Census 2021: When is it? How do I complete it? You could be fined £1000 if you don’t

Public services have the power to improve communities and the lives of the people in them – but it’s vital their needs are understood before they can be properly addressed.

That’s why taking part in this year’s census is essential: government and local authorities use the information amassed by the survey to plan public services from housing to healthcare across England and Wales.

Census 2021, taking place on March 21, will glean details of population levels and make-up, including the balance of young and old, jobs people do, where they live and in what type of housing.

This year’s census will be key to ensuring big decisions on the future of our hospitals, schools, transport and other public services, following the pandemic and EU exit, are based on the best information possible.

So your input is essential – in fact, it’s a legal requirement. Failure to answer the survey could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

The census, which is carried out every ten years, has brought positive changes in sectors such as healthcare, employment, training, education and community funding.

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) uses the census to determine who is more at risk of mental ill health and ensure they have support.

The chance of developing mental ill health is higher in some parts of England and Wales than others, and other factors such as age, gender and ethnicity can make a difference too.

What you need to know

Census 2021 will be the first digital-first census. You should receive a letter with an access code from early March. This will allow you to complete the questionnaire on a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. If you can’t complete the census online, you can request a paper form.

The census will include questions about your:

■ sex
■ age
■ work
■ health
■ education
■ household size
■ ethnicity

For the first time, there will also be a question asking whether you’ve served in the armed forces, as well as voluntary questions (for those aged 16 and over) on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Using data from the 2011 census, the MHF built a picture of London’s most at-risk boroughs and held events in them to find out what people wanted. In Hackney, locals said they needed more safe community areas to meet friends – so Hackney Council added a community space to plans for a new leisure centre.

Neath Port Talbot Council was given £17.3million of EU funding to lead a project to aid the jobless across the south west region of Wales. It used census data to reach those most in need: unemployed people over 25, those with a health condition or with low or no skills. The Workways+ project has engaged with 3,280 people and given training to over 1,200. More than a third have jobs.

Census 2021 is the first digital-first census, and most people are set to do it online. Householders will be sent a code in the post for accessing their census form. Type in the code on the secure website census.gov.uk to start your form.

The survey is quick and easy, taking around ten minutes per person to complete – it can be done on a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. Complete it in one go, or save your progress and come back to it later.

If you can’t get online, visit a Census Support Centre (subject to Covid restrictions) for help filling in the form or call the census phone service for a paper version – 0800 141 2021 if you live in England or 0800 169 2021 if you live in Wales.

When you do this year’s census, your privacy and safety are assured. All information is kept securely. Personal details aren’t shared and records remain anonymous for 100 years. Census field officers will only follow up with householders after Census Day if they haven’t completed their form. They won’t enter homes, will socially distance, and are equipped with PPE.

Take part in Census 2021 to make sure your community’s needs are represented. See census.gov.uk to find out more.

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