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Online devices will be the main form of information gathering for the upcoming census (photo: ONS).

Make a diary date for Census 2021

There are some things that Covid-19 can’t change, and one of them is the national census, which will soon be upon us. If it seems like only ten years since the last one, that’s because it is. This time round Hastings and Rother have their own engagement manager. Nick Terdre reports.

Diary date – Sunday 21 March, the day for filling in your census form. The census is a once-a-decade survey that provides a snapshot of households across the nation, providing key information to help plan and fund public services and providing a profile of the nation.

Not everyone is convinced that a census can be properly run in  pandemic times – the Public and Commercial Services Union called for it to be postponed – but the UK government has decided to go ahead with it in England and Wales. It will take place on the same day in Northern Ireland, but in Scotland it will be held in March 2022, and in the Republic of Ireland in April 2022.

For the first time, the census in England and Wales will be run primarily online, says the Office for National Statistics, whose baby it is. The same will apply in the other administrations. There was relatively little online response in 2011 – 14.8% in Hastings, 12.1% in Rother and 16% across England and Wales.

This time it will be easy for most people to complete the questionnaire on any device – whether a computer, mobile phone or tablet. However, paper questionnaires will be available for those who want them.

Hastings and Rother have been given their own census engagement manager – this is Harry Farmer, who is working with organisations, charities, faith groups and community leaders within the district to raise awareness of the census and the value to residents in taking part.

He is one of some 320 engagement managers working at local level in England and Wales. Their intervention should help raise the response rate from last time, when it was 91% in Hastings and 94% in Rother, the same as the average for England.

Help and support on offer

“I am looking forward to meeting as many of the communities of Hastings and Rother as possible, offering my help and support to ensure a successful engagement and participation in Census 2021,” Farmer told HOT. “With the assistance of Hastings Borough Council, Rother District  Council, their Councillors and key organisations like Hastings Voluntary Action, I am confident of making communities aware of the importance of taking part.”

The census collects basic information from households about the age and gender of their members, how they relate to each other, their ethnicity, educational background, religious affiliation if any, the kind of accommodation they live in, the kind of job they do if in work, and so on.

One person can fill in the form on behalf of all members of the household, but individual members can fill in their own data, if they wish, by requesting their own questionnaire.

This year’s census will include a new question for veterans of the UK armed forces, as well as voluntary questions, for those aged 16 and over, on sexual orientation and gender identity.

All households in England and Wales will be asked to take part and the information people give will play an important role in deciding how services are planned and funded. Ultimately, it ensures funds are invested in emergency services, health care, school places and other vital services, says the ONS.

Participation is compulsory – a fine of up to £1,000 can be levied on households which do not complete the form.

Field worker follow-up

After census day some 30,000 field workers across the country will visit households from which no census form has been received to encourage them to fill one in and provide any help they might need. They will be issued with personal protective equipment and will follow the standard Covid advice, maintaining social distance and not entering anyone’s house. There will also be call centres to offer advice and post out paper questionnaires on request.

Every household will be sent information nearer the time, including a personal access code for completing the survey online.

Harry Farmer welcomes enquiries – he can be reached by phone (07452 942 713) or email (

More information here, where after 1 March you can also request a paper questionnaire or an individual questionnaire.


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Posted 13:36 Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021 In: Society

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