Once a decade census survey fast approaching

Census form in 2011

The last census took place in 2011 - Credit: David Leahy

The once-in-a-decade census survey is fast approaching, and those who do not complete it could face prosecution, a hefty fine and a criminal record. 

The fine for those who do not fill in the questionnaire could be up to £1,000. 

The 2021 census will give authorities the most accurate estimate of the population in England and Wales. 

It will take place on March 21, but households across the country will receive letters telling them how to take part from early March. 

This is the first census run predominantly online, using a unique access code which allows participation from computers, phones and tablets. It takes around 10 minutes to complete. 


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The census will include questions about residents’ sex, age, work, health, education, household size and ethnicity.  

For the first time, there will be a question asking people whether they have served in the armed forces, as well as voluntary questions for those aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

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Information collected helps decide how services are planned and funded in local areas. These can include doctors' surgeries, housing or new bus routes. 

It asks questions about individuals and their household, to build a picture of entire communities.  

It looks at who people are and how they live.  

According to Uttlesford District Council, there is no other survey that gives as much information about our society and future needs. 

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 surveys have been carried out every decade since 1801, with the exception of 1941. 

They are run by the government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

People who need help to complete their census form can access the help pages at census.gov.uk to find out what support is available. This includes general guidance, language assistance and a wide range of accessible formats, including video and audio guides in English and Welsh.  

Residents can also call the contact centre on 0800 169 2021 or visit one of the census support centres offering assistance. 

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