Five Local authorities are accused of using 377,000 people’s data to allow social workers to intervene with families that need help from social services.

The local authorities have gathered various records including school attendance records, housing association repairs and arrears records and police records on antisocial behaviour to devise the new system.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is looking into the practice.

“All organisations have a duty to look after personal information in their care but records involving children – often sensitive personal data – require particularly robust measures. We would therefore expect any council using such technology to have fully considered the privacy risks, including conducting a thorough Data Protection Impact Assessment, and to have taken steps to address those risks.”

The ICO will be investigating if the technology used by the local authorities is complaint with the new data protection law. Under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organisations must have a valid lawful basis in order to process personal data. They must provide evidence that they have met the requirements.

Cllr Milli Patel, from Brent council, said:

“We are trialling a tool which has the potential to be best practice in the sector and which we hope will help our social workers to make decisions during child protection investigations by providing them with further information about a child’s known circumstances.”

Ann James, from Bristol council, said:

“We want to help families achieve the change they want for themselves and their children, using data helps us identify the risks and vulnerabilities of families. Since adopting this approach we have engaged over 5,000 families with many achieving positive change in their circumstances as a result.”

Jim Gamble, the independent chair of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board, said:

“While this system remains a work in progress, we understand the importance of supporting methods that seek to better identify children who might be in need of our help. Our research and experiences demonstrate that when information sharing across different agencies is effective, children are safer and ultimately we believe that should be the focus for everyone.”

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