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Your Personal Information: Our Commitment to You

This Guide explains why we collect information from service users, carers and others who may come into contact with social care services in the City and County of Swansea.

You can also download/print this information as a factsheet  PDF Document Your Personal Information: Our Commitment to You (Factsheet 002) (PDF, 57KB)Opens new window


What is this Summary about?

This Guide explains why we collect information from service users, carers and others who may come into contact with social care services in the City and County of Swansea. It explains how we protect your information and what your rights are. 

We can only use personal information about you if it is legal for us to do so. 

Your privacy is important to us and we want you to let us know if we are not protecting your privacy to the best of our ability or have any other comment or complaint about the way we use personal information.


Disclaimer

The City and County of Swansea does not regard this document as a statement of policy. You can get more information on how we look after your information from the contact details given at the end of this summary.


What do we mean by 'personal information'?

Personal information includes basic details about you, including your name and address. Some kinds of personal information are specially sensitive and we have to treat this information with particular care e.g. information about your physical or mental health. 

Personal information can be held on paper and in electronic systems, including video and audio recordings (where applicable).


What do we use your personal information for?

We can only collect information from you if we are allowed to by law, and we can only collect the minimum information we need.

The main reasons we collect and use your personal information are:-

  • To allow us to carry out routine record-keeping; 
  • To help us make sure that we provide you with the most appropriate support; 
  • To help us support you in an emergency; 
  • To help staff who work with you know what they need to know to work effectively with you; 
  • To help us in our work to detect and prevent the abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults; 
  • To make applications for services, support or benefits on your behalf; 
  • To make sure that social care staff are providing a quality service; 
  • To manage and improve our services; 
  • To fulfil our duty to public accountability by providing statistical information. 

Who will have day-to-day access to my personal information?

Your personal information is only seen by staff who need it to do their jobs. The only people who will have day-to-day access to your personal information are social care workers who work directly with you and administrative workers helping keep records up to date. The line managers of these staff may also need to use your personal information to make sure they are providing you with a quality service. 


Are there any other special circumstances in which other social services staff will have access to my personal information?

A small number of staff with special jobs and training might also need to see minimum personal information about you:

  • Emergency staff
  • Staff handling any complaint you make
  • Specialist staff working to detect and prevent abuse of children or vulnerable adults.
  • Specialist management information staff collect information to provide statistics in order to support accountability to the Council and the Government.

Working with other organisations

Many of our services are run jointly between social services and another organisation such as the health service, the education service or another local authority service. Some personal information we hold on you could be shared with staff in the other organisation if they will be working with you directly. We will only do this where it is lawful to do so. Where you have a choice about it, you will be offered one. We only share the minimum necessary. Most organisations will follow similar rules to those we have described in this summary. 

Staff in all partner organisations (including our own staff) must follow their own rules and procedures in handling personal information and face disciplinary action if they don't.


What choices do I have about how social services uses my information?

The purposes for which we use your personal information are set out in the law and we do not need your explicit consent to use your personal information for these purposes. In fact, if you chose not to provide us with the personal information that we need to carry out our duties, it would be very difficult to provide you with a quality service, if any service could be provided at all. 

However, we appreciate that there may be some items of information that will be particularly sensitive for you, and you should clarify with the person you are speaking to any specific information you would want to keep completely confidential e.g. you are a personal friend of a worker who might see your information as set out above. In most cases, we will be happy to accommodate any such request if we are able to do so. 

We cannot guarantee that all such information will be kept confidential, but we have to have a very good reason before we can break your confidence. (See the section on Confidentiality and the Law below.)


Can your personal information be shown to other people outside social services?

We are not able to use your personal information for any other purpose than those we have described above. 

We are also generally unable to disclose your personal information unless you have given your consent to do so.

There will usually be no reason for any personal information held by social services to be shared with other parts of the local authority. 
The main exceptions to this are:-

  • local authority lawyers, 
  • some education staff in jointly-run services and 
  • staff carrying out or administering housing grants. 

No-one will have access to your personal information unless they are involved in your case or are carrying out special tasks described above. 

No-one will have access to more than the minimum personal information they need to do their work.


Confidentiality and the Law

Personal information you give to us will usually be given in confidence. This means that you would not want others to know about the things you have told us. We have a duty to keep your personal information confidential and we will usually do so.
However, there are circumstances where the law forces us to use your information or show it to others without your knowledge or consent - this will only happen in very special and unusual circumstances e.g. to prevent crime or disorder. 


When might I be offered a choice about how my personal information is used?

Whenever it is proposed to use your personal information for a purpose other than those set out in What do we use your personal information for? and Confidentiality and the Law above, we will seek your consent. This might happen if:

  • A student social worker may be working with you,
  • A bona fide researcher who wants personal information for her study; 
  • No personal information can be passed to the media without your consent.

How do we look after your personal information?

Computerised systems
Personal information in computerised systems is held in systems that are not connected to the Internet - they are not accessible to hackers or other intruders. Only authorised staff can use our computerised information systems and they must use their own passwords or face disciplinary action. 
The Council is working towards an international standard for IT security.

Paper records
Personal information that is kept on paper is stored in places that are not accessible to the public, behind locked doors. It is protected from fire and water damage. Staff take appropriate care of personal information when it is not being held at our secure buildings or being transferred between offices.


How do we keep personal information up to date?

Under the Data Protection Act we are expected to ensure that any personal information we hold about you is reliable and up-to-date; inaccurate or misleading information will be checked and corrected as soon as you bring this to our attention.Any decisions that affect you should be based on accurate information. 


How you can help us keep information accurate

  • give us accurate information 
  • tell us as soon as possible of any changes 
  • tell us as soon as possible if you notice mistakes in the information we hold about you because this helps us to keep our information reliable and up-to-date.

How long do we keep your personal information?

We do not keep personal information longer than we need it for our purposes. We have rules set by government which tell us how long we have to keep personal information. If you are an adult, we will usually dispose of your personal information after five years since our last contact with you. Children's files will be kept much longer. We use shredding and other technologies to make sure confidential waste stays confidential. 


Your rights under the Data Protection Act

You have a number of rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. The following table advises you how the relevant social services law affects those rights and how you can exercise your rights.

You have the right to access information we hold about you in manual and computerised files. You have the right to correct factual information about you. 

See How to access / correct your personal information below for details on accessing .

You have a qualified right to prevent processing if it would cause unwarranted damage or distress
In some cases, this right will not be available to you because other laws require us to process information. 

Please see above What choices do I have about how social services uses my information? and Confidentiality and the Law
If you have any other query, please speak to your care manager in the first instance.

You have a right to prevent processing for direct marketing purposes
We will not pass your information on to any other person or organisation for the purposes of direct marketing and we do not carry out such marketing ourselves.

You have a right to compensation for damage and distress caused by breach of the Act
Any successful claim for damages will generally have to prove that substantial damage has been caused and that a breach of the Act has taken place. 

We hope that anybody who is unhappy about any aspect of the way we handle personal information will make use of the complaints procedure.

You have a right to object to decisions being made about you by wholly automatic means. 
We do not use any fully automatic processes to make decisions.


How to access / correct your personal information

Requesting access
If you want to see your file or to correct errors in it, in the first instance you should speak to your care manager or the social services staff that you normally see. You will need to provide us with sufficient personal details to allow us to find the information you want. If you have been out of touch with us for some time, we will need to verify your identity. We are then required to give you access to your information within 40 working days. 

What you can see

You will be able to access any computerised records about you as well as any paper records kept in our main filing system.

You can usually see most documents in your file, but you may not be able to see some documents for legal reasons. Under law, we can't provide you with any information that might put someone (including yourself) at risk of serious harm to their mental or physical health.

Accessing your files

If the amount of personal information you are seeking to obtain is very large, we may need to ask you to attend an access interview so you can let us know what exactly you want. If this is so it is in your interest to attend as the law allows us to deny you access if the amount of material being sought involves disproportionate effort on our part.

You may also ask for an access interview to help you go through your personal information with your care manager and we prefer this method of providing access as it helps you to understand the material on file. You can bring another person to accompany you.
You can have a single copy of your information. (There may be a charge for any copies you receive.)

Making Corrections To Your File

You may notice errors in the file when you access it. You have the right to request that we make any changes to incorrect facts. While we usually correct factual errors, we are not obliged to make all the changes you request. We will, however, try to make sure that we can make the file more accurate based on your comments. Where you disagree with material in your file, we will add your remarks to the file. 

Accessing files belonging to other people

It is not possible to access files or other personal information belonging to other people except in the following specific circumstances:

If you are the parent of a child under 18

You may be able to access your child's file if your child is unable to make their own request for access or if they have given their consent. We will need to be satisfied that the request is in the child's best interest before we will grant access to the file. 

If you are responsible for the affairs of an adult lacking capacity 

You can make a request to access the file of an adult who lacks capacity as long as there is in force either an order of the Court of Protection or an Enduring Power of Attorney registered with the Court. 


How to complain about our handling of personal information 

We encourage people who are unhappy with our handling of personal information to make a comment or complaint and such complaints will be dealt with in the same way as any other complaint about our services. Full details are given in the leaflet 'Making a comment, complaint or compliment about Social Services' which should be provided when an assessment has been carried out.


Independent Advice

For independent advice about data protection, privacy and data-sharing issues, you can contact:
Information Commissioner's Office - Wales, 2nd Floor, Churchill House, Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2HH
Tel: 029 2067 8400   Fax: 029 2067 8399
E-mail: Wales@ico.org.uk  
Website: ICO - Information for the publicOpens new window

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