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The £1,000 fine for ignoring a letter

Written by: Emma Lunn
Census 2021 letters have started to arrive on household’s doormats.

Census Day is on 21 March and you should aim to complete the census on that day or shortly afterwards.

The letter warns that: “You must complete the census by law or you could be fined up to £1,000”.

What’s the census?

The census is a survey that happens every 10 years and gives the government a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The census is run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Your answers to the census questions will help organisations make decisions on planning and funding public services in your area, including transport, education and healthcare.

When to complete your census

Letters inviting people to take part in the census are being sent out now and will contain a unique access code. You can then use this code to complete the census online via

You can also request a postal form if you’d prefer to complete the census on paper.

Every household should complete the census on Sunday 21 March 2021 or as soon as possible after. You can also respond before if you want to.

The census should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and 10 minutes per person.

Every householder at an address is responsible for completing a census questionnaire for their household. The householder should either answer the individual questions for all household members or make sure each member answers their own.

Most questions in the census, such as those about the country of birth of the people in your household or how many bedrooms are in the household, are compulsory.

But others – about sexual orientation, gender, and religion – are voluntary.

Visits from census field officers

After Census Day, at the end of March and into April, census ‘field officers’ will be visiting households from which the ONS have not received a completed census form.

They will encourage people to complete the census and help people access further help if needed.

Field officers won’t need to enter your house. They will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and work in line with government coronavirus guidance.

Will I get fined?

It is an offence to supply false information or to not complete the census, and you could be fined up to £1,000.

Fines are a last resort though, and likely won’t be issued until months down the line to people who aren’t co-operative – so don’t panic if you forget on 21 March.

Only four people were fined £1,000 for non-compliance at the last census in 2011. A further 270 people were found guilty of non-compliance, and fined an average of £218.

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