Detailed guide: Children in need census: guide to submitting data

Department For Education

October 15
12:39 2019

The children in need census is an annual statutory census for all local authorities. You must complete statutory censuses by law unless theres a good reason not to.

The census covers the financial year (1 April to 31 March).

It collects data on children referred to local authority social care services because their health or development is at risk. This includes:

  • children in local-authority care (in placements in a residential home, in a foster family, or with relatives)
  • children who are getting support from their local authoritys social care services
  • children who are the subject of a child protection plan
  • unborn children who will potentially need support from social care services

Important dates

2019 to 2020 census dates:

  • census opens: Wednesday 1 April 2020
  • deadline for loading data: Tuesday 30 June 2020
  • deadline for submitting data: Friday 31 July 2020

2020 to 2021 census dates:

  • census opens: Thursday 1 April 2021
  • deadline for loading data: Wednesday 30 June 2021
  • deadline for submitting data: Friday 30 July 2021

Submit your data

Youll need to:

  • register and log in with DfE Sign-in
  • use COLLECT to submit your data

Please contact your school or local authority approver, if:

  • you want to request a DfE Sign-in username or password so you can access COLLECT
  • children in need census is not on the list of collections you can see in COLLECT

Get help using DfE Sign-in

If you do not know who your approver is, please use the DfE Sign-in request form.

If youve forgotten your password, use DfE Sign-in to reset it. You will need to click Start now and then the Ive forgotten my password link.

Note that well only be able to change the status of your data submission to authorised once youve cleared all errors in the data in COLLECT.

Census documents

These documents will help you complete the census:

2019 to 2020 census guides

2020 to 2021 census guides

Factors identified at the end of assessment

This additional guide on the factors identified at the end of assessment (PDF, 366KB, 47 pages) explains how to complete the factors identified at the end of the assessment data item.

It includes information on the new child on child and adult on child sexual and physical abuse factors which are to be collected from the 2020 to 2021 census.

Do you need help?

Submitting data

For complex questions, please use the service request form. We aim to answer your question within 5 working days.


Please use the feedback form if you have any comments about our data collection service, including COLLECT and the helpdesk service.

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 15 October 2019 +show all updates
  1. Added link to 2020 to 2021 technical specification and validation rules.
  2. Removed 2018 to 2019 census guides and added 2020 to 2021 census guides, census dates and additional guide on the factors identified at the end of the assessment.
  3. Added link to 2019 to 2020 technical specification and validation rules.
  4. Updated 'Submit your data section' and DfE Sign-in help links.
  5. Updated COLLECT link from secure access to DfE sign in.
  6. Added 'deadline for loading data' dates.
  7. Added 2019 to 2020 census dates and links to guides, removed 2017 to 2018 census dates and links to guides.
  8. Changed 2018 census opening date to Tuesday 3 April, due to a bank holiday on Monday 2 April.
  9. Added link to 2018 to 2019 technical specification and validation rules
  10. Added deadlines and census guides for 2018 to 2019.

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