Councils can help ensure the 2021 census gives a clear picture of local communities.
Although some authorities have expressed concern that the census is taking place this year, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed that it will proceed, so it is even more important that we help our residents to take part safely.
It’s also never been more important to get a clear picture of what local communities need, and the census is a crucial part of this. Census information will offer tangible benefits for your own community and council.
The process for members of the public is very straightforward. Before Census Day, on 21 March, everyone will receive a letter through the post with an access code for the online questionnaire. People will then be asked to respond to a series of questions about themselves and their household.
We should all stay up to date on census activities in our areas, and get familiar with the resources for local authorities at www.census.gov.uk/downloadable-resources. There is also a guide for councillors at bit.ly/3bFtmyr.
We can find out who are the census liaison manager (CLM) and assistant census liaison manager (ACLM) in our council, and contact them to see how we can support their plans.
There’s even more we can do beyond that. As trusted local figures, our positivity about the census will make a big difference.
When residents come to us with questions, we can let them know that the census is legitimate and important. We can offer reassurance, for example, that people’s personal information will be kept safe, or that census staff who knock on their door will show an ID badge.
Though the COVID-19 situation presents challenges, people can take part in the census safely and easily by filling in the questionnaire online or ordering a paper form by post. Census 2021 is designed to make sure that the public and field staff stay safe – for example, no census staff will enter anyone’s home.
We can also let people know they’ll be free to choose the way they identify on the census questionnaire. For questions such as those about ethnicity and religion, people are encouraged to complete the questionnaire how they feel best represents them.
Most people will be able to fill in the online questionnaire themselves, while others will need extra help. Here, too, our role is very important, as we can help signpost our communities to the wide range of support that’s available.
The census’s free contact centre – offering help over the phone, as well as via webchat, text message and more – opened on 1 March, and telephone and other contact details are available at www.census.gov.uk.
Staff from the Office for National Statistics will be working in our communities to make sure that everybody can take part. Language support will include a translation helpline, and guidance booklets in up to 49 languages. Support will be provided in accessible formats, including braille, large print and Easy Read.
We’ve all got a part to play in boosting response rates and making sure our communities are fully engaged. The message we need to help spread is that the census is for everyone.