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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Fourth family wrongly passed confidential child details by Cumbria council staff

A fourth family has been passed confidential documents about a child who was nothing to do with them.

A social worker from Cumbria County Council’s under-fire Children’s Services department is said to have handed a woman a file containing private information about a child in a separate welfare case.

The woman’s father, who is from Carlisle, claims the papers included details from a family support meeting about a young girl.

The file contained highly-confidential information including the girl’s full name, and address, he added.

The man decided to come forward after the News & Star revealed how another couple were sent confidential minutes from a child welfare meeting regarding a boy who was nothing to do with them.

They described the incident, which happened about 18 months ago, as a “diabolical mistake” and said they feared details about their child could also end up in the wrong hands.

The News & Star has now revealed four virtually identical blunders involving child protection staff passing on confidential information to the wrong people.

The first mix-up was in May 2012 when a letter was sent out to a man involved with social services – but not about his case.

It contained information about another man and brief details of a child welfare meeting.

Then in September 2012 Stacey Brown was sent some documents by Children’s Services.

As she sat down to read them she realised she had been sent a confidential report containing personal details about another family.

She said the Cumbria County Council report set out in great detail the problems faced by a teenage girl from the city. It also included names of family members, addresses and even a phone number.

Each time Cumbria County Council apologised for the errors and insisted it took confidentiality extremely seriously and had acted to find out what happened.

But the most recent person to contact the News & Star fears that more mistakes are being made by Children’s Services staff which go unreported.

The 63-year-old man is now calling on the authority to be more open about exactly what action has been taken.

He said: “I believe they [Children’s Services] should be looked at fully as to what’s going wrong and how often this is happening.

“These reports may only be the tip of the iceberg and there may be a lot more concerned families out there wondering what will happen if I kick up a fuss?

“If your child is in care you’re in a very bad position anyhow – you’re at your lowest and may not feel able to complain.”

Details of the two most recent errors come after the county’s Children’s Services department was ordered to improve.

Ofsted inspectors rated the service “inadequate” in a report last June which revealed how children were being left at risk.

Officials insist improvements are now filtering through and progress is being made.

John Macilwraith, acting corporate director for Children’s Services at the county council, said: “We take appropriate internal action to deal with any incidents where the confidentiality of the children, young people and families we work with is compromised.

“Over the past 12 months the council has introduced mandatory data protection and information security training for staff, and the issue is treated as a priority.

“While we can’t comment on individual cases, any complaints we receive regarding an alleged breach of confidentiality are investigated and dealt with through the official channels.”

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