Promising Practice

Census, Lifecourse and Disability Team

In 2018, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) established a Census, Lifecourse and Disability team to address gaps in disability information. It links existing data sources and produces new pieces of work giving insight into disability statistics.
United Kingdom
Institutional and structural guidelines
Build institutional capacity
Facilitate effective use
Operational guidelines
Ensure comprehensiveness
Mainstream equality data
Includes multiple / intersectional discrimination


In this page:

Why was the practice needed?

The Census, Lifecourse and Disability team was established to address gaps in disability information by utilising existing data sources. The team´s remit is to develop a programme of work on disability statistics, working closely with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) team, to shine more light on the prevalence of disability and its consequences across society.

The team will also be leading on linking census and mortality data. This will provide new insights into the lifecourse of people identified as having a disability in the Census 2011 in comparison to people without a disability. It will further address gaps in disability data, such as lifecourse transitions between censuses, by using the Longitudinal Study.

It will also have a leading role in ensuring the use of a harmonised definition of disability and routine disaggregation of statistics by disability.

How was it implemented?

The Census, Lifecourse and Disability team sets out to:

  1. Develop expertise in health-related data from previous Censuses and major surveys. It will function as the main Health and Life Events (HALE) point of contact with Census and social surveys on content and analytical issues. It will cover the ‘health group’ of questions: self-reported health, long-term illness/disability, and unpaid care.
  2. Develop a programme of longitudinal analysis, exploiting the ONS Longitudinal Study and other data, to shine a light on lifecourse socio-demographic issues, and health and care transitions.
  3. Develop a programme of work on disability statistics, working closely with the SDG team, to shine more light on the prevalence of disability and its consequences across society.

The majority of the data analysis will be on people with disabilities as defined by the Equality Act 2010. However, where data allow and if suitable for the publication, ONS will disaggregate data on disability by age, sex, ethnicity and religion. ONS does not anticipate being able to disaggregate by other protected characteristics due to limited data availability and a lack of sufficient base numbers.


  • The different work strands will be reflected in a comprehensive analysis plan with a new series of publications being launched in due course.

Key success factors

  • The team meets a policy need for more comprehensive information on the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Success will be shown in improved measurement and coherence of data on health, disability and unpaid care, both across the Government Statistical Service and from analysis conducted and published by the team.

Technical information

  • Data sources covered: Census; Administrative data.
  • Areas of life covered: Employment; Education; Health.
  • Target audience: Policymakers, civil society organisations, media, and the general population
  • Duration: 2018 – present
  • Geographical scope: National (England and Wales)
  • Leading institution: Office for National Statistics
  • Other organisations involved/consulted: None
  • Financial & human resources: Budget: Approximately £150,000 annually; Source of the budget: Part centrally funded and part funded from Census analysis; Staff: 4 Full Time Equivalent (FTE)


Office for National Statistics, Health and Life Events Analysis