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Access to your Records

Get copies of your Social Services files and your Children’s files
Access to your Records

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NOTE: This information could be helpful when applying for access to the your/or your children's records.

Written mainly for parents, but the information in it is also for other people, including other family members.

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 Social Services files:-

Access to your Records


1.Make sure you ask for?
2.Important Notes
3.For any one asking for their copy Social Services files
4.Your Right to Access
5.The Data Protection Act
6.Information which may be withheld?
7.If access is denied?
8.The Freedom of Information Act 2000


1.Make sure you ask for:-

1. Copies of all records, handwritten AND computerised.

2. Copies of all e-mails, faxes, letters etc. E-mails are very important. The SS do not expect you to ask for these. It is amazing what you can uncover.

3. Copies of all telephone messages

4. Copies of all internal memo's.

5. Copies of all contact logs from any contact centres that you or your family have attended

6. 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.


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2.Important Notes

If a child is 12 or over, then he/she is considered Gillick Competent. The law was set out in the case of Gillick (Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986] AC 112). 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 Gillick 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.

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.

You are entitled to have copies not just to view them! Remember to view them is free anyway.


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3. For any one asking for their copy ss files:-

Make sure you ask for:-

1. Copies of all records, handwritten AND computerised.

2. Copies of all e-mails, faxes, letters etc. E-mails are very important. SS do not expect you to ask for these. It is amazing what you can uncover.

3. Copies of all telephone messages

4. Copies of all internal memo's.

5. Copies of all contact logs from any contact centres that you or your family have attended.

6. 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.


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4. Your Right to Access Social Services 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.



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5. 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.

To view the 1998 Data Protection Act, please go to:-
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/19980029.htm

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.

Subject Access Request Under the Data Protection Act 1998
Sample Letter


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6.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.



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7. 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 :-

To view advice/ or on how to make a complaint and download a complaints form go to:-

Information Commissioner England

Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Helpline
Telephone: 01625 545 745
Fax: 01625 545 510
Email: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk
Website: English Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner Wales

2 Alexandra Gate
Ffordd Pengam
Cardiff
CF24 2SA
Telephone: 02920 894 929
Fax: 02920 894 930
Email: Wales@ico.gsi.gov.uk
Website: Welsh Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner Scotland

Kinburn Castle
St Andrews
Water Lane
KY16 9DS
Telephone enquiries:
01334 464610
Fax enquiries:
01334 464611
email: enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info
Website: Scottish Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner Northern Ireland

Room 101, Regus House
33 Clarendon Dock
Laganside
Belfast
BT1 3BG
Northern Ireland
Telephone: 028 9051 1270
Fax: 028 9051 1584
Email: ni@ico.gsi.gov.uk
Website: NI Information Commissioner 

8. The Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, also gives people the right to access information on them that is held by public authorities. Any person has the right to make a request for information held by a public authority. You should write to your local authority to see your records under the Freedom of Information Act, and the authority must usually respond to this request within 20 working days. This right came into force on the 1 January 2005. You are entitled to access to any recorded information such as e-mails, minutes of meetings, recordings and reports held by public authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

To view the full Act please go to:
 http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000036.htm

To view the full Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002,
please go to: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/scotland/acts2002.htm

If the local authority decide not to let you have access to the records requests it must give reasons for the decision. Also, if they ignore your request for information you can complain to the Information Commissioner (see Data Protection Act for addresses)

The ICO may serve a notice on the local authority either confirming the decision made, or directing it to disclose the information within a certain time. If the local authority do not comply with this it constitutes contempt of court, and they are in breach of the law.

If you disagree with the ICO’s decision you have 28 days in which to take the matter to an Independent Information Tribunal.

For information on the appeals process please contact:-

Postal enquiries:
Information Rights Division
Department for Constitutional Affairs
6th Floor
Selborne House
54 Victoria Street
London
SW1E 6QW

Telephone enquiries:
020 7210 8034
Fax enquiries:
020 7210 8388
Email: informationrights@dca.gsi.gov.uk


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