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If so, please email your question and if we think it’s suitable and may help others get to their files, we’ll include it.

What is the basic drill on getting access to my file?

First, you need to either write to or visit the head office or the local office of the organisation or local authority you were in care with. You will usually need to provide them with a number of details, a) your name and date of birth, b) the years when you entered and left care, b) the name and, if you’ve got it, address of the place or places you were in care (with dates, if more than one place), d) your ‘home’ address, if you had a family home before you entered care. You should also be able to provide proof of your identity. If they have your file, you may need to get permission from other people – such as parents or siblings – if they are also mentioned in the file. For example, you could ask them to write and sign a brief letter, which states that they give consent for you to access parts of the file in which they are mentioned. However, it will obviously be different in each case.

Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, you now have a right to access material held about you. This is laid out in the Data Protection Act 1998, which care providers have to abide by. You might want to remind the organisation of this. If so, you might find it useful to access the guidance that the Department of Health have provided to local social services departments. There is a copy of this guidance available on the internet, at: www.doh.gov.uk/scg/dat ap.htm. This is a pdf file, so you will need to have downloaded Adobe Acrobat Reader onto your computer to be able to access it. This guide sets out fairly clearly what rights you have and what local authorities should do with the information they hold about you. You might want to copy the relevant information from the document and take it with you when you try to get access to you file.

Do all care leavers have a legal right to see their childhood information?

No. Only care leavers whose files are stored by local authorities have this right, given to them by the Data Protection Act. If you were in the care of the voluntary sector then not all records may be covered by the Data Protection Act. However, the majority of voluntary organisations seem to take on the ethos of the data Protection Act and adhere to it as if it did apply to them. If you do experience any difficulties in retrieving your file, do contact us and we will do all we can to help you.