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Census 2021: Covid-19

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 25 March 2021

What assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the completion of the 2021 census. (913892)

The Office for National Statistics has assessed the census operation and made adjustments in the light of the pandemic to ensure the safety of the public and census staff. Following census day—which was, of course, Sunday—the ONS remains on target to deliver a high-quality census, and I would reassure and encourage Members that there is still time for those who have not completed the census to do so.

With research suggesting that 40% of those aged 75-plus are digitally excluded, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the now largely digital census does not result in a grossly skewed picture affecting long-term service provision for elderly people?

Considerable steps have been taken to ensure that that scenario does not come about. While I welcome the ONS’s intention for this to be principally a digital census, because that is generally in line with the times, the hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point about our needing to work together to ensure that nobody is left out from that method. The ONS has taken extensive measures to ensure that that is the case, starting, for example, with the ability to use the telephone call centre to request a paper form and then going on to there being many types of support available for completing the form. Indeed, that happens in other communities where extra support may be required. I would be very happy to write to him with fuller details from the ONS, but I stress that that is already available on the ONS census website. Again, I encourage all right hon. and hon. Members to familiarise themselves with that so that we can all best encourage our constituents to fill in the form in the way that suits them best. That will help us all to have a successful census, with the data that will help us to deliver public services.