Census 2021

How live aboard boaters can participate in the Census

This year, the Census will be run mostly online. To participate and make your Census return you need a Unique Access Code to complete the questionnaire on a computer, phone or tablet. To get the code you need to:

Call the Census Call Centre on

0800 141 2021 (England)

0800 169 2021 (Wales, available in English or Welsh);

0800 587 2021 (other languages); or

Use the web chat here https://census.gov.uk/help/get-an-access-code-or-paper-census

(this is not always operating)

It is also possible to contact using:

The contact form https://census.gov.uk/en/web-form/

Text 86677

But getting a Unique Access Code is an interactive process and it will be better to speak to a Census call centre call handler.

The hours are Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, Saturday, 8am to 1pm, most Sundays closed;

Hours this weekend are:

Saturday 20th March 2021 8am to 8pm; Sunday 21st March 2021 8am to 8pm.

NOTE the Census call centre is getting very busy in the last 3 days before Census Day Sunday 21st March 2021. DO NOT PANIC. You do not have to complete your return on the day, you can get a Unique Access Code and make the return any time in the days following.

At the start of the conversion with the Census call handler you need to say (word for word) as follows:

 “I live on a boat.

I am not in a permanent location, I have a transient address.

I require a Unique Access Code to complete my Census return, please give me a Unique Access Code.”

It is important that you use this precise phrase.

During the conversation these six things will be worked out:

(1)       your boat name (BOAT)

(2)       the name of the waterway that you are on (WATERWAY)

(3)       the name of the nearest street (NEAREST STREET)

(4)       your location (LOCATION)

(5)       the local town or village (TOWN); and

(6)       the postcode (POSTCODE).

The Census call handler will start by asking you for BOAT, WATERWAY, NEAREST STREET and TOWN. They may also ask you for LOCATION. It is the responsibility of the Census call handler to work out POSTCODE for you from these pieces of information. There is some information on geo-location here

if you and the call handler are having difficulties working out NEAREST STREET.

The call handler will then send a request for this new address to be generated. The call handler will then give you this address which will be formatted as follows:


Address line 1:                                BOAT, WATERWAY

Address line 2:                                NEAREST STREET

Town:                                                TOWN

Postcode:                                          POSTCODE

You need to write this down.

The call handler will then generate the Unique Access Code which will be sent to you by text. You need to write that down as well. You are then good to go.

When you are ready to do the return, go to https://census.gov.uk/en/start/ and the first thing asked for is the Unique Access Code. The address that you wrote down should then be presented to you. If you can’t face doing the whole thing at once you can “save and exit” and return later. The Unique Access Code lets you in.

If you don’t have access to the internet or don’t feel confident doing the Census online, then contact the Census Call Centre as above and they will help you either with a paper form or a visit on the towpath from a Field Officer. The Field Officers will never enter people’s boats; they will always be socially distanced, wear PPE and work in line with Covid-19 safety guidance. You can also get help over the phone from the Census call centre to fill in a paper form.

The ONS is completely independent from navigation and local authorities, and no personal information will be passed from the ONS to CRT, the EA or other authorities. All data gathered is anonymised, and is never shared with social services, law enforcement,

Inland Revenue or other agencies. The ONS does not release data which can identify anybody for 100 years. It is a criminal offence to release Census information.

You must make a Census return – you can be fined £1000 if you refuse – but for our community to be properly included in society we need to stand up and be counted.The return can be made a short time after the key day – 21st March 2021 – but the return must relate to where you were at midnight (00.01) 21st March 2021 (Saturday night  to Sunday morning).

You can get more information from the Census website here


Do the Census! Don’t be invisible! Use this vital opportunity to show how many live-aboard boaters there are!!