The 2011 Census field operation was managed with around 35,000 staff, under half the number recruited for the 2001 Census. This was achieved by replacing hand delivery and collection with post-out and a concerted national campaign to encourage people to complete their questionnaires without follow-up.

Capita Business Services were appointed to recruit and train field teams across England and Wales.

Address checking

Address checkers physically checked addresses to ensure the register was as accurate and up to date as possible to support questionnaire post-out and tracking.

Local knowledge and planning

Area managers worked with local authorities to understand more about the local population and used this knowledge to plan, promote and run the census locally. Later, the area managers managed a team of census coordinators who were responsible for, among other things, managing the process of delivery and collection of questionnaires to communal establishments, and ensuring that lowest responding areas were allocated more resources.

Community engagement

Community advisors engaged with particular local population groups to explain the importance of the census and encourage them to take part. These were the groups which, in 2001, showed lower than average return rates. Community advisors were able to help overcome reservations and explain the benefits of the census and the value it brings to communities, through personal engagement at grassroots level and by holding events to spread the word.


The collection team followed up all non-returning households identified by the tracking system. Collectors provided help and advice on the doorstep, issued replacement questionnaires, recorded details and dummy forms for vacant premises and reported refusals for follow-up by the non-compliance team.


The non-compliance unit investigated refusals from the public and tried to encourage them to complete and return their questionnaire. Where an individual was persistent in their refusal, the non-compliance unit was responsible for starting legal proceedings which may have resulted in the individual being fined.

Communal establishments

A separate address list was prepared to support special enumeration which included well over 30 different types of establishments and communities. A very wide range of needs was accommodated. Students for example, depending on when they break for the spring holiday, were enumerated earlier than the rest. Gypsies and travellers, boat people, tourists on extended stays and homeless people were counted wherever they were on census day. Enumerators worked with hotels, hospitals, pubs, B&Bs, boarding schools, health spas, holiday camps, youth hostels, day centres and night shelters.