What is the census?
The United Kingdom census is a ten yearly compulsory count of the population and housing. The information collected from the Census helps inform vital public services such as the number of children’s school places, hospital and GP services and social care provision in local areas.As the largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for carrying out this work in England and Wales.
A full census has taken place in England and Wales every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941, and the next one is planned to take place in March 2021.
In 2021, the Census will be ‘digital first’ and accessible through an online platform – this will work on PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Paper questionnaires will be available for those unable or unwilling to complete online.
What is the census rehearsal?
In order to test online systems, and ensure the right support is available for people, a census rehearsal will take place in Autumn 2019. The rehearsal will take place in four areas of England and Wales, to provide a small scale test of the systems and processes that will be put in place for 2021.
Good Things Foundation is delivering a contract for ONS to provide support to people who lack either the skills or access to complete the census online. We’ve been working with them since April to get the support model in place for the rehearsal period, which runs from 25th September to 16th November 2019.
In each area - Carlisle, Ceredigion, Tower Hamlets and Hackney, we are working with two centres who will provide census online support during the Census Rehearsal period.
Most households in the Rehearsal areas will receive an invitation letter with an access code for the Census website, some will receive a paper questionnaire though they will still be able to complete online if they wish. People with an invitation letter will be able to go into one of our Census Online Support Centres to get help completing the online form.
There is a day that is designated as Census rehearsal day - which is the 13th October 2019 - but people can fill the census in during the full rehearsal period once they receive their invitation letter. They will need to fill in information about people who were living in their household on census day.
What if my centre is in a Rehearsal Area but we’re not taking part?
If your centre is near to one of our pilot Census Online Support Centres, people may approach you for support to complete their census online. Please refer them to one of our pilot centres for help with this service, or the ONS helpline to access telephone support. ONS will have a number of people working in the field to support the rehearsal. These include Field Staff, whose job it will be to visit people at home to check they’ve returned the census, and to encourage people to complete the census before the end of the eight week period.
There will also be Census Engagement Managers in each of the four areas who will be helping make connections between local authorities, third sector organisations, faith groups and community leaders to help raise awareness of the census and encourage people to take part. If you are approached by a Census Engagement Manager to support these local activities and events and feel able to do so, then we’d encourage your involvement. In Hackney and Tower Hamlets, there are also Community Advisors working with the Somali and Bangladeshi community. We’ve also love to hear if your success stories to allow us to see what works so we can replicate this in the main census.
What if my centre is not in a rehearsal area?
If you are not in one of the census areas, there’s nothing you need to do at the moment. We’ll be coming back out to Online Centres in 2020 to recruit Census Online Support Centres across the country to deliver the 2021 census and we’d love you to consider taking part. More information will follow.