Census 2021

What is the census?

The census is used to inform decisions about the things that matter to your community. It happens every 10 years and provides a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. No other survey gives as much detail about us and the society we live in. All kinds of organisations, from charities to local authorities, 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.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the census and Census Day was Sunday 21 March, but it’s not too late to take part.

How will taking part in the census benefit me?

Census data help inform funding decisions on public services for your area. Whether it’s planning new schools, doctors’ surgeries, or new bus stops, the information you share has an impact on the lives of everyone.

By taking part, you’ll be helping make sure you and your community get the services you need now and in the future. You must complete the census by law. If you do not, or if you supply false information, you could be fined up to £1,000.

What to expect?

Census 2021 will be the first digital-first census. It’s easy to do and can be completed on most devices.

You should have received an access code from the ONS by letter already. This will let you go online and enter it into the ONS secure website to get started. Your answers should be about the people who usually live in your household on Census Day. If you completed your census early and the number of people in your household on Census Day changed, please let the ONS know. The census should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and 10 minutes per person.

Need help completing the census?

The ONS is aiming to make it easy for everyone to take part in Census 2021.

Services include:

  • guidance and support in many languages and formats
  • online help area
  • help over the phone, email, in a webchat, on social media, and text message
  • a paper version of the questionnaire, if you prefer
  • accessible census guidance, for example, in braille.

If you can’t get online, you can call the census helpline to request a paper copy of the Census 2021 on 0800 141 2021.

The council will also be offering one to one support in our libraries to help you fill in the census online. We are also working with voluntary sector organisations who will be able to provide similar support. Coronavirus has impacted our plans to host dedicated events and group sessions for completing the survey, and we will be following current government guidelines throughout the census period. 

Census Support Centres can help with general census queries, help you to fill in your online census or paper form, and discuss other ways to support you. The Census Support Centre at Venture Centre is now open for pre-booked face-to-face appointments. The service is open 7am until 10pm Monday to Sunday and closed on Bank Holidays and over Easter weekend. Anyone requiring face-to-face assistance should call in advance on 020 8060 3234. The building has level access, wheelchair access, waiting room seating and the staff are disability aware.

Look up your nearest centres for contact details and information about what support is available.

Not got an access code?

If you have not received your 16-character access code from the ONS to complete the census, please visit their website to have the code texted/posted to you directly.

  1. Visit the census website to request a new code
  2. Fill in your postcode (e.g. W8 7NX)
  3. Select your address and follow the on screen instructions

If you can’t find your address or wish to speak to someone from the ONS, please call 0800 141 2021 

Empty or second homes

If you own more than one property, you should complete a census form for your usual address as well as your other properties. For more information, please visit the ONS Census website


Click on the drop downs below to view frequently asked questions.

Will the government use the information I share to identify me?

No. The ONS only ever publish anonymous information from the census. It’s a crime to share personal census information and anything you tell us is protected.

What if I do not identify with the census options?

The census asks you about your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and national identity. It’s up to you to decide how you would like to answer each question. Do it in the way that you feel best represents you.

Why is the census asking me about my gender and sexual orientation?

This 2021 census asks voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time. This is to give us more accurate information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. This will help organisations combat any inequalities these groups face and show where services are needed.

We will only ask people aged 16 years and over these questions. If you do not feel comfortable identifying on the same form as the rest of your household, you can request an individual census questionnaire and answer separately.

Could the information I share affect my benefits or immigration status?

No. The information you share in the census cannot be used to influence benefit claims, immigration status, a residency application, or your taxes. The ONS is independent of the government. This means officials dealing with payments or services you receive cannot see your census information.

Can I help friends and family fill in the census?

We’ve made the questionnaire as simple as possible. If a friend or a family member needs support, help them if you can. Always fill in your census first.

You can also ask for help for yourself, or someone else but please follow current government coronavirus guidelines and maintain social distancing where possible.

I’ve received more than one letter

We’re sending letters to everyone who has not submitted their census form. If you’ve submitted your census form in the last week, thank you. You can ignore any reminder letter you receive from us. If you’ve yet to complete, please submit as soon as possible.

Answering separately from your household

If you need to answer separately from the people you live with, you can request an individual access code to start a separate census.

If you fill in an Individual Questionnaire, we will not share your personal information with anyone else in your household. For example, this means your parents, housemates or landlord will not see your answers. Your individual answers will take priority over any information submitted about you in the household census.

Second homes, holiday lets and empty properties

If you own more than one property, you should complete a census form for your usual address as well as your other properties.

If you can't get the post from a property, you can complete the census online by requesting an access code for that address to be sent to you by text.

If no one was staying there overnight on Sunday 21 March 2021, you will only need to answer a few questions about that property.

What have the Council done to promote the Census?

  • The Council is working with local Census Engagement Managers from the ONS to ensure everyone knows about the census and has the means to complete this. 
  • We have engaged 30 local voluntary community groups to engage residents on the census.
  • 20 of our primary and secondary schools are using free education resources about the census to raise awareness. 
  • Our libraries that have remained open during lockdown have staff trained in offering online census completion support. 
  • Our social media feeds have promoted the census widely. 
  • Food banks and vaccine sites accessed by our residents have displayed posters with the census freephone number and website details to aid signposting for census support, including in commonly spoken languages.


Need help in other languages?

Click on the drop down below to view information in other languages.

Information about the Census in languages other than English

If you can’t find your language, or need more help, please call our free language helpline on 0800 587 2021.


Scam and fraud prevention

  • Only enter information online using the link to the ONS secure website provided in the letter you have received. Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or email as they are unlikely to be genuine. If you are unsure contact the census helpline. 
  • All census officers will carry official identification cards with a photograph and their name; if you are concerned as to an officers identity please contact the census helpline for further advice and guidance. The census does not ask for any bank details and census officers will never ask you for any money or bank details during their conversation with you.   
  • Visit Take Five for advice on how to protect yourself from fraud. If you think you have fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud and contact your bank immediately if you have parted with any money or your bank details. 


Contact us

If you have any questions about the Census 2021 or need help, please get in touch with the ONS census helpline or visit the census website:

Last updated: 12 April 2021