Access to Records
AMENDMENTIn March 2019, links were updated from this chapter to the current edition of the leaflet "Your Access to your Records".
1. Rights of Access
The provisions for access to personal information or records held by Children's Services are contained in the Data Protection Act 1998 S (7). Under this legislation, those in respect of whom personal information is held in any form have a right of access to the information, See "Access to Records" for further information.
2. Offering an Informal Approach
The practice of all staff should be to encourage ongoing and open sharing of information and recording, including providing copies of key documents.
If a person in receipt of services asks to see a particular document or wants to have information about a particular aspect of the case, the member of staff should discuss this with them to see whether the request can be dealt with informally by showing them the relevant part of the file or providing copies of relevant documents. A child of sufficient understanding should also be allowed regular access to information held about him or her; consistent with his or her best interests. This is usually measured by the Fraser Guidelines (Gillick Competence test).
Staff should be aware that an applicant may see all information recorded about them and must follow the principles of good recording practice at all times. No retrospective changes can be made to recordings because of an access request.
3. Handling Formal Requests for Access
Members of staff, can supply applicants with the "Your Access to your Records" leaflet. Please also see: "Access to the Information We Hold on You" on the Hertfordshire website and where appropriate support the applicant with the application form. However, applicants do not have to tell Social care staff that they are making a request and may choose to deal directly and confidentially with the Data Protection Team.
All formal requests for access to information should be referred immediately to the Data Protection Team as there are significant legal consequences to delayed or non compliance.
A request for access to personal data can come from a variety of different sources including: children, parents, representatives, advocates, agents etc. The Data Protection Team have verification procedures in place to ensure that data is only disclosed to people who are entitled to see it.
If a case is open to Children's Services the Data Protection Team will contact Children's Services practitioners named as current or previous workers to discuss certain aspects of the Subject Access Request. This may include the establishing Parental Responsibility, discussing Child Protection or other welfare concerns, and to engage with workers to ensure that they are aware of the Customer's Subject Access Request and can offer an appropriate level of support to their Customer throughout and / or after the access process.
If the DPT team contact a key worker asking them to provide material relating to a case, all relevant material (including hand written notes) must be passed to the DPT immediately.
It is essential that all communication about applicants are responded to promptly to ensure that all relevant information is properly considered and disclosed appropriately within legal timescales.
The Data Protection Team are on hand to offer support and guidance on Subject Access Requests and all Data Protection matters.