Census Day - 21 March 2021


Census Day is on 21 March and a great deal of work is being done locally to prepare for it alongside the national campaign which you will see shortly, in newspapers, radio and television and social media. Recruitment of the considerable numbers of people who will be helping with the census on the streets is underway through https://www.censusjobs.co.uk/. Households across Kirdford will receive letters with online codes letting them take part from early March. The letters will also contain a phone number to call if the householder needs a paper census form.

None of us know what restrictions will be in place because of the pandemic so a whole range of scenarios are being planned for, but because Census 2021 will be the first run predominantly online, with households receiving a letter with a unique access code, allowing them to complete the questionnaire on their computers, phones or tablets, no face-to-face human intervention outside the house will be required. In this situation, census forms will not need to be put in post boxes and collected by the postie. Nor will the envelopes need to be opened and the completed forms scanned or otherwise data-captured. It will be quicker to complete the form online too, as you will be automatically directed to the next relevant question. If you answer No to one, for example, you will not need to read through the next five which would only have been relevant if you had answered Yes.

It will also mean that the information will be more accurate as there will be less scope for handwritten answers being misread. Other answers to questions that might have been misunderstood will be able to be corrected by the guidance given by the program.

Everyone from local government to charities can put services and funding in the places where they are most needed as a result of the census data. Iain Bell, deputy national statistician at the Office for National Statistics, said “This could mean things like doctors’ surgeries, schools and new transport routes. That’s why it is so important everyone takes part and there will be additional help and paper questionnaires for those who need them.”

John Heaton, the Census Engagement Manager for the South and West of West Sussex, who lives locally, added: “Things are very difficult for many people at the moment and it's not easy to look for silver linings in the clouds but, ironically, the fact that so many more people are using online resources now compared to a year ago means that many more will feel confident about completing the census online”.

First results will be available within 12 months, although personal records will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations. Incidentally, for those who are keen on researching family history, that means that the 1921 Census returns, taken not long after the end of the First World War, will be soon be available - from 1 January 2022, in fact. After the loss of life during the war and the Spanish flu which followed it - that other devastating pandemic just over 100 years ago - the increase in the population decade on decade was in single figures for the first time since the census began, just 5% compared to an average growth of 13.6% since 1801. It was also the only time in the history of the census that a question was asked about orphans.

Any local organisations that work with those in the community who may need additional help can contact John through john.heaton37@field.census.gov.uk or for more information, visit www.census.gov.uk