Incorrect or False Information
Incorrect or false information
A foster carer’s guide to incorrect or false information, and what to do when it appears on reports, reviews, supervision notes, in allegations, medical reports and their right to have it rectified.
1. Introduction to a foster carer’s guide to incorrect or false information
Foster carers regularly find information written and recorded about them that is not correct or is false. You have a right to have this misinformation or false information rectified.
2. What is misinformation and why is it a concern
False or misinformation is when something is written about you that is not true. It may be on a household review, it may be on a report during an allegation, medical records or supervision notes and more.
Our information is stored for many years and can be used for all sorts of things like our annual reviews, approval status, and you can find it dug up when an allegation or standard of care complaint is made against you. Misinformation is also unhelpful when you wish to transfer agencies, adopt a child or apply for an SGO (Special Guardianship Order).
It is therefore important that you exercise your right to rectification, and your right to access your own data to ensure all information kept in you is correct and true. Interpretation and opinions This is a difficult subject as often it will be claimed that false or misinformation is an ‘interpretation’ or an ‘opinion’ based statement. However, you have the right to have this rectified, they must either state in the record or report that it is an opinion based statement and not based on fact, or you can exercise your right to rectification.
3. What can you do about it?
It is your right, in law, to have false or inaccurate information rectified and there are two laws that can be implemented.
- Article 16, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is your right to rectification.
- Subject Access Request (SAR) which is your right to your data.
You can do these yourself with no need for lawyers or support, however, we would recommend you have the backing of the foster carer’s union, the NUPFC, or a support organisation (if they were willing to support you in this) even if it is just to copy them into emails. As foster carers, we are vulnerable workers and when isolated can find very little accountability shown towards us, so having a backup holds providers more accountable.
4. Your right to rectification
It is your right to have false or inaccurate information rectified. The law is Article 16 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This is what the law says:
- The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller without undue delay the rectification of inaccurate personal data concerning him or her.
- Taking into account the purposes of the processing, the data subject shall have the right to have incomplete personal data completed, including by means of providing a supplementary statement.
This law instructs organisations that individuals have the right to have personal data rectified and that they must rectify personal data if it is inaccurate or incomplete.
The law goes on to say:
What the law says about when they should rectify personal data:
If personal data is identified as inaccurate as a matter of fact, or incomplete, you must seek to amend this by rectifying or completing the data. If you are unable to correct it, you could provide a supplementary statement to rectify personal data which is inaccurate if appropriate. In circumstances such as policing, you can keep accurate records of allegations made, even if the allegations are unfounded.
What do fostering services need to do to comply?
You can make a request for rectification verbally or in writing (although we would advise in writing). The fostering services should record details of all these requests, including by
telephone or in-person. They should check with you that they have understood your request as this can help avoid later disputes.
They have the right to request information about your identity. However, this needs to be reasonable and proportionate, considering the nature of the personal data they hold on you, and of course, as a foster carer that is a considerable amount, they should know who you are. If they have disclosed inaccurate or false information to a third party (ie a panel) they must inform them of the rectification, and the 3rd party must also rectify the information they hold on you.
They must also establish where the inaccurate personal data originated from.
What happens if they refuse the rectification?
If they refuse your request for rectification, they must inform you in writing, informing you of your right to raise a complaint with the Information Commissioner or take matters to court.
How long do they have to comply?
They must respond to the request without delay and at the latest within one calendar month, from the first day after the request was received.
5. Subject Access Request (SAR) What is the right of access?
You have the right to ask an organisation whether or not they are using or storing your personal information. You can also ask them for copies of your personal information, verbally or in writing. This is called the right of access and is commonly known as making a Subject Access Request or SAR. You can make a Subject Access Request to find out what personal information an organisation holds about you, how they are using it, who they are sharing it with and where they got your data from.
What should your request say?
There is a Subject Access Request template in the member area that you can use.
Your SAR should include your name (it can’t be two people), date, contact details and a list of what personal data you want to access, based on what you need, dates for a time frame or specific dates and how you would like to receive the information (ie by email/printed out/by hand etc).
You should send your request directly to the individual or team who deal with subject access requests, such as the organisation’s data protection officer. This person’s contact details and information should be available to you on the organisation’s website, or by phoning.
How long does an organisation have to respond?
An organisation normally has to respond to your request within one month. If you have made a number of requests or your request is complex, they may need extra time to consider your request and they can take up to an extra two months to respond. If they are going to do this, they should let you know within one month that they need more time and why.
For more on this, see the ICO’s detailed guidance on time limits.
Can they charge a fee?
The answer here is no they shouldn’t in most circumstances, although they can do. However good practice is to give you a copy of your personal information free of charge. However, an organisation can charge a reasonable fee to cover their administrative costs – if they think your request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive”. They can also charge a fee if you ask for further copies of your information following a request. If an organisation are going to charge a fee, the one-month time limit does not begin until they have received the fee.
What should you get? Will you always receive everything you asked for?
What you have a right to is any information held about you. As you can imagine with fostering they will redact any 3rd party information such as children, birth families etc.
What can you do if they don’t comply?
If they don’t comply with their legal obligations to supply you with your data and within the legal timelines, you must first complain to the organisation itself, as if you go straight to the ICO without doing this first they will just send you back and ask you to do this.
Make sure it’s in writing so you can evidence that you have already approached the organisation. If you think personal information is missing from their response, you should clearly list what other information you think they also hold. This will help them review their records.
How to make a complaint
Step one – make a complaint to the organisation
Make a complaint to the fostering provider or organisation you have requested the SAR from.
There is a template letter/email in the members’ area of FosterWiki called the ‘SAR complaint template’ Step two – report your concerns to the ICO
If the ICO think the organisation has not responded to your request as it should have done, they will give the organisation advice and ask them to solve the problem. You should raise your concerns with the ICO within three months of your last meaningful contact with the organisation. Send them copies of all the key documents you have to support your complaint, which you have kept as evidence.
6. Top Tips and things to be mindful of
- Your own recordings are so important
This is a theme running throughout our ‘Top Tips’ in all areas, it is crucial that you keep your own records, they don’t have to be long, rather concise and to the point. Check out the short course ‘Your role as a professional’ or ‘Top Tips’ for allegations and the short allegations courses and help pages for advice on reporting and recording. Having written records, reports and evidence is key to safeguarding your role as a professional.
- Rectify as soon as you see things that are wrong
This is not always easy as sometimes you are not aware of what has been written about you until it crops up later.
However, you should definitely have (and it is your legal right) copies of reviews, independent social worker reports, and supervision notes, and if you are unsure of what else is being written about you then send a SAR to obtain all your information. Take the time to check everything they write about you, sometimes it makes for hard reading and it’s time-consuming, but you want your data to be accurate then this is good practice.
- Interpretation or opinion
This is a difficult subject as often it will be claimed that false or misinformation is an ‘interpretation’ or an ‘opinion’ based statement. If they are determined to leave these things in reports then they must amend them to say that they are opinions or ‘interpretations’ and not present them as facts. Treat this information very much like false and misinformation if they refuse to change or amend you have the right to rectification any opinion that is being presented as fact and is
This is one of the most frequent complaints from carers when submitting SAR’s or Right to Rectification, fostering providers take months longer than their 1-month deadline, or even the
extended 3-month deadline to respond. Make sure you follow up your application either after a couple of days with another email or phone call if they have not acknowledged receipt of the application so they can not say they did not receive it. If they are going over timescales you can complain, follow the protocol in the section above on “How to make a complaint”.
- Join the union (NUPFC)
Since June 2021 there is a government-approved and certified official trade union solely for foster carers. It is our own legal body and as such we urge you to take advantage of the official protection it offers. The NUPFC takes the protection of your data very seriously and also your right to rectification. Sometimes it pays to have the backing of your own union, even if they are just copied into emails, so you are not “going it alone” and the organisation is accountable to an outside body. Remember with the NUPFC, just like any other sector’s trade union or other support organisation, you need to be a member before an allegation or issue arises.
7. What foster carers say
Louise Allen, the best selling author, formerly looked after child, foster carer.
and some of it to this day is still on record…shocking”
8. Information, Help and Support
Help and support created for foster carers, by foster carers, we are the experts by experience. We have the first foster carers knowledge bank.
Please find our help and support page here.
Access both the open pages and members area. Both are free to access and footprint-free. The member’s area gives you privileged confidential access to FosterWiki’s experts by experience for advice and guidance. You will also find short courses and guides from the foster carer’s perspective, top tips, allegation help, templates, and the ability to add to FosterWiki. With more content being uploaded regularly.
Please let us know what information or advice pages you would find useful and we will put them in place. https://fosterwiki.com/register/