Census 2021 milestones

Key milestones for the successful delivery of Census 2021 in Northern Ireland. 

NISRA is striving to ensure that all elements of Census 2021 run smoothly. Throughout the programme, there are key milestones that identify important stages for the successful delivery of Census 2021.

The following table highlights the milestones that NISRA is aiming to meet. All dates are subject to change and may be updated as we progress towards and beyond Census Day in March 2021.  

Milestone Date Description Status Supporting information
2019 census rehearsal evaluation (collection) Summer 2020 Evaluation of the rehearsal data collection operation to identify what worked well and where improvements are needed for Census 2021; evaluation report to be published in summer 2020. Successfully completed 2019 rehearsal evaluation
National Statistics Accreditation – NISRA response to Phase 1 recommendations June 2020 Release of a report detailing the NISRA response to the recommendations made by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) following Phase 1 of its assessment of Census 2021. Successfully completed Accreditation of Census 2021
Completion of the legislative process Summer 2020 For the secondary legislation needed to conduct Census 2021 in Northern Ireland, the Census Order and Regulations are drafted and laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly. Successfully completed Census 2021 legislation
Field staff recruitment commences  Summer 2020 The process to recruit the various staff required to conduct the Census 2021 field operation. Successfully completed  
Stakeholder engagement event Winter 2020/21 Proposed engagement event to update stakeholders and users on Census 2021 developments.  Not possible on account of COVID-19 restrictions  
Field operation commences January 2021 Census 2021 field operation begins with Census Team Coordinators commencing their activities. Successfully completed  
Census 2021 advertising campaign February to May 2021 Main campaign advertising and promoting participation in Census 2021 throughout Northern Ireland. Successfully completed  
Census letters sent to all households and communal establishments (CEs) February and March 2021 Start dates for mailing out paper contact letters (to households) and packs (to CEs). Successfully completed  
Census live data collection phase Early March to end June 2021
(Census Day 21 March)
Period of live data collection for Census 2021 - Census Day is Sunday 21 March. Successfully completed  
National Statistics Accreditation – Phase 2 Report published Spring 2021 NISRA submission to OSR for assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics through quality-assuring Census 2021 statistics and providing value to users. Ongoing Accreditation of Census 2021
Closure of field operation June 2021 End of the non-response follow-up operation. Successfully completed  
Census Coverage Survey (CCS) May and June 2021 CCS provides information on the number of people and households missed in the Census and informs subsequent adjustment to Census estimates.  Successfully completed  
Data processing March 2021 to spring 2022 Completion and delivery of processed and quality assured response data for outputs production.  Ongoing Census 2021 data processing overview
Census outputs consultation October 2021 Consulting with the public for feedback on our proposals for the design and release of Census 2021 outputs. Ongoing Census 2021 Outputs consultation
Census Quality Survey October and November 2021 Small-scale voluntary survey to provide insight into the overall quality of the information reported in the Census. Ongoing  
Census outputs prospectus January 2022 Provide timeline for the publication of Census 2021 outputs.    
National Statistics Accreditation of Census outputs Spring 2022 Decision by OSR on designation of National Statistics status for Census 2021 outputs.    
Release of first standard outputs – population and household estimates Summer 2022 NISRA planning an earlier release of Census 2021 outputs compared to Census 2011; proposed publication of Northern Ireland-level population and household estimates in summer 2022.     
Release of other standard outputs Summer 2022 to summer 2023 Subsequent releases of key statistics and detailed characteristics at different levels of geography.    
Release of remaining outputs and specialist products Summer 2023 onwards Including outputs for alternative populations, the Grid Square Product and various microdata products.      

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the National Records of Scotland (NRS) provide information on key milestones for Census 2021 in England and Wales and Census 2022 in Scotland, respectively.