The census is coming. By taking part, you can help to inform decisions on services that shape our communities.

The census is a unique survey that happens every 10 years. It’s important that you fill in your census questionnaire because the information you share affects the life of everyone living in England and Wales.

Because these things matter to us all, everyone needs to complete the census. Don't worry, government officials dealing with applications you’ve made, or payments or services you receive cannot see it.

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

If you, or anyone you know, needs help, there’s a wide range of support services available. These include a contact centre that can give you help over the phone and guidance in a range of languages and accessible formats, including paper questionnaires and large print. If you need help or have any questions, visit census.gov.uk.

The Census and coronavirus

Census Day is Sunday 21st March. After this day, in your authority, census officers will be:

  • knocking on doors following up non-responders  
  • helping the public with queries  

From 22nd March, field census officers will be working across England and Wales. All officers will be carrying official identification cards. The card will have a photograph and the officer’s name. The officers will work through the day to make contact with residents but will not call before 9am or after 8pm. 

Census officers will never ask for any money or bank details at any point during the conversation with respondents.

Census staff in the field are classed as key workers. The law allows that where there is a lockdown people can leave their home for work if they cannot work from home. As their role cannot be carried out by working from home, they are allowed to carry out the duties of their role. 

The health and safety of the public and the census field force is of the utmost importance to us. All officers will work in a socially distanced way, they will all be wearing PPE and they will not enter anyone’s home.

Frequently asked questions

What is the census?

The census is a survey that happens every 10 years and gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. All kinds of organisations, from local authorities to charities, use the information to help provide the services we all need, including transport, education and healthcare. Without the census, it would be much more difficult to do this.

Do I have to take part?

If you live in England and Wales, you must take part in the census. Census information helps inform how billions of pounds of public funding is spent. By taking around 10 minutes per person to fill in the census questionnaire, you will help make sure your community gets the services needed now and in the future.

Will the government use the information I share to identify me?

No. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) carries out the census in England and Wales. The ONS is independent from government.

They will only ever publish anonymous information from the census. In fact, it’s a crime to share personal census information and anything you tell us is protected.

How will the census make a difference to me?

The census makes a difference to everyone. It’s a once-in-a-decade chance to have your voice heard and help inform the future of your local area.

What if I do not identify with the census options?

The census asks you about your ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, religion and national identity. It’s up to you to decide how you would like to answer each question. Do it in the way that you feel best represents you.

Why is the census asking me about my gender and sexual orientation?

This census asks voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time.This is to give us more accurate information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations.

This will help organisations combat any inequalities these groups face and show where services are needed.

The ONS will only ask people aged 16 years and over these questions. If you do not feel comfortable identifying on the same form as the rest of your household, you can request an individual census questionnaire and answer separately.

Could information I share affect my benefits or immigration status?

No. The information you share in the census cannot be used to influence benefit claims, a residency application, immigration status or your taxes. The ONS is independent from government. This means officials dealing with payments or services you receive cannot see your census information.

What if I cannot fill in my census questionnaire online?

We know there are some people who will find this challenging. That’s why the ONS are here to help with a wide range of support services.

Services include:

  • guidance and support in many languages and formats
  • help over the phone, in a web chat or on social media
  • a paper version of the questionnaire, if you prefer
  • accessible census guidance, for example, in braille
Can I help friends and family fill in the census?

If a friend or family member needs support, please help them if you can. Always fill in your own census first. You can also ask for help for yourself, or for someone else.