It has been easy to forget given everything that has happened over the past 12 months, but the time has come for the Census to be carried out again.
The survey is conducted every 10 years around the UK to help provide a picture of who lives around the country and details on how many people are living here.
Censuses have been compiled in the UK since 1801 and the data is collected separately across the four nations – with England and Wales’ being done by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Scotland’s is completed by the National Records of Scotland and the Northern Irish version being put together by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
For many, it will be the first time that they will have had to take part in a Census Day – which is on Sunday, March 21 – and this is what to expect.
What is the census?
The ONS-run website for Census 2021 says: “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.
“The census is unique. There’s simply nothing else that gives so much detail about us and the society we live in.
“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.
“By taking part, you’ll be helping make sure you and your community get the services needed now and in the future.”
The first census was conducted in 1801 and the most recent was done in 2011, although the ONS organised a ‘census rehearsal’ in 2019 to check the process.
Taking part in the census is a legal requirement with households facing fines of up to £1,000 if they do not participate or give false information.
How will it work this year?
For the first time, this year’s census in England and Wales will be ‘digital-first’ and will be available to be complete on any computer or mobile device.
The official census website says: “You’ll get an access code from us at the Office for National Statistics.
“Simply go online and enter the code into our secure website to get started.
“We’ll be in contact nearer the time to let you know what you need to do.”
Help will be available online for anyone struggling to complete the survey along with helplines on the phone, social media, email or text messages.
What questions will be on the census?
Households will be asked general questions – some of which are voluntary – about how many people live in their property, their names, type of accommodation they are in, national identity and ethnicity.
However, there will be new questions included in this year’s survey, including whether a person’s gender identity is the same as when they were born.
“To make sure we collect the information needed to plan and fund services we’ve made a few changes to the questions we ask in Census 2021,” the official website says.
“We also want everyone to be able to identify as they wish.
“In 2021, it’ll be even easier as we are developing ‘search-as-you-type’ functionality.”
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Census during the coronavirus pandemic
There had been questions whether the census would take place or not because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the ONS confirmed that this year’s survey would still go ahead in England and Wales, saying: “We’ve used past census information to help us understand how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected people in different ways.
“Census 2021 will give us fresh information to improve our understanding of the pandemic.
“It will also help to make sure that the services you use meet the needs of our changing society. This could include hospitals, schools, universities and job centres.
“Census Day is Sunday 21 March 2021 and will continue to happen on that date.”
This year’s census will follow current Government guidelines on Covid-19 safety.
Census Support Centres will be opened if it is deemed safe to do so in order to help people fill out their questionnaire online.
In Scotland, the census has been moved to 2022 because of the pandemic, while Northern Ireland’s will take place.
What happens if you don’t fill the census in?
At the end of March and into April, people known as ‘field officers’ will be sent around households which have not completed the census.
They will encourage people to complete the form and provide information about where to access further help from if it is needed.
The ONS says that field officers will be working “in the same way as a postal or food delivery visit” and will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and working in line with Government coronavirus guidance.
Why should you complete the census?
The ONS says: “The census helps us understand what our society needs now and what it’s likely to need in the future. The information it collects helps plan and fund services in your area. This could include transport, education and healthcare.
“Charities also use census information to help get the funding they need. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities.
“Census 2021 will help give the best picture of the needs of everyone living in England and Wales.
“A total of 94% of people took part in the last census, helping each area receive its share of public funding.
“Without the census, it would be much more difficult to provide the services you and your community need.”
-- to www.plymouthherald.co.uk