Lewes and Wealden residents urged to take part in census: here’s everything you need to know

A huge national effort is underway to complete the Census 2021, which will shed light on the make-up of our communities and how they are changing over time.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 2:25 pm

The census is a survey that happens every 10 years and gives a snapshot of all the people and households in England and Wales on a particular day.

All households will now have received a letter in the post with information on how to fill in their details online, or how to access a paper form.

People are being encouraged to fill it in as soon as possible. It can be done immediately if they know who is going to be at home on Census Day (21 March).

Harry Farmer is the census engagement manager for Wealden

Completing the census is compulsory, however some questions are marked as voluntary, and people can be fined up to £1,000 if they do not take part, or if they supply false information.

The first results will be available within 12 months – although personal records, including anything that could be used to identify people, will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations, and nobody has access to it.

The information provided will help local authorities and charities to plan for and fund the services that Lewes and Wealden need, including transport, education, and healthcare.

Simon Jones, Census Community Engagement Manager for Lewes and East Brighton, said: “There is a lot of strategic planning and funding which is tied to the Census data and whilst some may have questioned why the Census is going ahead in 2021, the richness of the data sets contained in the return have helped all manner of projects that support funding community projects through to national government spending plans.”

How to fill it in – and where to turn to for support

People are being asked to complete the survey digitally on the census website (www.census.gov.uk) using the unique access code for their household, included on the letter.

A paper copy can also be requested online, or by calling 0800 876 6276.

Local support is available to help residents who are struggling to complete their census questionnaire, due to little or no computer skills, or language difficulties.

People in the Lewes District should approach the Havens Community Hub for support by calling 07515 054209.

Paula Woolven, company secretary, said: “The Havens Community Hub offers a wide range of help to our local community, and we were happy to increase our services by becoming the District Census Support Centre.

“We are helping with general census queries, to assist people in filling in their online census or paper forms. We welcome calls on our dedicated support number - 07515 054209.”

Councils in the area, including Newhaven Town Council, have also been assisting with the census effort.

A spokesman said: “Newhaven Town Council have been keen to support and encourage its residents to engage with the current Census, regularly posting information across Social Media and its own website, supported by regular and really useful Tweets from Census 2021.”

Meanwhile local organisations and charities are helping to make sure that no one is excluded from the survey.

Lewes Open Door has been assisting homeless people in the area.

Belinda Crawford said: “Lewes Open Door felt it was important to give our homeless street community the opportunity to participate in the census.

“They need to be taken into consideration as much as those of us with a roof over our heads, so we were happy to liaise with the Census Community Engagement Team.”

For residents in the Wealden district, support can be found at either the Victoria Pavilion Support Centre in Uckfield – which can be reached on 0182 576 0176 – or the Ethel Wood Community Centre in Pevensey – which can be contacted on 0787 969 1647.

Harry Farmer, Census Engagement Manager for Wealden, said: “I am continuing to help local organisations, including charities, faith groups and community leaders to raise awareness of the census and the value completing it offers residents, with the valuable assistance of Wealden District Council, their Councillors and other key organisations like Victoria Pavilion Support Centre and the Ethel Wood Community Centre.

“I am confident we can make everyone in the local community aware of the importance of Census 2021.

“I am looking forward to engaging with as many of the communities of Wealden as possible, offering my help and support to ensure a successful engagement and participation in Census 2021.

“Due to continued COVID-19 restrictions sadly this must be conducted via online meetings rather than in person while out walking around the towns or villages of Uckfield, Pevensey, Alfriston or Forest Row.

“If you need help within your community please feel free to contact me by email [email protected] or telephone 07452 942 713.”

When was the first ever census held – and how has it changed over years?

The concept of a census has been around for millenia.

The first known censuses were taken by the Babylonians nearly 6,000 years ago when they recorded details of population, livestock and the quantities of butter, milk, honey, wool and vegetables.

In 2,500BC, the Egyptians conducted a census to assess the labour force available to plan and build the pyramids.

And the Romans carried out a census every five years which required each man to return to his place of origin to be registered - such a census decree by Caesar Augustus took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

In England, William the Conqueror conducted the first census which history records as the Domesday Book of 1086.

The next official census of England and Wales was not until 1801 when it was carried out partly to ascertain the number of men able to fight in the Napoleonic Wars.

The average population growth every 10 years between then and 1911 was 13.6 per cent between then but after the loss of life during the war and the Spanish flu which followed it - that other devastating pandemic just over 100 years ago - the increase in the population decade on decade was in single figures for the first time, just 5 per cent.

It was also the only time in the history of the census that a question was asked about orphans.

Incidentally, for those who are keen on researching family history, that means that the 1921 Census returns, taken not long after the end of the First World War, will be soon be available - from 1 January 2022, in fact.

Those 1921 census details are particularly important because they will be the last ones published until 2051!

All the records for the 1931 census for England and Wales were destroyed by fire in December 1942, during the Second World War, while in store at the Office of Works in Hayes in an event that was not attributed to enemy action.

There was 24 hour security which included fire-watching but there was talk at the time of an unextinguished cigarette end…

There was no census taken in 1941 due to the Second World War; however, the register taken as a result of the National Registration Act 1939, which was released into the public domain on a subscription basis in 2015 with some redactions, captures many of the same details as the census and has also assumed greater significance following the destruction of the 1931 census.

The 1911 census was the first to use punch cards with mechanised sorting and counting machines; and in 1961, electronic computers were used to process the data - although the production of statistics from these computers took five and a half years.

The Census Act of 1920 made completion of the census compulsory and this legislation is still in force today.

Over the years, the structure and questions in the census have evolved to reflect the changing nature of society.

The 1871 census added the categories of “lunatic” and “imbecile” to the “list of the infirm” and 1911 included questions about marriage and fertility.

Before the 1951 census, women were asked to be more honest about their age although many women felt that questions relating to their age were too personal.

From 1951 until 1991, households were asked if they had an outside toilet and the reference to “housewife” in the 1971 and 1981 censuses was replaced by “looking after home or family” in the 1990s.

A question about income was tested in 1968/9 but not included in the 1971 census as the tests showed that the accuracy of responses was questionable and this question could lead to a fall in response rates.

There is still no income question in the census questionnaire.

1991 also saw the introduction of questions about ethnicity.

For the first time since 1851, information about religious belief was collected in 2001.

This year, members of the public are being asked to provide information about their sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time.

The questions, which will be voluntary and for people aged 16 and over, will mean that reliable data will be collected on the percentage of people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender for the first time.

The ONS said it would help to build a clearer picture of the LGBT population for policy-makers and service-providers.