Census 2021 explained: What is it, what questions are asked and can you be fined for not completing it?

19 March 2021, 17:34 | Updated: 20 March 2021, 09:36

The 2021 census must be completed by March 21
The 2021 census must be completed by March 21. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The once-a-decade census, which aims to gather information about people living in the UK, is underway.

The 2021 census is being carried out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Scotland’s delayed until next year.

What is the census?

The UK census is issued every 10 years by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first one took place in 1801.

It aims to gather information that can inform how public money is spent so that people are provided with the right services.

Pete Benton, census director for the ONS, said: “Census 2021 will provide a rich snapshot of who we are as a nation – the size and structure of the population, the social and economic changes to our lives in light of the pandemic and EU exit, and our employment, education and health.

“The information it provides will inform decisions for years to come on public services, including hospitals, schools, houses and education, to meet the needs of our changing society.”

Where do I complete it?

You can fill the census out online using an access code sent in the post.

If you are struggling, you can request a paper copy to be sent in the post. You can do this online or over the phone.

If you cannot complete your own census, someone you trust, like a family member or friend, can complete it for you.

You or someone else in your household can to answer the questions for everyone living there, or each person can answer them individually.

When do I need to complete it by?

You are requested to fill out your census by Sunday, March 21, or as soon as possible afterwards.

There is a section asking general questions about the makeup of your household, which takes about 10 minutes, and a section for each the individual member of your household, which takes about 10 minutes per person.

Any questions marked 'voluntary' are not mandatory.

What sort of questions will I have to answer?

You will be asked to fill out questions on a wide range of things, including your sex, age, ethnicity, health, occupation, relationship status and household size.

There are 50 questions in total.

Will I be fined if I don’t finish it on time?

By law, you must complete the census or face a £1,000 fine.

You can also face a £1,000 fine for giving false information.

The official guidance says: “Taking part in the census is your chance to help make sure you and your community get the services you need for the next 10 years and beyond.

“The information you give in the census helps provide the best picture of the needs of everyone.”