I was in care from the age of eighteen months until my care order was discharged at the age of eighteen; during this time I had moved from Oldham to Merseyside and then on to Wiltshire. Oldham maintained case-responsibility for me, although I had an allocated ‘local’ social worker in Merseyside and Wiltshire who undertook day to day duties.
I originally travelled back to Oldham, eighteen years ago, saw my file and obtained a full copy when I was eighteen, though this file was very thin and lacking in a lot of information. I became aware over the years that much of ‘my’ information would be stored in my brothers file and not copied to mine.
This year I obtained a letter from my brother authorising me access to ‘his’ file so that I could gather further information for myself. I wrote a covering letter giving details such as the homes I was in (and dates), social worker names I could remember, and personal details such as address and date of birth.
I delivered these two letters by hand on Tuesday to Oldham Social Services and was told that someone would be in touch in due course. On Thursday of the same week Oldham phoned me up to say that they had the file and when would I like to see it and copy as much as I needed.
I attended the next week and was made very welcome in a small interview room and given a large file and a cup of coffee. As it turns out the photocopying could not be done that day (due to the fact that much of the file was on foolscap size paper) but I marked all of the papers that I wanted and was told that it would be copied when time could be made available.
Two weeks later I received another call to say that my papers were ready for collection and that they were sorry it had taken so long!! I attended Social Services and was given my papers that had been very neatly copied and bound into four files. Staff again apologised for the delay in copying them and suggested I got back in touch if I needed further information from my file.
In reality I could not have asked for a quicker or more efficient service for something that is not often seen as a priority, and would like more local authorities to follow this example and understand the importance of accessing files and the frustration and upset that delays can produce.
A very big thank you to Lisa at Oldham SSD