Census 2021 exceeded all expectations, with 97% of households responding. The results will give us the richest picture of society across England and Wales.    

Some 89% of responses were online, which has enabled extremely high-quality data to be collected and both 2011 Census data and provisional 2021 Census data on occupations have already been used to help inform the government's response to coronavirus (COVID-19).  

To produce census statistics that we can all use, a huge amount of work is undertaken to compile, clean, complete, cross-check, ensure confidentiality and continue consultations with users. 

Our quality assurance work, which is currently under way, is the most comprehensive ever, using the widest range of alternative and complementary data sources.  

For the first time, we are also drawing on the unique insight and expertise of local authorities across England and Wales to ensure we produce the best possible statistics for every area.  

We have offered the opportunity to work in partnership with all local authorities, combined authorities and county councils. The extremely positive response has resulted in more than 250 organisations being involved. 

This is an exciting prospect but the complex processes to get the best possible estimates for the local authorities have taken slightly longer to complete than planned.  

Our original plan was to share the aggregate, anonymised provisional data, under controlled access, at the end of February 2022. This will now take place at the start of April 2022.  

Taking the Easter 2022 public holidays into account and to ensure all local authorities taking part have sufficient time to investigate the data and respond, we have extended the review window from two weeks to three weeks.  

Earlier this year, we said we were aiming to publish the first results in May 2022 and would announce the date of the first release of census data once we had completed our processing and quality assurance. 

We want to take into account every piece of insight, where supported by evidence, from the over 250 organisations taking part. To allow this valuable work to take place, we now aim to publish the first results in early summer. 

A limited number of representatives from each local authority is taking part in the quality assurance review, and each local authority is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement and follow strict security and data management rules. We have made clear that the aggregate data that will be provided are provisional and must not be used for decision making. They must be securely destroyed at the end of the review period. The process is in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics

As always, we want to keep all users informed. We will be providing our second response to the outputs consultation in March and, following feedback from local authorities, we will further update in May with detail around the release schedule.