SHROPSHIRE residents have a chance to shape the future of their county this month with this decade's census.

The census, conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is a snapshot of the country, its people and their lives that takes place every 10 years. The next one will take place on March 21.

During week commencing March 8, households will receive an information pack containing an access code allowing people to complete the census online.

The pack will also include an option to request traditional paper census.

The 2021 census will enable information to be accessed more quickly than before as a result of it being primarily carried out online.

Anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone will be able to complete the census and be supported by a wide range of online help.

Some areas of the county will continue to receive a paper form due to internet provision.

A national Contact Centre will provide a telephone helpline on 0800 141 2021 and the opportunity for people to complete the census via telephone capture.

Shropshire Library service will provide a similar telephone service from libraries in Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and Ludlow.

Specialist help will be available for people that have hearing loss or are partially sighted.

The 2021 census will include three new questions regarding service in the armed forces together with optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identification.

The answers will help support the Armed Forces Covenant and allow people to identify as they wish.

The information that the census provides is important for national and local government as well as organisations such as charities.

It is compulsory to complete the census and people will face fines for failing to complete the census.

The ONS ensures all the data is confidential and protected.

No personal information is released for 100 years.

A spokesman for the ONS highlighted the importance of the national census for Shropshire.

"This is a largely rural county of 1,200 square miles with a widely dispersed population and a variety of industries which means there are challenges when planning services and allocating funding," they said.

"The accuracy of the information that the census provides is crucial to ensuring that we all have schools of the right size, doctors surgeries in the right place and the transport infrastructure that we need to get to work.

"The ONS is obviously aware of the implications of Covid and its teams will be complying with all regulations so that the public is protected.

"Some people ask why the census is still going to take place against the background of Covid?

"The answer is that it will be more important than ever to record the impact of this exceptional virus upon the population, our lifestyles and jobs.

"In the run up to March 21 more information about the census will be provided on television, the radio and through social media.

"It's a great opportunity for us all to help plan our future."

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