Everything you need to know about the 2021 Census

What is the Census, and what do you need to do: here is your essential guide to all things Census 2021

You’ll probably all be seeing a strange stampless envelope falling through your letterbox over the next few weeks; it’s the Census, and here is your essential guide to what that is.

The Census is a survey conducted by the UK Government and Office for National Statistics (ONS) targeted at households in England and Wales, in which information is gathered about you and/or your household. In the UK, the Census occurs every 10 years, with the last one happening in 2011. This year it is due to take place on the 21st March 2021, so make sure the information you are providing is relevant to your circumstances from that date onwards.

The reason for taking part, according to the Census 2021 website, is that providing accurate information on the survey “helps decide how services are funded in your area”. It might seem strange that those who don’t take part can be fined up to £1,000, however looking at it in greater detail, it is evident that increased participation can provide much-needed information useful for many sectors of society.

From a local point of view, the Census is beneficial in ensuring your community is well and fairly funded until the next one in another 10 years. You can also look at the wider picture and see the importance of the Census in showing the needs of the wider community. Charities such as the Mental Health Foundation rely on Census data in order to locate those more at risk of mental illness and provide them with the needed support.

As students, filling out the Census can benefit our own university community. Completing the questionnaire can have an impact on uni life and how things like campus buses or bike lanes can be continually funded. It is also important to note that students who are currently not living in halls should be registered at their home address. If you are living at home as a student due to COVID-19, but would regularly reside in halls, you must complete both the questionnaire that has been sent to your home household address and the one sent to you at your university address. The Census website asks that you request a new access code if you will not be able to retrieve the copy sent to your university address for this reason. International students should also be included in the Census, with the form being sent to your university residence.

30,000 field officers are set to knock on doors across England and Wales to ensure that households who have failed to return a completed questionnaire are either encouraged to take part or are penalised with a fine of up to £1,000. However, many are concerned that these field officers are unnecessary and dangerous this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, frightened that their visits to an estimated 6 million homes will stunt any progress in decreasing cases. Although Scotland has decided to postpone its Census until 2022, the ONS has insisted it is safe to go ahead.

An interesting thing to look out for on the 2021 Census is what differences there will be from the last one. After all, a lot has changed in the last decade. A popular topic of discussion for this year’s Census is the inclusion of a voluntary gender-based question, asking “is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?”. Many are pleased that the ONS has shown interest in the prominence of gender fluidity in today’s society. Although some are still disappointed that anyone under 16 will not be included in this question, activists recognise that it is a “good first step”. Another difference being made to this year in a bid to keep up with changes is a question on the types of renewable energy sources different households use, a clear recognition of the importance of understanding what more can be done to protect the environment in the age of climate change.

Make sure you have your Census filled out either on 21st March  or as soon as possible after this date to avoid any field officers knocking on your door, or even worse, a £1,000 fine.