UK: Children’s case files found in second-hand furniture shop

From the ICO:

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) breached the Data Protection Act by failing to keep sensitive information about the welfare of young people secure in two separate incidents, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

The first incident happened in September last year when nine case files were mistakenly left in a filing cabinet which was removed as part of an office refurbishment. The cabinet was supposed to be destroyed but was instead sold on to a second-hand furniture shop with the files – containing names, dates of birth, social reports and referral decisions relating to children – still inside. The person who bought the cabinet discovered the files and they were returned to the organisation.

Four months later, in January 2011, a second breach occurred when legal papers containing sensitive information about a child’s court hearing were sent to the wrong email address. The documents included details relating to physical abuse and included the identities of the child’s mother and witnesses.

Both breaches were the result of the SCRA’s failure to make sure that the organisation’s existing data protection and IT security guidance were being correctly followed by their staff.

Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland said:

“The fact that sensitive information was mishandled not once but twice by the same organisation is concerning. On both occasions the personal data which was compromised related to young children and was caused by human errors that could easily have been avoided. Luckily, on both occasions, the information was not circulated widely.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration has taken action to make sure that the personal information they handle is kept secure and would urge other organisations, particularly those handling sensitive information relating to young people, to follow suit. We are also working with the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration to raise awareness of their data protection obligations amongst staff through a series of workshops.”

Neil Hunter, Chief Executive of Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration has signed an undertaking to ensure that staff are made aware of the organisation’s policies around the storage and use of personal data, and that sufficient checks are put in place to ensure the policy is followed. During office moves staff will also be made aware of other existing policies and procedures and monitored to check that they are being followed throughout the moving process.

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