National Statistics accreditation

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is carrying out an assessment of the 2021 Censuses in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, and Scotland.

The OSR will be assessing the extent to which the Censuses meet the professional standards set out in the statutory Code of Practice for Statistics.

NISRA has a responsibility to ensure the results of Census 2021 are correct, accurate and adhere to the Code of Practice for Statistics as determined by the UK Statistics Authority.

Please visit the Office for Statistics Regulation website for further information on how you can share your views and experiences of the 2021 Censuses.

The assessment process for Census 2021

The Code provides producers of official statistics with the detailed practices they must commit to when producing and releasing official statistics. The Code ensures that the statistics published by government serve the public. When producers of official statistics comply with the Code, it gives users of statistics and citizens confidence that published government statistics are of public value, are high quality and are produced by people and organisations that are worthy of trust.

The assessment will be split into three phases:

  • Phase 1 will consider suggestions that resulted from the Census 2011 phase 3 assessment and compliance against the three pillars of the Code to reflect planning and development at this point in time
  • Phase 2 will again consider compliance against the three pillars of the Code, with more focus on Quality and Value as the census offices progress towards census day
  • Phase 3 will be carried out after the census outputs are published and will involve an assessment of the outputs in light of users’ views

As part of Phase 1, NISRA has produced a report 'How NISRA is ensuring that Census 2021 will serve the public', published 12 June 2019.

Assessment reports for the rest of the UK

Office for National Statistics (ONS) and National Records of Scotland (NRS) have also produced similar reports:

OSR response to NISRA Phase 1 report

The OSR is assessing how the three UK census offices are ensuring the 2021 Censuses will serve the public. Its report ‘2021 Censuses in the UK – Preliminary findings' with the accompanying letter from the OSR to NISRA, NRS and ONS, published 4 October 2019, details the extent to which planning, engagement and development activities by NISRA, NRS and ONS are compliant with the Code of Practice for Statistics. Furthermore, the report makes recommendations on what each census office needs to do to maintain National Statistics accreditation for its census outputs.

NISRA is thankful to census data users who have engaged with the OSR as part of its assessment to date. It welcomes the scrutiny and feedback and would like to thank the OSR for its fair and constructive findings. NISRA will work with NRS and ONS to address the findings as part of ongoing planning and development for Census 2021.

NISRA response to OSR Phase 1 findings 

The three UK census offices are working, collaboratively where relevant, to address these findings as part of enhancing the public value, quality and trustworthiness of the data and statistics from Census 2021 across the UK. 

The report ‘Census 2021 - Response to Actionable Findings from Phase 1 of the National Statistics Accreditation’, published on 15 June 2020, details the NISRA response to the OSR findings.

Similar reports have also been produced by ONS and NRS:

OSR review of NISRA actions

The OSR has reviewed the actions NISRA has taken to address the actionable findings from Phase 1. A letter from the OSR to NISRA, published on 11 September 2020, identifies:

  • actions taken by NISRA that are particularly noteworthy
  • some areas where further action is needed

We will continue to report our progress towards addressing the OSR actionable findings as part of Phase 2.

NISRA Phase 2 report

The Phase 2 report 'How NISRA is ensuring Census 2021 will serve the public good: January 2021 progress update', published on 28 January 2021, provides an update on our progress to gain National Statistics accreditation. The report describes:

  • our ongoing response to the OSR actionable findings
  • how practices, processes and procedures for Census 2021 in Northern Ireland have met and will continue to meet the three pillars of the Code
  • the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Census 2021

A similar report for Phase 2 of the National Statistics accreditation has been published by ONS:

NRS plan to publish its Phase 2 report in winter 2021, in line with their census taking place in March 2022.

OSR Phase 2 report

The OSR published its report 'Assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics – 2021 Census in Northern Ireland' on 17 November 2021. The assessment highlights the successful data collection operation and what still needs to be done for the Census 2021 outputs to gain National Statistics accreditation. The OSR will make its accreditation decision before the first outputs are released in summer 2022.

The OSR published a similar report for the assessment of Census 2021 in England and Wales:

National Statistics designation for 2021 Census Outputs

On 23 May 2022, OSR confirmed the designation of National Statistics, for the outputs from Census 2021 in Northern Ireland. The OSR letter of confirmation can be found on their website.

In September 2023, OSR introduced the term ‘Accredited Official Statistics’ to describe National Statistics.

NISRA will continue to engage and consult with census data users to help secure the greatest value from census data.

OSR would like to hear from census users

As part of the assessment process, the OSR welcomes feedback from users and stakeholders on their experiences of Census 2021 in Northern Ireland. If you would like to contact OSR, you can do so via their Assessment of 2021 Censuses in the UK webpage.