Information Commissioner responds to data protection concerns
The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has given a withering assessment of the protection afforded by children’s homes in an article published by the Daily Telegraph.
In the article he announces that the DfE will publish a 52-page dossier providing a comprehensive assessment of the children’s home system. According to the Telegraph, it reveals that local authorities in England spend more than a £1?billion per year to care for fewer than 4,900 children. It calculates that councils now spend an average of £4,000 a week to place each child in a home.
Mr Gove also suggested that Ofsted are unable to share information with the police to protect vulnerable children in care because of data protection concerns.
The article can be read here.
The Information Commissioner has commented:
“Ensuring that vulnerable young people are properly protected in care homes is essential. There is nothing in data protection legislation that is a barrier to this happening. This law covers information about people so it has no bearing on the disclosure of non-personal information like the location of care homes.
“If anyone has serious concerns about an individual, either as a potential victim or perpetrator, then this can be passed on to the police without breaching data protection law. The Information Commissioner published a Data Sharing Code of Practice in May 2012 which helps ensure that more routine information sharing takes place where necessary and any myths around data protection preventing proper sharing are dispelled. The Commissioner’s advice has not been sought on any perceived difficulties about sharing care home information so we are writing to both Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw at Ofsted today to clarify the concerns and set straight any misunderstandings.”
Responding to the Department for Education’s intention to publish data on children’s homes in England, Ellen Broome, Policy Director at The Children’s Society, said:
“We are delighted that the government has made this information public, and welcome Michael Gove’s strong commitment to improving the lives of these children.
“As shown by the parliamentary inquiry we supported last year many parts of the system are simply not working. Children are being placed miles from home into run-down areas, the quality of some care homes is unacceptable, and children who run away from care are not kept safe.
“Children in care are extremely vulnerable. Most will have already suffered serious abuse or neglect at home. And people that want to exploit children are deliberately targeting children in care and children’s homes.
“So it is absolutely vital that councils provide them with a supportive and caring environment. For that to happen there needs to be proper oversight and scrutiny, and that hasn’t always been the case. Instead, all too often we hear from children that they are being treated as a ‘nuisance’ and ‘troublesome’ by those who are supposed to care for them.
“With councils spending more than £1 billion a year caring for these children, things need to improve now. A wall of silence is unacceptable; only with transparency, scrutiny and accountability will things gets better for these vulnerable children.”
SOURCE: Family Law Week