Data Subject Access Requests
In my experience and what helped me greatly was to get my childrens files from Social Services. Don't get me wrong they will drag their heels and be reluctant to give them because they know there is evidence in there to be used against them to disprove their case . If you have difficulty make sure you put pressure on your local MP to write a letter to ICO on your behalf if ss think they are above the law . Quote a breach in the 6th principle of the Data Protection Act 1998.
First step is to do a Data Subject Access Request be sure to quote the Data Protection Act 1998.
Getting Access To Your & Your Children’s Social Services Files
You are entitled to have copies not just to view them! Remember to view them is free anyway
For any one asking for their copy ss files:-
Make sure you ask for:-
Copies of all records, handwritten AND computerised.
Copies of all e-mails, faxes, letters, internal and external communications etc. E-mails are very important. SS do not expect you to ask for these. It is amazing what you can uncover.
Copies of all telephone messages
Copies of all internal memo's.
Copies of all contact logs from any contact centres that you or your family have attended
Copies of all "Running Sheets". This is the day to day log of what is happening in your case - (like a diary). You can tell if any are missing as they are numbered. You MUST ensure you get copies of these. Check them against the reports that SS have given into court.
If a child is 12 or over, then he/she is considered Fraser Competent. It means that the child has sufficient understanding in relation as to what is happening in a given situation and has the capacity to take their own decisions. This gives a child who is Fraser Competent the right to consent to medical treatment, instruct legal representation, request records, etc. Therefore the local authority may say that you are not entitled to have access to your child's records because he/she is old enough to request their own records and is protected under the Data Protection Act 1989 under his/her own right. Or they may state your child has refused you permission to have the files.
To get copies of your SS files and your children’s ss files, you must write a letter to the social services asking for copies of all handwritten, and computerised data they have of you, including internal memo's, running sheets and daily logs. (Running sheets are a day to day recording of what is happening and are very important). Make sure you put in your letter "I am requesting this information under the Data Protection Act 1998". They have 40 days in which to reply. If not, re-send a letter saying if they don't reply within 7 days you will report them to the Information Commissioner (Contact details below), as they are in breach of the law.
The Information Commissioner will ensure they give you the files, and comply with the law. You are entitled to have copies of everything for £10.00. Sometimes they say you can only view them with a social worker present, but they know that this is against the law, and it is your right under the Data Protection Act to have actual copies. You must state this to them, if they try it on. Lastly, if there is information from third parties in the file, they can still give it to you but must write first and obtain permission from the person involved, i.e.. Health visitor, doctor, etc.
NOTE: I never paid a fee
YOUR RIGHT TO ACCESS YOUR SOCIAL SERVICE RECORDS
This section covers your rights under the 1998 Data Protection Act, which covers information from private and public bodies, and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which covers public bodies only. It is always worth asking for information under both Acts, although the 1998 Data Protection Act covers everything.
THE DATA PROTECTION ACT
The 1998 Data Protection Act gives all individuals general right of access to the personal data which relates to them. These rights are known as “subject access rights”. Requests for access to information about those records are known as “subject access requests”. Personal data may be computerised or paper records.
The Act gives a right of access to social work records which are held by any of the following:-
A local social services authority (England and Wales)
A social work authority (Scotland)
A Health and Social Services Board or trust (Northern Ireland)
A request for information can be made by the person to whom the data relates, irrespective of age, or by someone who is legally acting on their behalf, e.g. a parent because the child is too young. Requests must be made in writing to the local authority social services department, and they have up to 40 days in which to respond. (It is worth sending your request letter by recorded/special delivery otherwise social services may say they have not received it).
You are entitled to be given a description of the data, be told why it is held, who it has been given to, any information about the source of the data, and to be given an explanation as to how any automated decision taken about you has been made.
You are entitled to have copies of the information for a fee of £10.00. Not just to view it.
Information which may be withheld:-
If the information on a file identifies other people, then it will often be right to remove that information unless the third parties have agreed to the disclosure. (This is less likely to apply to information identifying social workers or other social work professionals unless to disclose it would cause them serious harm).
If the disclosure of the information would prejudice the carrying out of social work by reason of the fact that serious harm to the physical or mental health of the data subject, or any other person would likely to be caused.
If, in the case of requests made on behalf of the data subject, by a person able to exercise their legal rights; the data subject has expressly asked that some or all of the information should not be disclosed or if they have provided the social services department with information on the assumption that it will not be disclosed.
If it will hinder the prevention and detection of crime or the prosecution or apprehension of offenders to provide it.
If access is denied:-
If social services are denying you access to records, or have not responded to your request within 40 days, if you are at court you can apply to the judge for release of your data. You can also contact the Data Protection Commissioner, who will investigate this for you and :-
It can be done you just need to persevere if access is denied then quote in court Article 6 Human Rights Act and that you cannot have a fair trial without access to this information .
Family courts system accused of hiding evidence from parents
1st May 2009 | in Forced Adoption Stories
Parents fighting in the family courts for contact with their children are being denied access to their personal files by a corrupt system, a leading parental rights campaigner has said.
Alison Stevens, head of Parents Against Injustice, has called for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to force social services and individual courts to comply with the Data Protection Act.
She said: “Local authorities have to send the requested files within 40 days . . . but they are often not following public law guidelines. It’s corruption within the system. They are playing God, and there must be some reason why — perhaps to hide things they have got wrong in the cases.”
Evidence is gathered from a variety of sources before children are taken from their parents in family courts. Tracking down and obtaining these documents can be very difficult because they are held by various bodies and must be applied for in different ways.
Ms Stevens said: “Parents should be entitled to their files — not just social services files but all files: from health visitors, GPs, different hospitals, the ambulance trust, psychologist reports, paediatrician notes and so on.”
The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has written to all MPs calling for a parliamentary review into the operation of the family courts. He said: “One of the ways legal practitioners prevent parents from fighting cases is by not giving them the paperwork. Often the paperwork doesn’t add up, so if parents got hold of it they would see what was going on.”
Many parents have welcomed the call for greater accountability. Roland Simpkin (not his real name) received his social services files seven years after his children were taken into care in 2001 amid allegations of abuse.
When the allegations were shown to be unfounded, he sought to obtain the evidence held on him by social services to find out why he was still not allowed to see his children.
He was sent his files last year, after pursuing his case through a series of letters, complaints and court orders, but he found that parts of the notes had been crossed through with black pen, words had been deleted and sections of paragraphs had been removed during photocopying.
Mr Simpkin said: “Despite being repeatedly found not to have harmed or posed a risk of harm to \ children or anybody else’s, the sheer amount of delay introduced by the sluggishness of the social services department to share information is likely to be a serious negative factor in any potential repeated contact \.”
In another case, Marc Tufano, an actor who has appeared in EastEnders and The Bill, has not seen his two sons for seven years because he cannot obtain the documents that he needs to bring his case to appeal.
His children were given residence with his partner in 2003 after their relationship broke down. Though he immediately tried to launch an appeal, he said that he had found it impossible to obtain transcripts of the original court hearings because the court authorities had been slow to reply to his requests and had since claimed to have destroyed the documents.
Mr Tufano said: “I have begged these government agents to leave me alone so as I can see my sons without being harassed by endless arguments over the paperwork they require. It is made impossible for parents to get hold of the documents they need.”
Case study: I fired six sets of solicitors
Sezgi Kapur’s two daughters were taken from her in 2003 amid allegations that her violent attitude towards care professionals could be harmful to her children, allegations she denies.
Before the hearings in the family court, her requests for her social services files were ignored or denied, and she was forced to apply for court orders to disclose the documents. Without them, Ms Kapur was unable to respond to the evidence gathered against her by social services and care workers, and so was unable to fight her case effectively.
After the files were provided, she discovered that the minutes from high-level social services meetings about her case had been withheld and that memos had been circulated to those who attended asking them to “destroy all previous copies” of notes from the meeting.
Ms Kapur said: “These meetings painted a picture of me as a volatile, aggressive, threatening individual who was alienating professionals, who might one day emotionally harm my children through this purported alienation. It was incredible to read this.
“I fired six sets of solicitors because they failed to get disclosure of all my documents. If the parents do not get a fair trial, the children do not either.”
Shaun O’Connell, a lay adviser working on behalf of Environmental Law Centre, said: “If you’re not familiar with the Data Protection Act and you don’t know the format and structure, it’s impossible.”
Names have been changed
Chiefs criticised for withholding records
Social services bosses have been rapped after refusing to hand over records to a Staffordshire mother whose children had been taken into care.
Social services bosses have been rapped after refusing to hand over records to a Staffordshire mother whose children had been taken into care.
After a lengthy battle the county council has been found to have breached theData Protection Act by the Information Commissioner after its refusal to give documents to the woman.
The council has now been required to hand over all the relevant files to the mother who claims to have been unfairly treated by the county council. She cannot be named to protect the identity of her children who were originally taken into care over claims of domestic violence.
The mother, from Stafford, tried to get access to the files for two years. In June last year the council was due to deliver them to her but a last minute decision was taken not to because of concerns over what the mother may do with the information.
The mother has now received the files and claims they show her children were made to feel unsafe in foster care. The matter has been investigated by the county council which has also accepted the Information Commissioner’s ruling.
The mother said: “The local authority deliberately fought to prevent me having access to the files for two years. I believe this was because there were things they did not want me to see.”
In its ruling to the mother the ICO said: “I have confirmed my assessment that the council have breached the sixth data protection principle in this case.”
Cabinet member for children at the county council Ian Parry, said: “We have only acted, and will continue to act, in the best interests of the children involved.”
Mum triumphs in epic social services battle
by Lynn Grainger
A Stafford mother who had vital files about her OWN children withheld from her for two years has won a David and Goliath battle with social services after it was found they had breached Data Protection rules.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked for the files in February 2008, fearing they contained inaccuracies which had led to her having limited access to her sons.
She wanted to use the files in court but Staffordshire County Council withheld them over concerns she would subsequently publish file details ‘detrimental’ to her children on the internet.
According to the Data Protection act, the single mum should have received the information or a formal response within 40 days, but she has been waiting 24 months to see the vital information – which the authority have now agreed to hand over.
The victory follows a ruling last week by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent body responsible for regulating and enforcing access to personal information.
A letter to the mum from ICO caseworker Angela Ellison, reads: “I understand that, to date, no information has been provided to you in response to your February 2008 request, or any of the requests you have made subsequently during the course of your contact with the council.
“…I have confirmed my assessment that the council have breached the sixth data protection principle in this case.
“It is clear that the council had concerns about the release of the information to you. Nevertheless, you should still have received a response to your original request, and your further requests, within 40 days of each request.”
The files were due to be handed over in June, 2009, but a last minute decision was taken that legal advice should be obtained before the information was presented to her.
There were fears the mum would publish details of any alleged errors in the data on her internet ‘blog’ which could have affected her children, so it was withheld. Mrs Ellison said although in some cases information held by social services departments could be withheld, the county council should have obtained legal advice within 40 days and responded within that 40 day time frame.
Mrs Ellison concluded: “The council are now ready to provide you with the information to which you are entitled.”
This week the angry mum said: “This just proves I was right and this isn’t the end. I plan to take civil action against the council for the stress this has caused me for the last two years and the detrimental effect their withholding of my files for use as evidence in court has had for my children and I.”
Last year Stafford MP David Kidney said he was “spitting mad” over the case because he had received assurances the council would provide her with the files in early 2009.
A spokesperson for the county council told the Post: “We acknowledge the findings of the Information Commissioner, and we are pleased that the ICO recognise we have legitimate concerns over the release of the information. We have only acted, and will continue to act, in the best interests of the children involved.”
l The Stafford single mum at the centre of the row over access to her children’s files has called on parents facing similar difficulties to contact her through the Post.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I’d really like to hear from other parents facing the same problems. I know I’m not alone. I won this fight and was proved right so I’d like to help others facing the same difficulties.”
Contact the Post on 01785 212370 or write to us at 35 Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ. Email
our section on what data may be withheld omits an important point - Section 35 of the Data Protection Act states:
"Personal data are exempt from the non-disclosure provisions where the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of, or in connection with, any legal proceedings (including prospective legal proceedings), or for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or is otherwise necessary for the purposes of establishing, exercising or defending legal rights".
So SS are NOT entitled to withhold data for most of the reasons that you give. We have been to Judicial Review using this section and the LA brought in a QC who was claimed to be an expert on DPA. He wasn't able to produce any relevant case law wrt this section. Hope that helps!
thank you to our contributor x