Statistics Authority publishes recommendation regarding 2021 census

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The UK Statistics Authority has today published its recommendation (PDF) to government and parliament on the future of the census in England and Wales.

Following extensive user consultation and research work carried out by the Office for National Statistics, the National Statistician Jil Matheson has recommended a predominantly online census in 2021 supplemented by the further use of administrative and survey data.

In a statement accompanying the recommendation (PDF), Jil Matheson said: 'My recommendation to the Board is that the UK Statistics Authority should make the best use of all sources, combining data from an online Census in 2021 and administrative data and surveys […]  Such an approach would provide the population statistics which the nation requires for the next decade and offer a springboard for the greater use of administrative data and annual surveys.'

Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UKSA, has commended this approach to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude on behalf of the Authority Board. However, he also said the board recognised that the public should be assured of privacy and confidentiality with the use of administrative data for statistical purposes, and suggested parliament may wish to consider safeguards in any future legislation to enable data sharing for the production of official statistics.

Together with the recommendation, the UKSA also published the formal ONS response (PDF) to last year’s consultation on the future of the census and a research report (PDF) on public attitudes to the use of personal data for official statistics. The recommendation was made following discussion with the relevant bodies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to ensure consistency across the UK.

The approach set out today is in line with the Society’s response to the ONS consultation, which said that abandoning the current census approach would be reckless, and advocated increased work on developing an approach using existing administrative data.   

Welcoming the decision, RSS President John Pullinger said: ‘Today’s announcement by the Authority is very much in line with the Society’s recommendation not to abandon the census until a proven and widely accepted alternative is in place. We will consider the announcement in further detail, and plan to hold a public meeting at the RSS to discuss the implications along with the steps which will need to be taken to ensure this critical part of our national statistical infrastructure is fit for the future.’

The public meeting at the RSS will take place on May 1, it will be opened by Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority and Ian Cope of the ONS will give an overview of the proposals for 2021. You can now pre-register to to reserve your place at the event.

UK Statistics Authority Census

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