NEWS12 February 2021

Census marketing push launched

Covid-19 Media News Public Sector UK

UK – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has begun a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the 2021 census in England and Wales, set to take place next month.

Blurred people

The ONS worked with creative agency M&C Saatchi on the campaign, which aims to help the census meet its target of securing 75% of survey completions online.

The count, taken every 10 years, is scheduled for 21st March and it is hoped that it will be the first census to be predominantly conducted digitally.

The campaign includes TV, radio, audio, social media, digital, outdoor advertising, press and public relations, featuring around 200 members of the public from across England and Wales. It has been developed in 44 languages.

As part of the push, there will also be communications aimed at students, a primary and secondary school education programme, commercial and public sector partnerships and community outreach.

Tom Firth, managing director, M&C Saatchi, said: "The census is always an important moment for the nation and this one, as the UK considers its future post-pandemic, feels even more significant."

Scotland announced in July 2020 it had postponed its census for a year due to ongoing disruption because of Covid-19. It means that the three UK censuses (Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland) will not take place on the same day.

This week, the Public and Commercial Services Union called on the ONS to postpone the census in England and Wales over safety concerns.

A PCS spokesperson said: "In the midst of a global pandemic, it is deeply irresponsible to recruit 30,000 people for door-to-door questioning of the public, when there are new highly infectious variants of the virus emerging. 

"We have raised serious concerns over safety around the upcoming ONS census and taking into account Scotland has postponed its census, England and Wales must follow suit."

A spokesperson for the ONS said the census is "vital" to ensure the provision of public services is based on accurate data and that it is on track to be carried out on 21st March in line with the latest government guidelines. 

Field officers will follow up with households after the census takes place if they have not completed the questionnaire. The spokesperson said: "They will never enter a household, they will always be socially distanced, be equipped with PPE and work in line with all government guidance."

The ONS spokesperson said PCS had not raised any safety concerns directly "nor requested a postponement of Census 2021 directly with the ONS".

Earlier this week, the mayor of London and the chair of London Councils raised concerns that the pandemic could exacerbate existing barriers to data collection in the capital.