Census 2021

21 March 2021

Although Census Day - Sunday 21 March 2021 – has been and gone it is not too late to respond online. It only takes around 10 minutes per person.

If you have lost the letter or have a second address you have not visited, go to the census website to request an online completion code for your address via SMS text message.

After 17 May, only paper questionnaires will be available.

Now the main field operation has ended, as in 2011, around 350,000 households across England and Wales will be invited to take part in the Census Coverage Survey (CCS). This short, separate, interviewer-led survey will enable the ONS to get a final view of the response rates.

For more information, and to find out how to get help, visit the census website or call 0800 141 2021.

More information

What is the census?

The census is a once-in-a-decade survey that gives us the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in England and Wales. The information you give helps decide how services are planned and funded in your local area. This could mean things like doctors’ surgeries, housing or new bus routes.

It asks questions about you and your household to build a picture of all of us. It looks at who we are and how we live. There’s no other survey that gives as much information about our society and future needs.

When is it happening?

Census day is March 21. However, households will receive a letter in the post in early March, giving them details of how to take part in the mandatory survey. They will also receive a unique access code, inviting them to complete the survey online, although paper questionnaires are available on request.

Why should I take part?

The census helps us understand what our society needs now and what it will likely need in the future. The information it collects helps with decisions on the planning and funding of services in your area. This could include schools, doctors’ surgeries, emergency services or even local support groups.

Charities also use census information to help get the funding they need. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities.

How long will it take?

The census will take around 10 minutes per person to complete. It’s easy to do and can be done on any device, including a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

Who should fill in the census?

The householder should fill in the census for the household. This is the person who owns or rents (or jointly owns or rents) the property, or the person who is responsible (or jointly responsible) for paying household bills and expenses.

If you’re the householder, you will have to answer a few questions about your household before moving on to questions about each individual. Anyone living in the household can fill in these questions on their own if they want to. You can also save the census and come back to finish it off later. In addition, anyone included in a household who wants to keep their information private can complete an individual questionnaire. They can request an individual access code online or through the contact centre.

Who do I include in the census questionnaire?

You should answer the individual questions in the Household Questionnaire for:

  • anyone who lives with you permanently or counts your address as their family home
  • people temporarily away from home, for example students or schoolchildren boarding away
  • people staying with you temporarily if they live in the UK and have no other address
  • people staying with you temporarily from outside of the UK who are staying in the country for three months or more There’s also a separate section to fill in on visitors – that is anyone staying with you overnight on Census Day: Sunday 21 March 2021.

Will someone visit my home during Census 2021?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for running the census in England and Wales.This will be a digital-first census and the ONS will be encouraging people to respond online if they can.

The census field operation, which follows up with people who haven’t yet completed their questionnaire and may need help, will be carried out without anyone ever needing to enter anyone’s home. All contacts with the public will be socially distanced and our field staff will be equipped with PPE in line with government guidance. The ONS will be following the government’s safety guidelines about the coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the census period.

When do I need to fill in my census?

Census 2021 asks everyone in England and Wales the same questions about the same day: Census Day, Sunday 21 March 2021. The information you provide needs to be about who usually lives in the household on Census Day. You can submit your questionnaire on Census Day or as soon as possible after. If you need to, you can complete your questionnaire before 21 March. If your household circumstances change on Census Day, you can let the Office for National Statistics (ONS) know.

I’ve lost my census letter. How do I get a new access code?

You can request a new access code to start a new census if you have lost or not received an access code. Visit the census website and choose to receive your new access code by post or text.

What if I don't speak English or Welsh?

Translation booklets are available to download. If your language is not represented, please contact the customer contact centre on 0800 141 2021.

How can I get help to complete my questionnaire?

The help pages on the census website explain how you can get help. These include general guidance, language assistance and a wide range of accessible formats including video and audio guides (English and Welsh). You can also phone the contact centre on 0800 141 2021 or visit one of our support centres offering assistance.

What happens if I don't complete my questionnaire?

You could face prosecution, a hefty fine (up to £1,000) and a criminal record. The census non-compliance operation will begin on 25 May.

Please visit the census website for more information and any questions you have about the census.

Date published: 19 January 2021

Updated: 5 May 2021

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