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1.8.4 Working with Member and MP Enquiries

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance is for all Children’s Services Staff.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Corporate and Statutory Complaints within Children’s Services Procedure

Access to Records Procedure

Subject Access Request Procedure

This chapter was added to the manual in May 2013.


Contents

  1. Member and MP Enquires
  2. Request for Access to Personal and Social Services Records


1. Member and MP enquiries

Members and MP’s often write or make contact with the Children’s Services on behalf of a constituent(s) or in relation to their member/ministerial portfolios. Responses to such enquiries must be sent out from the Director or the Chief Children and Families Officer, Children and Families Service.

The current timescale for providing a written response is 10 working days from receipt from within the Council.

Their enquiry should be referred to as such and not referred to as a complaint, even though the content of the correspondence may suggest otherwise.


2. Requests for Access to Personal Social Services Records

Also see Access to Records Procedure and Subject Access Request Procedure.

The Data Protection Act (1998) gives service users the right to have access to information kept about them; the right of access is restricted to people who are the subject of a record.

The right of access extends to children and young people under eighteen who understand what it means to exercise that right; the Local Authority will need to decide whether or not he or she has sufficient understanding to do so. That is, does he or she understand the nature of the request? If so, then the request for access should be complied with.

If a child or young person under eighteen does not have sufficient understanding to make his or her own request, a person with parental responsibility, can make the request on the child’s behalf. Where a parent applies on behalf of a child, the Local Authority should be satisfied that the child lacks capacity to make a valid application, or has capacity and has authorised the parent to make the application. Where the child does not have capacity, the Local Authority also needs to be satisfied that the request by the parent on the child’s behalf is in that child’s interests.

Where a Local Authority considers that granting access to a parent is likely to result in serious harm to anyone, including the child, the authority will need to decide whether to refuse access on the grounds that the request is not in the child’s interest or that it considers that to do so would result in serious harm. That parent may make an application to the Court or the Data Protection Commissioner.

Some information is exempt from disclosure, which the service user will not be able to see:

  • Records we keep about other people without their agreement, even if they are related to them;
  • Information we have received about the service user from others unless they give their permission;
  • Information which is considered seriously harmful to the service user;
  • Records relating to work where legal proceedings are under way; and
  • Information held for the purposes of the protection or detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders where the service user’s request for the information is likely to prejudice either or both of these purposes.

We can reserve the right to refuse access to records in those rare cases where a person is making very frequent, repeated requests to see their records. This type of decision would need to be considered by both the Chief Officer and Principal Officer concerned.

In any event, the service user’s request for access to personal records must be in writing.

The length of time a service user may have to wait to see their records varies, depending on how many records they have and how complex they are. Service users should normally be provided with a copy of their records within forty days of the request.

For more information visit the Department of Health (GOV.UK) website. There are also some guidance notes which you may find useful ‘Data Protection Act 1998 - Guidance to Social Services’ published in March 2000 available from this website.

It is advisable to keep a copy of exactly what was given to the service user for future reference.

The Complaints and Investigations Manager/staff will:

  • Acknowledge all complaints and requests for access to records;
  • Prepare the acknowledgement for compliments and Member/MP enquires for the Chief Children and Families Officer, Children and Families Service;
  • Send draft response templates to staff for complaint and Member/MP enquiry responses;
  • Provide constructive comments, if needed, to draft responses by e-mail;
  • Provide fortnightly reports detailing all live cases for each Functional Unit’s Team Manager;
  • Provide quarterly Functional Unit reports with a breakdown of complaint, compliment, Member/MP enquiry and request for access to records volumes, performance in relation to agreed/legislated timescales and emerging trends; and
  • Provide quarterly SMT reports with an overview of above and any relevant information, legislation, proposed initiatives and recommendations.

End