The Census is Coming

By taking part in the census, you can help inform decisions on services that shape your community, such as healthcare, education and transport. It’s important that you fill in your census questionnaire. Without the information you share, it’d be more difficult to understand your community’s needs and to plan and fund public services.

In one way or another, your information touches the lives of every single person living in England and Wales, whether it’s through using census information to plan new schools, doctors’ surgeries or bike lanes. Because these things matter to us all, everyone needs to complete the census.

Census Day is Sunday 21 March 2021. You can fill yours in online as soon as you get your access code in the post. If your household circumstances change on Census Day, you can let the ONS know.

Census 2021

What is the census and why does it matter?

The census is a unique survey that happens every 10 years. It gives a snapshot of all the people and households in England and Wales – the most detailed information we have about our society.

The census is unique. There’s simply nothing else that gives so much detail about us and the society we live in. It tells us what our needs are now, and what they’re likely to be in the future. It also gives a snapshot of how we live, for future generations to look back on.

Knowing what your community’s needs are helps organisations like councils plan and fund public services in your area and across England and Wales. Information you give informs where billions of pounds of funding is spent on things like transport, education and health.

Charities and voluntary organisations often use it as evidence to get funding. It helps businesses to understand us as customers and, for example, decide where to open new shops. Plus, those doing research, like university students and people looking into their family history, use the information.

Without the census – and without people in your community telling us about their household and home – it would be much more difficult to do this. That’s why it’s so important everyone takes part.

Who runs the census?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the census in England and Wales and is independent from government. Your details are protected by law and information published is always anonymous.

The ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics. Their main responsibilities are collecting, analysing and sharing statistics about the UK’s economy and society, as well as organising the census.

Census 2021

What does the census ask?

The information collected during the census helps to create an in-depth picture of our society. It’ll also identify important trends that’ll help organisations plan services and allocate funding in the future.

To achieve this, the census asks questions on a range of topics, including information about:

  • individuals, such as their name, age, sex and marital status
  • households, such as family relationships
  • the homes we live in, such as their location, number of people living there and what facilities they have

Following discussions with the public, testing and research, and after careful consideration, Census 2021 will ask questions on three new topics. These are:

  • service in the UK Armed Forces
  • gender identity
  • sexual orientation

The UK Armed Forces question will help organisations support veterans in line with the Armed Forces Covenant – a promise between our country and those who have served it.

The questions on sexual orientation and gender identity are voluntary and only apply to people aged 16 years and over. They will help organisations to combat any inequalities these groups may face and show where services are needed.

It is up to individuals to decide how they would like to answer each question. For questions such as those about ethnicity, religion and nation identity, people can complete the questionnaire how they feel best represents them.

The ONS only ever publishes anonymous statistics from the census and don’t publish anyone’s name. They only ask for them to help ensure the statistics are accurate, for example, to make sure that each person is only counted once.

Census 2021

An accessible census

Census 2021 will be “digital first” meaning it’ll be mainly online. Most people will be able to do it themselves. However some people may find this challenging. The ONS will offer a wide range of support services to make sure the census is as accessible and inclusive as possible. These include:

  • guidance and support in many languages and formats
  • help in local centres with trained staff and online access
  • a contact centre to give help over the phone, in a webchat, webform, email and SMS
  • field staff contacting households that have not yet filled in their form
  • accessible census questionnaires, for example, in Large Print
  • the option to request paper questionnaires

Paper questionnaires will also be automatically issued in areas where the ONS has identified residents are highly likely to need them.

You will find the answers to commonly asked questions about Census 2021 in this leaflet.

For more information, please visit

Census 2021