The next steps towards the 2021 Census

As ONS prepares its recommendations to Government on the format and content of the next Census, we’re meeting stakeholders to update them on progress so far and listen to their views. As Iain Bell explains, we’re seeking to understand a wide range of opinions before forming conclusions.

Today we are welcoming stakeholders from many groups to the latest ONS Population and Public Policy Forum here in London. With so many people making the time in their busy schedules in December, it shows the importance of the Census.

We all rely on the Census, whether we know it or not. It is vital to our communities and how Government and the private sector deliver services to meet our needs. It underpins local decisions on provision of education, housing and healthcare; fair distribution of funding to local areas; allowing accurate national and local information on the diversity of the population and to allow public bodies to know whether they are meeting their equality duties and to take action where necessary.

It is vital that the Census sheds light on long term trends, whilst also reflecting the society in which we live today. It would not be sensible if our data still captured the occupation of lamp-lighting and didn’t now include social media analysis. Equally we no longer collect information about whether houses have running water and WCs but now collect more information to help provide the diversity information necessary for private and public sectors to serve the wide range of needs of different communities.

The format and content of the Census matters to a wide range of stakeholders, including those who have come today to hear an update on where we have got to and to share their views on the next stages. Alongside the event, we are publishing updates on a range of work:

The areas where decisions have yet to be made are ones which either have difficult methodological work on how we ask certain questions to get robust data, or get to the heart of the issue of identity. Identity matters to us all.  This is why, as we move towards making recommendations to Government, we are seeking to  understand  a wide range of stakeholder views before we form conclusions.

On Thursday I will publish a further blog reflecting on what we heard and the next steps.”

Iain Bell is Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy