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Census 2021: putting your mind at ease

12 March 2021

The census is a great opportunity to stand up and be counted in the history books and it’s also a vital tool to help government plan for the future by understanding the population and the needs we have now and may have in the future – but we know that some people have concerns about filling it in. We want you to feel confident when taking part in the census, so we’ve pulled together some information about common misconceptions which we hope will put your mind at ease. 


Myth one: you can only complete the census online   

In previous years the census was a paper booklet that dropped onto your doormat, but this year it’s gone digital. You’ll receive a 16-digit access code per household to log in securely to a website to complete your census. 

While the digital version of the census is just as secure as the paper version, if you’d prefer to request a hard copy instead that’s still an option. All you need to do is call 0800 141 2021 or text 86677, Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, and an advisor will be able to help you. You can also visit the census website to request a paper census. 


Myth two: the government will be able to see my responses 

Only carefully selected staff at the Office for National Statistics – an organisation that sits separately from the government – will be able to see your responses to the census. It’s a crime for them to share your information with anyone. These staff members can only access your data for statistical purposes, and it will be fully anonymised by the time it’s published.  

Your personal census information cannot be seen or used by: 

  • anyone who makes decisions about you or any services that you get 
  • anyone making decisions about your residency applications or immigration status 
  • anyone making decisions about individual services, such as taxes and benefits 
  • anyone wanting to find you or sell you anything - your personal information can't be sold to third parties 
  • anyone enforcing the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions or from NHS Test and Trace 


Myth three: it’s not important that I complete the census 

The census is an important part of our history and without everyone taking part, we won’t know what life looked like at this moment of 2021. It also directly affects the services you see in your local area, as the information is used to assess who lives in an area and what they need. The information you and your community provide could be the reason funding is allocated for a new doctors’ surgery, to support your local school, or to provide important resources for people with disabilities.  

It’s also a legal requirement, and you can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t complete it.  


Myth four: I have to answer at the same time as my household 

If you want to stand up and be counted but you don’t want your household to know what you’ve answered, you can request an individual access code. This might be because you’re LGBTQ+ and haven’t told them, or because your religious views differ to theirs. Your answers will be stored separately and override anything that your family or other household members write down about you. 

To request an individual access code click here. 


If you have any more questions about completing the census, click here. 

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