By Marilyn Barber
Here’s something to take your mind off Covid-19 – the census, which is to take place on Sunday 21 March this year.
This unique survey gives a snapshot of all the people and households in England and Wales. By taking part, you can help inform decisions on services that shape your community, such as healthcare, education and transport.
The census has been carried out every decade since 1801 with the exception of 1941.
It is run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is independent from government, and information published is always anonymous.
The government, local authorities and other public bodies use census information to help them make decisions on how to plan and fund public services. These include areas like transport, education and healthcare. The census is also essential to charities and voluntary organisations. They use it to identify where people need their help and as evidence to support applications they make for funding.
For the first time the ONS are running a ‘digital first’ census, giving the population the opportunity to complete the census online You can fill it in as soon as you get your access code in the post, which will be in late February. It is anticipated that 75 per cent of people will complete it digitally.
Paper questionnaires will be available and if you, or anyone you know, needs help to complete it there’s a wide range of support services available.
These include a contact centre that can give you help over the phone and guidance in a range of languages and accessible formats, including paper questionnaires and large print.
There are a number of new questions that have been added. Former Armed Forces personnel who have served in the British Armed Forces will for the first time be able to identify themselves as veterans. The move will allow the central and local government to better understand the profiles and needs of the ex-military community. This in turn will allow for stepped up services for veterans, with better data and understanding allowing for more targeted and efficient support.
Reliable data on the proportion of the population that is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender will be gathered for the first time, with members of the public asked to provide information about their sexual orientation and gender identity. The questions will be voluntary and 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.
Initial results will be available within 12 months, although personal records will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations. Residents can be assured that the census form is completely confidential and personal data is not shared until the census is opened up 100 years later.
Census 1921 will be available for research early in 2021.
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