Sunday 21 March is Census day in England and Wales. The day when households across England and Wales are encouraged to complete the survey.
It is a legal requirement to complete it – this will help to ensure that everyone is included on a census for the place where they are living or staying.
They take place every ten years, with the last Census conducted in 2011. In Somerset, the information provided in the Census will help organisations make informed decisions on a wide range of services including health and social care, education, housing and transport.
The Census which includes questions about your sex, age, work, health, education, household size and ethnicity, also for the first time, includes voluntary questions for those aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This year there will also be a new question asking if people have previously served in the Armed Forces. Too often, ex-military personnel and their families are a hidden population in society and in some instances are disadvantaged due to their circumstances (e.g. Veterans having health conditions that are a result from their service where additional support could be available).
On 26 January 2021, a new Armed Forces Bill was presented to Parliament*. This Bill will enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law and help prevent service personnel and Veterans being disadvantaged when accessing services like healthcare, education and housing.
Somerset County Council (SCC) and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCG) are keen to ensure that other local statutory services are better able to plan for the future. Therefore, it is important that Veterans record their status in the Census.
Councillor Rod Williams, Chairman of the Somerset Armed Forces Covenant Partnership, said: ”This Census is a golden opportunity for us to do more to give our Veterans the public services they deserve. We need Veterans to declare their status in their Census return.
“Once we have an up-to-date picture of where our Veterans are, and how big a proportion of the Somerset population they are, Somerset County Council, the NHS, schools and district councils can ensure that our veterans get fair treatment in public services. We have recently formed a multi-agency group to look after the health and social care needs of reservists, Veterans and their immediate families.
“This shows our determination to ensure our Veterans get fair treatment. If you are a Veteran, please say so on the Census. If you know someone who is a Veteran, please encourage them to say so on the Census.”
Andrew Keefe, Deputy Director of Commissioning – Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: ”We want to make sure that when we consider the health and care needs for the residents of Somerset, we are able to accurately take into account the needs of our ex-military personnel and their families.
“This knowledge and understanding will help us to ensure we have an accurate picture of who may need our support and the type of services required.
“The Somerset Armed Forces Covenant Partnership is a commitment from both health and public sector services to ensure we recognise and ensure that everyone can get fair treatment and access to the services they need.
“We are asking those who have served in the armed forces to ensure they fully complete the Census this year, including the new question, which specifically asks about whether they have served.”
Many households will already have received a letter with information as to how they can use their unique access code to complete the census online.
Results from the Census will be available within 12 months, although personal records will be locked away for 100 years, kept safe for future generations. If you would like to get more information about support for military families and veterans please download the Forces Connect App or visit https://www.somerset.gov.uk/forcescovenant