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 the next one will happen on Sunday 21 March 2021.

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.

Once you receive an access code from the ONS by letter, 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 this date, even if you’re filling it in before then. If your household circumstances change on Census Day, you can let the ONS know.

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.

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 ONS are keen to open these as soon as it is possible to do so safely. Some phone support will be available from these Centres from Monday 1 March, but they cannot open fully during lockdown. As restrictions are eased, the ONS will continue to monitor the situation and assess whether and where Centres can open to provide in-person support.

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


  • 23 February 2021 - Online questionnaire goes live
  • 1 March 2021 - Helpline number will go live, and Census Support Centres across the country will become available
  • 21 March 2021 - Census Day
  • 3 May 2021 – End of census submissions



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.


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. 


Useful information

We have provided a list of useful places to find out more about the census below:


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: