Civil servant warns social services about too much caution on data protection

Over cautious interpretation of the Data Protection Act 1998 by
social services departments is preventing information from being
shared with other agencies, a senior civil servant has said,
writes Derren Hayes.

Paul Boyle, head of the information rights division (responsible
for the DPA, data sharing and freedom of information policy) at the
Department for Constitutional Affairs, said misconceptions about
the onerous nature of the act led many social care professionals to
think it prohibits them from passing on certain information on

However, he told delegates at a conference that the act allowed
data sharing as long as actions were carried out in the public
interest, and that decisions had taken human rights and common law
legislation into account.

“There is a whole mass of issues around data sharing –
including organisational and cultural barriers – and professionals
try and put it down to one thing, the DPA.

“Anything to do with personal data will tend to be referred to
lawyers and understandably they will err on the side of
caution,” he said.

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