The 2021 Census - in a nutshell

Sunday 21st March 2021

Census 2021.PNG

Why should I take part in the 2021 Census?

The Census provides a picture of all the households in England and Wales. The information is used by all sorts of organisations to provide and improve the services we all use.


By taking part, you’re helping to ensure your community get the best services they need such as transport, education, healthcare and more.


94% of people completed the last Census in 2011 which you can read more about here:

Am I legally obliged to complete the 2021 Census?

Yes. If you do not, or you supply false information, you could be fined up to £1’000.

However, some questions are clearly labelled as voluntary.

Can I complete my 2021 Census online?

Yes. The 2021 will be ‘digital-first’ meaning wherever possible, people will be encouraged to complete the Census online.

It will be available for all devices and help will be available via phone, webchat, email, social media and text message.

You’ll be sent an access code from the Office for National Statistics. Simply go online and enter the code on the secure website to get started.

How will be data be used and who will see it?

taken from

The safety of your information is our top priority at the Office for National Statistics. No one can identify you in the census statistics we publish. We make sure they contain none of your personal information. Your census record is kept secure for 100 years and only then can future generations see it.

We do not sell your personal information. Everyone working on the census signs the Census Confidentiality Undertaking. It’s a crime for them to unlawfully share personal census information. This includes people working for the census offices and for our suppliers.

We have strict security procedures that follow government standards. This includes physical and IT security measures to protect your data.


Laws in place that cover protection of your data include the:

  • Data Protection Act 2018

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

  • Census Act 1920

  • Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007

We follow the law to the letter. To find out more about how we keep your information safe, please visit the ONS website.

The 2021 Census and Covid-19 

Past Census data has been used by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) to understand how the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected us in different ways.

The 2021 Census will give fresh information that can make sure services continue to meet the needs of our society. This includes things like hospitals, schools, universities and job centres.

How do I complete my Census 2021 if I can't get online?

Census Support Centres will be set up across the country. 

Field Officers will also be visiting the households of people who have not completed their 2021 Census from the end of March and through April, to provide help where necessary.

Will someone visit my house?

Field Officers will be visiting households from the end of March and into April, to encourage people to fill in their 2021 Census and provide any help needed.

They will wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they will never enter your house.

And finally, a bit of history.... 

The word ‘Census’ derives from the Latin word ‘censere’ which means ‘to estimate’. All over the world for hundreds of years, people have been ‘counted’ for various purposes such as governing land ownership and tax. ​Britain was reluctant to adopt the idea of an official census, fearing it was sacrilegious (referencing one King David ordered which was interrupted by a plague) and may reveal weaknesses to enemies.

In 1801 the first Census was compiled, Enumerators set out to knock on people’s doors and fill in government-issued forms with details of everyone in the household. It was always done on a Sunday when people were most likely to be home, and during the summer for the benefit of daylight.

Census 2021 History.jpg