Chair: Sir Bernard Silverman

13:00 – 13:15
(15 minutes)
Introductions, actions reviewGareth Powell
13:15 – 13:30
(15 minutes)
COVID-19 updateJon Wroth-Smith
13:30 – 15:00
(90 minutes)
Travel to WorkAdam Kelly
15:00 – 15:15
(15 minutes)

Attendee List

External Panel Members
Sir Bernard Silverman (Chair)
Prof Natalie Shlomo (External Panel Member)
Prof David Martin (External Panel Member)
Dr Oliver Duke-Williams (External Panel Member)

Office for National Statistics
Julie Stanborough (ONS Chair)
Owen Abbott (ONS Panel Member)
Jon Wroth-Smith (ONS Panel Member)
Cal Ghee (ONS Panel Member)
Adam Kelly (Presenter)
Helena Rosiecka (Presenter)
Gareth Powell (Secretariat)
Sapphira Thorne (Secretariat)

Dr Nik Lomax (External Panel Member)
Sir Ian Diamond (ONS Panel Member, National Statistician)
Jennet Woolford (ONS Panel Member)


Agenda ItemActionOwner
[10,1]A69 – ONS to report back on issues raised by the deferral of the Scottish CensusOwen Abbott, Gareth Powell
[10,3]A70 - ONS to consider the committees suggestions on Travel to Work and report back in a later meetingAdam Kelly, Helena Rosiecka


The panel welcomed Julie Stanborough, who has taken over from Pam Everett as the ONS Chair.

The panel agreed to close actions A1, A35, A46 and A68.

Regarding the previous minutes (MARP09), the panel asked for an action to be raised to report back on issues arising from the Scottish Census being delayed from 2021 to 2022.

Action 69 – ONS to report back on issues raised by the deferral of the Scottish Census.

ONS reported that they had undertaken an International Peer Review to help ‘wargame’ scenarios which might mean we need to implement statistical contingencies. This included several COVID scenarios. The exercise highlighted the importance of the interaction between statistical contingencies and the collection operation as well as being able to monitor and respond to collection issues while considering the overall statistical design.

Further scenario planning is planned for the next couple of months, including COVID-19 scenarios (such as multiple local lockdowns)

ONS has developed new management information to be able to monitor changes in local lockdown conditions. It is important to be able to do this immediately as 2021 Census is already live – recruitment and training of Census staff for example.

Information on operational changes being made (including training, recruitment, duty of care) will be published on 1 October.

Discussions with Local Authorities are being had as part of ONS’ Operational Management Group to understand concerns and pressures faced.

The panel asked what lessons had been learned from other countries. ONS responded that in the United States, for example, response rates had been good, but particular groups may be limiting contact due to COVID-19. As such, ONS is thinking about (for example) the scale of telephone capture in 2021, in case of increased need.

ONS presented work that was being undertaken to review the questionnaire and associated guidance given the issues surrounding COVID-19. Working arrangements of census respondents are likely to be changed – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently – due to issues arising from COVID-19 and Travel to Work had been highlighted as a particular issue.

Discussion & Suggestions

3.1 – The committee noted that changing the questions themselves would be very difficult at this stage. They also noted the intention to ask about current circumstances where possible, rather than previous work or expectations of the future. The committee agreed with this and especially stressed that questions should not require speculation on the future. The committee also stressed that guidance should be easy to see, especially for now common issues such as working from home some of the time.

3.2 – The committee suggested a change to the guidance to avoid referring to pre-lockdown conditions, on the basis that by the time of Census 2021 this would be too long ago.

3.3 – The committee disagreed that people furloughed should be considered as doing paid work with respect to the question of whether they had ever done any work, due to the main furlough scheme starting after 21 March 2020.

3.4 – The committee was concerned at some wording around maternal and paternal leave, questioning whether this was correct. They advised that ONS should check whether these are the most appropriate terms.

3.5 – The committee questioned whether the differences in quarantined and isolating people were being treated correctly, especially considering whether people were working from home in this period.

Action 70 – ONS to consider the committees suggestions and report back in a later meeting.

No other issues were raised.

No actions given.