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.

Your answers to the census questions will help organisations make decisions on planning and funding public services in your area, including transport, education and healthcare.

The last census

The last census took place in 2011. Many people and organisations used information from the 2011 Census in a variety of ways.

To read more about the benefits that information from the 2011 Census helped to create, visit the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website.

Census statistics help paint a picture of the nation and how we live. They provide a detailed snapshot of the population and its characteristics, and underpin funding allocation to provide public services. The population of England & Wales on Census Day, 27 March 2011, was 56,075,912.

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The Census Coverage Survey

The Census Coverage Survey (CCS) was a short, separate survey that we at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started six to eight weeks after Census Day.


The CCS helps make sure everyone is counted and our census results are as accurate as possible. It asked similar questions to the main census, just fewer of them, at addresses in a selection of postcodes across England and Wales.


What to do if you were invited to take part

If we left you a paper questionnaire, you will no longer need to complete it.

You needed to return your completed questionnaire by Saturday 26 June 2021.

Any questionnaires we receive after this date will not be counted.


The Census Quality Survey

The Census Quality Survey (CQS) is a telephone survey we at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) carry out after the census.

Why the CQS is run ?

Taking part in this survey is just as important as completing the census.

The results of the CQS let them work out how accurate the information was that they collected in the census and improve their statistics.

This helps them to improve the quality of the statistics they produce. This census statistics help to plan and fund public services in your area.


What will happen if you’re invited to take part

If your household is chosen to take part in the survey, you will receive a letter from ONS about the CQS.

To be able to complete the telephone survey, they need you to provide your contact telephone number.

You can find out more about the Census Quality Survey on the ONS website.

Census 2021 outputs consultation

Now that Census Day has passed, The team at the  Office for National Statistics (ONS) are holding a public consultation to share their  proposals for Census 2021 outputs. This includes their  plans for how they will produce data and analysis for Census 2021 and then release that information.


This consultation is particularly important as our society faces a period of rapid change because of factors such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and Brexit. their priority is to provide timely and accurate statistics that will help users of census data understand these changes and make decisions about future needs and services.


What they’re asking you to do

If you will use Census 2021 data and analysis, they’re inviting you to provide feedback on the proposals thy’ve outlined in the Census 2021 outputs: content design and release phase proposals (PDF document 928.8 KB) document.

They want to know if these proposals meet your needs and to learn about your changing priorities for Census 2021 data and analysis. Your feedback will help us decide on the final design of the Census 2021 outputs for England and Wales.

They’ve structured their proposals into sections to help you find the topics you want to provide feedback on. 

These include:


  • the shape of the outputs and analysis release schedule
  • the main changes to variables compared to the 2011 Census
  • proposals for feasibility work to derive new variables
  • population-base specifications
  • taking a census during a period of change
  • paradata, information about how we collected and processed census data


How to take part

You can find detailed information about the consultation on Citizen Space, which is the ONS’s consultation platform. There, you can also find information about how to respond to the online questionnaire.


The consultation will remain open for 12 weeks, from 13 July 2021 to 5 October 2021.

Your data and security

  1. Overview
  2. What we do with your information
  3. How we will contact you
  4. Other Office for National Statistics surveys

By filling in the census questionnaire, you can play your part in building a picture of us all. This helps decide how services are planned and funded in your local area.


Keeping your data safe

The safety of your information is ONS top priority. You cannot be identified in the statistics they publish. The personal information you give them is protected by law.

Personal information is any information that could allow you to be identified, for example your name, address or date of birth. We do not share this with anyone.

Your census record is kept secure for 100 years and only then can it be seen by future generations.

Everyone working on the census signs the Census Confidentiality Undertaking. This includes people working for the census offices and for thier suppliers. It’s a crime for them to unlawfully share personal census information.

They have a strict security regime that follows government standards. This includes physical and IT security measures to protect your information.

All their systems, staff and suppliers must protect your confidentiality by law. 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

They follow the law to the letter.


To find out more about how they keep your data safe, visit the ONS website.

Independent Security Review

At the Office for National Statistics (ONS), they want you to be confident that all the information they collect during Census 2021 is safe and secure.

To support this, they, and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), commissioned an independent review of their security arrangements.

You can read the Census 2021 Independent Information Assurance Review on the ONS website.



The personal information you put on your census is only used for statistical purposes. Their statistics do not contain any information that will allow you or anyone you live with to be identified. Personal information includes things like your name, date of birth and address.

They ask for names and dates of birth to help ONS make sure they only count each person once.

Your personal census information cannot be used by government

Only carefully selected and approved staff can see your personal census information. Approved staff use the information for statistical purposes only.

  • Your personal census information cannot be seen or used by:
  • anyone who makes decisions about you or any services that you get
  • anyone making decisions about your residency applications or immigration status
  • anyone making decisions about individual services, such as taxes and benefits
  • anyone wanting to find you or sell you anything – your personal information can’t be sold to third parties
  • anyone enforcing the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions or from NHS Test and Trace

All their systems, staff and suppliers, and the way they do things follow strict government standards, and your confidentiality is protected by law. It’s a crime for anyone to share personal census information unless required or permitted by law.


At the Office for National Statistics, they made sure every household and managed accommodation in England and Wales had a Census 2021 questionnaire. They did this by creating an address register from Royal Mail and local authority address lists.

They sent you census information by post, including details about how to fill in your census questionnaire. You can contact ONS to request a paper census questionnaire, which will be sent to you by post.

They will not:

  • visit you
  • call you for information about your census, unless you’ve made a query or complaint
  • email you, unless you’ve contacted us
  • ask you for your national insurance number, passwords, bank account details, or your credit or debit card numbers

If you have received a text message, phone call or email about the census, this could be a scam. ONS will not contact you via a text message, email or phone call asking for your details or regarding a fine. They ‘re working very hard to get these websites taken down.


Please don’t engage or respond to these messages and don’t click on any links provided. If you’ve completed your census, you will not be fined. If you wish to report the scam to ONS, you can contact us. Please provide as much detail as you can, for example, a telephone number or a link to the website.

Their data processing and contact centres are in the UK and subject to UK data protection legislation.

You may have received a letter asking you to complete the Census Quality Survey (CQS)

The CQS is a telephone survey that takes place in England and Wales within selected areas.

The CQS helps ONS to improve the quality of the statistics we produce.


If your household is chosen, you will receive a letter from ONS explaining what to do next.

You can find out more about the Census Quality Survey on the ONS website.


At the Office for National Statistics (ONS) they’re currently carrying out many important surveys across England and Wales. This means you might hear from them more than once.


Apart from Census 2021, the Census Quality Survey and the Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS), they also run social and business surveys. This includes the Labour Force Survey, the Household Assets Survey, and the Living Costs and Food Survey, among others.

These surveys ask different questions, and the information from them builds a clear picture of life and the economy in England and Wales.

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