Report finds that data on both foster children and carers is routinely emailed between agencies and local authorities with no security safeguards in place.
By Chereece Mark
According to the findings from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), fostering and voluntary adoption agencies do not always protect sensitive and personal information with computer encryption.
Fostering and adoption agencies email important and sensitive information to local authorities to arrange foster care placements. This highlights a set of challenges as the information must be shared quickly and easily, but must also be done responsibly.
The ICO visited ten independent agencies and identified common problems, issues and themes in relation to the processing of persona data in the fostering and adoption sector.
The ICO reported that: “Local authorities are often reluctant to accept encrypted information via email as their IT security systems block the messages and it can be time consuming and difficult to liaise with their IT team to unblock them.”
In addition the report stated, “Foster agencies often sent this information without encryption because they feel, that if they do not provide a quick means for local authorities to access their foster carer’s information, a local authority will just use another fostering agency.”
The report also highlights that the majority of agencies do not encrypt mobile devices, laptops and USB sticks, therefore sensitive and personal information is being processed and stored.
The need to safeguard and protect personal information is important and could be potentially damaging to foster carers if information is accessed.
Chereece Mark is a third year law student at the University of Kent and has an interest in family law.