Almost 300 people asked to see the personal records Sheffield Council holds on them last year

Hundreds of people have asked to see their personal records held by Sheffield Council - but the authority is taking too long to respond.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 4:41 pm

Last year, 294 people asked to see all their information and data held by Sheffield Council, known as a subject access requests (SAR).

The requests have to be answered within a legal time limit but the council has not managed to hit the target. A couple of years ago, it was answering barely half within time.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has spoken to the council eight times about SARs.

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Three were about personal data disclosed incorrectly, but were closed with no action. Five related to late responses, of which four were upheld.

Mark Gannon, director of business change and information solutions at the council, said: “The council has set the target that 85 per cent of SARS should be answered in time.

“The council has not yet managed to reach this target and in 2013 logged the handling of SARs as a risk and reported to the executive management team because it breaches the law. It also impacts the customer and can result in the ICO intervention.

“In 2018/19, the council handled 294 subject access requests and answered 74 per cent in time.

“This is a significant achievement because in 2017/18, the figures were 196 requests and only 49 per cent were answered in time - the lowest performance since records started three years earlier.

“This meant 2018/19 started having to handle the outstanding requests as well as the new requests which had increased in number by 33 per cent.”

Mr Gannon said the biggest increase of requests was for historic social care children’s information.

“These are often complex and time consuming because the information can span many years and include very sensitive material about the subject and third parties that needs to be read and redacted before disclosure.

“In June 2018, the Information Commissioner’s Office contacted the council because they had had a couple of complaints about the council’s handling of their requests.”

The ICO now says it’s satisfied with the council’s progress. Processes have been updated, services work better together, more resources have been put in and staff are more confident.