Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK – Preliminary findings

The Census is one of the most important sources of official statistics, informing decisions about almost every aspect of life within the UK. It is of fundamental importance in allocating billions of pounds to local areas by the UK government and devolved administrations, as well as grants to voluntary sector organisations. The Census helps every person in the UK get a better understanding of the places in which they live and work.

The real value of the Censuses will be realised on the release of Census outputs. Census offices will have to deliver high quality data and statistics in a variety of forms to support the wide range of different uses required. It is essential that the data and statistics from the 2021 Censuses produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are reliable and provide valuable insights, meeting the rigorous standards of trustworthiness, quality and value outlined in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Our assessment report identifies a range of preliminary findings from the assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK, which require action on behalf of Census offices to improve compliance with the Code. These findings build on the existing work being undertaken by Census offices and should provide further direction and focus on pre-existing plans for Census as we move toward Census day in 2021 and beyond.

We expect Census offices to act on these findings as part of enhancing the public value, quality and trustworthiness of the data and statistics from 2021 Censuses in the UK. We encourage Census offices to work collaboratively to address the findings. We expect Census offices to report back to us by May 2020, providing an update on progress.

The UK Statistics Authority will decide whether to confirm the National Statistics designation, based on OSR’s advice, prior to publication of Census outputs in 2022; Census offices’ actions to address these findings will help inform that advice.

We have shared this assessment report with relevant UK Parliamentary committees.


Related Links:

Letter from Ed Humpherson to NRS, NISRA and ONS (October 2019)

Ed Humpherson to David Marshall (NISRA): Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK (September 2020)

Ed Humpherson to Iain Bell: Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK – ONS Response to Preliminary Findings (September 2020)

Ed Humpherson to Paul Lowe (NRS): Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK (September 2020)

The value of crime and justice statistics

Crime and justice is changing and we think it is important that the statistics continue to reflect the real world; undoubtedly there are challenges to doing this. In our review of the Public value of crime and justice statistics in the UK we identified a need for statistics that join-up across the system, yet the separation of government and organisations, particularly in England and Wales, means that this is not always the case. And we think that more work could be done across the UK so that crime statistics achieve similar public value in all administrations.

We have started conversations between producer organisations to explore some of these issues through two roundtable discussions. The first was with producer organisations across the UK and looked at increasing value by sharing information. The second was with producer organisations covering England and Wales and looked at increasing value through sharing and linking data.

Our previous work

In our work on crime and justice statistics we have a strong record of publicly challenging the status quo in crime statistics, in the trust that the public can have in crime statistics and the quality of the underlying data. We broadened our view to consider the value that crime and justice statistics bring to public debate, starting with a crime and justice statistics seminar in London in 2015 to gather expert views on how crime and justice statistics might extend their value.

During 2016 we added to our knowledge through:

  • one-to-one conversations with academics and people who interpret crime and justice statistics for a wider audience
  • a commissioned international review of leading-edge developments in crime and justice statistics
  • mapping the existing landscape of crime and justice statistics across the UK
  • regular contact with producers, following public dialogue and reading academic and methodological papers to keep abreast of topical issues and understand areas of concern

Our view on the Public value of crime and justice statistics was formed out of this ongoing activity.

If you are interested in contributing to our work or would like to receive an alert as more information becomes available, please get in touch.


Contact for more information:

Pat MacLeod
020 7592 8657