS is ensuring Census 2021 will serve the public good: January 2021 progress update. This report included:

  • our response to the OSR’s actionable findings
  • our practices, processes and procedures for creating valuable, high quality and trustworthy statistics
  • the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Census 2021

On the same day, NISRA published their report for phase two of Census 2021 National Statistics accreditation. In January 2022, in line with Scotland’s census moving to March 2022, NRS published their National Statistics accreditation phase two evidence report.

On 17 November 2021, the OSR published their Assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Census 2021 statistics in England and Wales. The assessment highlighted our successful collection operation. It also told us what we still needed to do to gain National Statistics accreditation.

In response, we addressed the feedback and provided further evidence to the OSR.

National Statistics accreditation: achieved

On 27 June 2022, the OSR published their confirmation of National Statistics designation for Census 2021 in England and Wales. This accreditation validates the quality and trustworthiness of the data and statistics produced from Census 2021.

The OSR has also confirmed National Statistics accreditation of Census 2021 statistics for Northern Ireland.

Next steps

The OSR have started a third phase of investigation. They will gather feedback from the public about how Census 2021 products are meeting user needs. Then the OSR will present their findings to us. As in previous phases, we will address any opportunities for improvement.