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ONS takes a fresh look beyond 2011

Released: 17 October 2011 Download PDF

A new programme of work to take a fresh look at what happens after the 2011 Census has been launched by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Beyond 2011 Programme will examine options for producing the detailed information about small areas and neighbourhoods that have traditionally been core outputs from the census.

The Programme will consider a range of alternative methods, including established census methods or reusing information that has already been collected from the public. A system that makes use of data already collected may deliver a more cost-effective way of providing more frequent statistics, with reduced public burden.

The first stage of a four-step process, which begins today (17 October 2011) is about listening to users and gathering ideas about the data they really need through a public consultation. This will run until 20 January 2012.

Contributions are welcomed from anyone. The focus of this stage is on understanding requirements for information, to get a detailed picture of how statistical data might be used in future.

The second stage of the process will research and assess all of the options available, to see which best meets the needs identified. The third stage will be a further consultation in 2013 which will focus on the possible solutions and will provide an opportunity for data users, suppliers and the public to comment more widely on how we provide the required information in future. The final stage, in 2013 and 2014, will develop the final recommendations.

This initial consultation is only the start of a dialogue with central and local government, commercial organisations, academics, community organisations and special interest groups that is planned to continue over the next two years.

The Programme will provide regular progress updates via the ONS website over coming months. The programme team can be contacted by emailing

Background notes

  1. A more mobile population, and the increasingly complex ways in which people live, make the process of census-taking more difficult, and increase the demand for more frequent information to allow better planning of services and to take account of changes in society.
  2. Changes in technology and the availability of additional data sources provide an opportunity to consider whether there is a more cost-effective way to provide more frequent statistics, with reduced public burden. The potential options will be evaluated against a range of criteria including cost, quality of the final statistics, public burden and public acceptability.
  3. Most of the work of the Beyond 2011 Programme will focus on understanding how existing data sources could be combined with surveys to provide the statistics required by users. The options relating to census and survey methods are already relatively well understood.
  4. Timetable Stage 1 – User consultation & discussions - gathering ideas and listening to what users and society needs: October 2011 – January 2012 Stage 2 – Initial statistical research - developing and narrowing options: February 2012 – Mid 2013 Stage 3 – Public consultation for views on the potential solutions – Summer 2013 Stage 4 – Developing final recommendations – Mid 2013 – early 2014 Final recommendation – September 2014.
  5. This work covers England and Wales and ONS is working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that Welsh requirements are properly understood. Parallel developments are being considered in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  6. A census is a count of all people and households in the country. It provides population statistics from a national to neighbourhood level for government, local authorities, business and communities. The last census for England and Wales was on 27 March 2011. The initial, high level outputs from the 2011 Census for England and Wales are due be released in July 2012.
  7. The consultation document can be found on the ONS website.
  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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