In March 2014, the National Statistician recommended that the census in 2021 should be predominantly online, making increased use of administrative data and surveys to enhance the statistics from the 2021 Census. This recommendation was endorsed by the Government’s formal response, which also set out its ambition that “censuses after 2021 will be conducted using other sources of data and providing more timely statistical information. However, any final decision on moving to the use only of administrative data beyond 2021 will be dependent on the dual running sufficiently validating the perceived feasibility of that approach.”
Following the National Statistician’s recommendation and the Government’s response, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) established a programme in January 2015 to take forward three high level deliverables:
·A predominantly online census of all households and communal establishments in England and Wales,
·Development of alternative administrative data census estimates, to be compared to the 2021 Census,
User focused, improved and expanded population statistics through increased use of administrative data and surveys.
Enumerator in The Netherlands, 1925
I am the chair of the independent review panel set up as part of this programme. Our overall task is to review and provide advice and assurance to the National Statistician on methods used to produce official statistics, in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics’ guidelines on quality assurance through peer review.
The work of the panel originally focused on the 2021 census. The remit of the panel has now been widened to include change programmes across the Office for National Statistics where new or revised statistical methods are being introduced or changed, such as:
the 2023 Recommendation on the future of Population Statistics,
the transformation of Household finances,
the transformed labour force survey.
Occasionally, ONS carries out deep dive quality reviews as a way of focusing on one area and identifying the risks to quality. The National Statistician may also ask the panel to oversee the assurance of these.