Answers sought over claims files of former children in care are missing

Norfolk county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Labour Party.

Norfolk county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Labour Party. - Credit: Labour Party

Answers are being sought amid fears that the files of young people who used to be in the care of Norfolk County Council may have gone missing.

At least three care leavers, now in their 20s, recently applied to see their social work files, which they are entitled to do under the Data Protection Act.

But one of the three says she was told only one of the five files are available. She has lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office.

An article on the issue appeared in Private Eye and prompted a question at a recent meeting of Norfolk County Council, from Labour's Mike Smith-Clare, who represents Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown.

Mr Smith-Clare asked Penny Carpenter, the chairman of the children's services committee: 'Following the recent Private Eye article, how many young care leavers who have asked to access their personal files have been informed that they were missing and is the Information Commissioner fully aware of the situation?'

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Mrs Carpenter told him that she did not have that information, but that a written answer would be provided in due course.

A county council spokeswoman said today: 'We are looking into the historic issue raised by Mr Smith-Clare and will respond once we have compiled the information.

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'We place a great importance on the safe handling of children and young people's personal information and now have an electronic management system, to provide secure records.'

Last year, Norfolk County Council was fined £60,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office after children's social work case files were discovered in a cabinet bought from a second hand shop by a member of the public.

The council had disposed of the furniture in an office move in 2014, but failed to ensure the cabinets were emptied.

The case files included information relating to seven children.

In February 2010 social services files were found in a skip outside a council building. An investigation was launched, but no conclusion reached as to how they ended up there.

In May the same year, papers on 25 looked-after children were found to be missing. A search for them proved fruitless.

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