Census 2021

In just two short days the National Census is taking place. A few weeks ago, we published a blog asking those who identify as Pagan to state exactly and simply that when they reached question 16 rather than listing complicated terms that the census office is unlikely to recognise or understand. Today I want to talk about that request, the intentions behind it and explain why it is important to us as an organisation as well as to all of us as a whole community.

The census has been conducted regularly for over 200 years, but this may well be the last time it is run in the manner we are familiar with. The BBC reported last year1 that Prof Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s national statistician, is looking into cheaper options that will still provide the rich data that the census provides without running an actual census. The data gleaned from the census is used to inform funding, strategies and services provided by national and local governments as well as organisations, charities and community groups. It’s important that we all take part and give as honest a picture as is possible if we want to be included in those plans and decisions as a community.

As an organisation who provides services to its members, we intend to use the data it provides to inform our work. Without an accurate picture of the Pagan community, we risk setting and working with strategies that simply won’t work or are irrelevant to our members and the wider community. Answers given to the national census provide us with at least a part of that picture/

The information gathered on Sunday will have far reaching implications not only on our own provision of services but also those organisations and institutions that provide other services that we use throughout life, for example town planning. One example of this is the data gathered from the 2011 census leading to Paganism being included on the RE curriculum for schools in Cornwall.

What are the benefits of writing “Pagan” next to the “other” checkbox at question 16?

The most obvious would be that governments both national and local would have to begin taking us seriously if they knew our true number. We are one of the biggest minority faith groups that exists in England and Wales but without the data to prove that we stand little chance in being seen as such. At the last census 57K people2 stated that they were Pagan but with the upturn in people turning to various Pagan beliefs over the last decade our community has undoubtedly grown. Knowing by how much would help us to raise the profile of Paganism as a whole as well as within specific circumstances such as:

  • Local authorities having to acknowledge our needs in planning decisions, education and anything else where Pagans have a vested interest
  • National government having to take our faith into account when creating legislation
  • Being taken more seriously in the press and media as well as being more able to hold to account those who use our beliefs to sensationalise and profit
  • Health and social care institutions and organisations recognising our beliefs and providing appropriately for Pagans in their care
  • In future data collection efforts such as the national census, or whatever replaces it, we will be able to request an acknowledged presence

What exactly is it we’re asking Pagans to do?

We’re asking all those whose beliefs come under the umbrella term of Paganism to put their religion as Pagan under “other” on question 16 but only if you’re comfortable doing so and actually consider yourself to be Pagan.

If you would rather write your particular tradition rather than simply Pagan, then please use the main title rather than anything particular that the census office might not recognise or understand. For example: Heathen, Druid, Wiccan, Shaman etc.

Please do not use punctuation of any kind as anything that comes after a punctuation mark will be wiped out by the system and not noted at all.

Last thoughts

Yes, we are asking for your help here and yes, we also believe that if we raise our voices together then we stand a much better chance of being heard and respected in places that matter when it comes to important aspects of our lives. Above all else though, we want you to be comfortable and happy with what you’re putting into that box on Sunday because that matters more than anything else.

Thank you for reading

Sarah Kerr
PF President

1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51468919