First of all, we will do our best to help you access your records and we have been successful many times in helping survivors to do so. We would always recommend that when records are received that you discuss this fully with your counsellor first because you may have expectations that are not going to be met and will have some disappointment over what is contained in your records. In addition we know that it can be a painful experience to read your records. For example, the language used in previous years can feel less respectful than the language that we use today.
We would also recommend that you go through your records, slowly and in parts alongside your counsellor, rather than reading the records by yourself. This is so that you have support to process what you read and that you have a professionally trained person with you should you experience flashbacks or become distressed.
This changes over time:
- Social Workers case notes
- Daily Diary sheets by residential staff
- Case conference minutes
- Annual reviews by foster carers, social workers & residential staff
- School reports
- Pictures (if you’re very lucky)
- Events (birthday cards etc)
- Accident records
- Punishment records
- Saving & pocket money sheet
- Case conference questionnaires
- Child protection Information
- ACPC Information
- Police Reports
- Drawings – things you have done as a child
- Confidentiality Section
- Psychology/Counsellor/Psychiatry reports
- Costing’s (to keep you in a certain home)
- Letters from family/relatives that you may or may not have seen
- Behavioural records
(Cited by Duncalf, Z - source the Care Leavers Association 2009)
Notes on accessing records:
- Each file will vary in its content. Some records have more detail than others, due to different methods of recording information, especially prior to the recent data protection and Children in looked after care legislation.
- There will be cases where no files can be found. This is most likely to be for files before the recent legislation 1998, 2000 but don’t let this stop you trying to access your files as each case is different.
- There will be a formal process for you to follow in order to access your records. This could involve writing to a ‘records officer’ in charge of fulfilling this type of request or you could go into your social work department and fill out a form. Our new Access to records database provides details of the contact person for each social work region and other organisations including the NHS and secure units around Scotland.
- Paying for your file. (Some departments will add a charge ranging from £10 and above. The NHS charge a certain amount per sheet of paper. However, you CAN write and request that these charges are withdrawn.
- Waiting for your files and potential lack of communication about the progress of your request
- Data has potentially been removed from your files
- Demand about how you view your files. However, you have the right to your files without added conditions.
(Source: The Care Leavers Association training session 2009)
The legal bit:
The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000: Key issues
- A duty on local authorities to assess and meet the needs of young people aged 16 and 17 who are in care or care leavers. Wherever the young person lives the duty will rest with the local authorities to keep in touch with care leavers until they are at least 21.
- Every eligible young person in care should receive a comprehensive pathway plan when they turn 16. This plan should map out a clear route to independence.
- Each young person should have a young person’s advisor who will coordinate the provision of support and assistance to meet the needs of the young person. Particular emphasis will be place on helping the young person into education, training or employment.
- A financial regime for care leavers to end the confusing present system and ensure they have comprehensive financial support.
- Continuing assistance for care leavers aged 18-21, especially with education and employment. Assistance with education or training continues to the end of the agreed programme, even if it takes someone past the age of 21.
(cited from the Every Child Matters website http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/childrenincare/leavingcare)
Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA)
“Few of us depend upon official records for our identity or history. We may throw away old papers about ourselves but that is our choice. Unlike children who have been in public care we do not depend on the often fragmented and formal records of others. Yet, for many adults, such information can be critical in fully understanding the past. What records contain information can be critical in fully understanding the past. What records contain or can be found can be vital. Sadly, previous retention requirements have not always recognised this aspect” (ADSS, 2000:1) Main points of the Act:
- To protect the rights of individuals to privacy
- To ensure that individuals have access to information held about them and can correct it.
- A person has a right to access their personal records within 40 calendar days.
- A person does not have the right to information recorded about a third party. Therefore, any information about a sibling cannot be accessed in this way, Permission to view this information can be granted via consent given by the third party.
(Cited from Goddard, J; Feast, J; Kirton, D 2005. Source: The Care leavers Association Training Session 2009)