Policy on Service User Recording of Meetings with the LA

Advocacy Fund made this Freedom of Information request to Bradford City Council

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Dear Bradford City Council,

What is the Local Authorities Policy & Practice on recording of
meetings with the LA by service users especially in social services
matters under the children act 1989 (IE Recordings by parents or
children or those that might act for or assist them) ie in any form
of recording including where there are legal proceedings as
follows:

A. What is the official policy and actual practice regarding
parents who wish to or who do audio or video or photographic record
meetings either with or without (ie covertly) the LA's knowledge:

1. In Parents/Children's Homes
2. In socials services premises
3. In LA Third Party contractors premises such as contact centres.
4. Does the LA have any contracts that allow or forbid such
recordings with or without (ie covertely) the knowledge:.
5. Does the LA engage with third parties that provide service that
allow or forbid with or without (ie covertely) the knowledge:

And

B. What is the LA's policy and practice regarding such recordings
by service users.

1. Does it forbid or discourage such and how
2. Allow and encourage such and how
3. How does it inform on such policies as in 1 or 2 above prior to
or during a meeting and how
4. If it is realised that such recording is or has taken place what
is the LA's policy and practice regarding its response.
5. Does the LA have any sanctions policy or framework either under
contract as in A 4. above or otherwise where such recordings have
taken place by service users:
5. Does the LA LA engage with third parties that provide services
especially such as contact centers for children as in A. 5. above
have any sanctions policy or framework where such recordings have
taken place by service users:

Notes:

i) For the purpose of this FOI Request: Recording means any Audio,
Video or Photographic Recording on any device, the LA may of course
specify regarding reference to specific types where there are
differences in policy and practice to these types.

ii) The thrust of this FOI request is aimed at matters involving
Children's Services and Parents/Children under the children act
1989. However the LA response can include covering all policies &
practices of the LA if those also include matters involving
Children's Services and Parents/Children.

iii) This FOI request regarding third parties such as contact
centers are regarding those service providers who provide services
to the above service providers are a contracted service to Service
Users under arrangements involving the LA directly such as
supervised contacts under the children act 1989.

Yours faithfully,

Advocacy Fund

Pranav Patel, Bradford City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir/Madam,
 
Your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act is
attached.
 
 
 

Best regards

 

 

 

Pranav

 

 

Pranav Patel

Customer Care & Complaints Officer - Customer Care & Complaints Unit –

Business Support – Children’s Services

 

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council - 4th Floor, Olicana House,
Bradford, BD1 5RE

 

T     01274 432987       F     01274 437119
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Dear Pranav Patel,

You say

"We are in the process of developing a policy in regards to this."

The issue has been raised with us by a number of service users from across the UK but none at this time from your area.

We are doing this as a FOI survey of all Local Authorities

This and all responses are available on:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/advoc...

We will be compiling a full report which will go to regulators and others for their input before publishing.

To give you a snapshot the majority of LA's do not have policies, very few have what appear to be good practices and others have practices that do not conform to law including some practices that are contrary to and would breach criminal law if acted upon, which
we are aware that in some cases they are the legal framework in this area is not understood/addressed at all by it would seem the overwhelming majority of LA's.

It is heartening that you are developing a policy and we hope our work can assist as:

Some LA's without knowing it within their responses are admitting to what are criminal offenses, others from service user reports we know they are being committed and it is this that prompted this FOI survey.

The report will include the legal framework and policy and practice recommendations to enable LA's to form good policy and practice based upon the ICO guidance, DPA, RIPA and with reference to the Criminal Law so these issues are clear and LA's and service users
have a clear framework.

We hope to assist both LA's and service users not only with this FOI survey but with a series of others and look forward to working with LA's to that end.

We would be interested to know if you were considering forming policy before this FOI or as a result of such.

Yours sincerely,

Advocacy Fund

Pranav Patel, Bradford City Council

Hi

It has been on the agenda for quite a while - however your FOI request has probably added impetus in getting it done quicker.
Any input from yourselves would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards


Pranav

Pranav Patel

Customer Care & Complaints Officer - Customer Care & Complaints Unit -

Business Support - Children's Services

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council - 4th Floor, Olicana House, Bradford, BD1 5RE

T 01274 432987 F 01274 437119
E [email address]
W www.bradford.gov.uk

The information in this email and any attachments is confidential. It is intended solely for the attention of the named addressee(s).
If you are not the intended recipient you are not authorised to, and must not copy, distribute, use or retain this message or any part of it.

show quoted sections

Dear Pranav Patel,

Put simply recording by an individual is not restricted at all, either openly or covertly provided it is a conversation they are involved with, which includes any meeting or telephone conversation, they do not need to inform others or seek their permission.

In terms of the Data Protection Act 1998

36 Domestic purposes.

Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III.

As meetings would be for matters involving themselves or their family they are entirely exempt.

There is similar regarding The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c.23) (RIP or RIPA)

As a person is not acting for an organisation it does not apply to them.

There are only two exceptions:

1. MOD Premises no recording allowed
2. A Court of Law where permission has not been given.

Put simply a private person can record at will and this would include at any meeting and contact centres, taking pictures, video etc there are not in law what would be known as bugging and no one can forbid them as some LA's are doing.

In fact to forbid or sanction could be an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as amended

Section 1 (1A)& 2

http://www.neiladdison.pwp.blueyonder.co...

(1A) A person must not pursue a course of conduct -
(a) which involves harassment of two or more persons, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know involves harassment of those persons, and
(c) by which he intends to persuade any person (whether or not one of those mentioned above)-
(i) not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or
(ii) to do something that he is not under any obligation to do

(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to or involves harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to or involved harassment of the other

Some local authorities have policies that breach criminal law (see below at end of this communication) and the the quote from below "Service users should understand that Judges are highly unlikely to accept covert recordings as evidence in court." is clearly wrong and there are many cases of judges ruling the opposite, though the normal protocol would be that a recording is transcribed and if there is dispute a copy of the recording provided.

Service users would not have to provide a copy as it would be their own copywrited material, they can charge for a copy and use by others as well, though obviously there would be restrictions in law as to its use, ie publication etc.

Here is a recent rather dramatic example of a service users vital use of recording

http://archive.voice-online.co.uk/conten...

We would like to work with you on developing a fit for purpose policy, at least in regard to service users if not also for staff doing such, so staff and SW/other staff can be properly informed.

We think that it could be considered good policy to:

A. Inform Users they can and the framework of law and rights etc
B. LA's to consider a framework for they own recording and service user access to those

As these could provide not only protection to service users, in disputes about what was said or was out in a report or as in the above link regarding Hackney, protection from serious false hoods, but also protection for LA staff and the Local Authority it's self from either or both of unscrupulous services users or staff and aid dealing with complaints, an insurance policy and training and review aid.

Perhaps we could work with you to help develop the model that the rest of the country follows?

Yours sincerely,

Advocacy Fund

Here is the SBC response from which the quote above was taken

From Robert Malliff
Southend on Sea Borough Council

12 October 2011

Dear

I am writing in response to your Freedom of Information Request relating to recording of meetings with the LA by service users.

Freedom of Information Request (Ref 00309)

I have been advised of the following answers to your questions:

What is the Local Authorities Policy & Practice on recording of meetings with the LA by service users especially in social services matters under
the Children Act 1989 (i.e. recordings by parents or children or those that might act for or assist them) in any form of recording including where there are legal proceedings as follows:

A. What is the official policy and actual practice regarding parents who wish to or who do audio or video or photographic record meetings either with or without (i.e. covertly) the LA's knowledge:

The policy on this matter is currently in draft form and is summarised here. As a principle, professionals have the right to decide what records are made of them when going about their professional duties and would need to consent to be recorded. In addition, meetings about the welfare of named children are confidential and information is shared under a requirement of confidentiality. Creating audio or video recordings of
meetings is not consistent with maintaining confidentiality, given the ease with which recordings can be disseminated on the internet and by mobile phones. A record is provided, by way of written minutes or notes, of meetings where decisions are made and these are subject to alteration/comment by all attendees. Photographs and recordings of
children for whom the local authority has parental responsibility are only permitted with the LA’s consent. In terms of practice our position is as
follows:

1. In Parents/Children's Homes and 2. In social services premises:

People attending meetings at foster carers homes, at parents/children’s homes and on Southend Borough Council premises must comply with SBC conditions of attendance at such meetings e.g. no abusive behaviour, not attending under the influence of alcohol and furthermore to refrain from recording (other than written notes) of meetings or conversations. The
taking of photographs, videos or other recordings at the SBC contact centre in Southend will only be allowed with a consent form signed by the parent / carer / social worker with parental care responsibility. Where
there is clear written agreement, staff will need to be involved to ensure that no child from another contact family is included in the photograph, video or recording albeit inadvertently.

3. In LA Third Party contractors premises such as contact centres:

No such premises in Southend. Contact centre is SBC premises.

4. Does the LA have any contracts that allow or forbid such recordings with or without (i.e. covertly) the knowledge?

All contracts made by the local authority follow the principles of the professionals right to decide whether a recording is made of them, and the principle that meetings about the welfare of named children are
confidential and information is shared under a requirement of confidentiality which is not consistent with the making of audio or video recordings of meetings.

5. Does the LA engage with third parties that provide services that allow or forbid with or without (i.e. covertly) the knowledge?

The LA works with many statutory and non statutory agencies who have their own policies and procedures. All agencies are bound by the Data Protection Act which regulates how data about living, identifiable,
individuals is processed and stored.

And

B. What is the LA's policy and practice regarding such recordings by service users?

1. Does it forbid or discourage such and how?

Service users are not allowed to make audio or video recordings of conversations or meetings with SBC staff without consent of all those involved. The contact centre in Southend has written terms and conditions
for parents attending the contact centre (which they must sign prior to contact taking place), which contains the following relevant paragraphs:

22. The taking of photographs, videos or other recordings at the contact centre in Southend will only be allowed by having a consent form signed by the parent / carer / social worker with parental care
responsibility. Where there is clear written agreement, staff will need to be involved to ensure that no child from another contact family is
included in the photograph, video or recording albeit inadvertently.

30. Parents and visitors should not share information about other families using the centre with third parties unless they consider a child
or children to be in danger in which case they should inform the centre Practice Manager or a staff member immediately.

At all CP conferences the chair reads out a confidentiality statement as
follows:

All information given at this Conference is confidential to the agencies invited to attend and should not be shared with others without the prior
permission of all agencies invited, unless there are court proceedings in respect of any child, when the minutes may be disclosed to an officer appointed by the Court.

A request to taking an audio or video recording of a CP conference would be refused on the grounds of confidentiality in line with this.

2. Does it allow and encourage such and how?

Photographs or recordings of children on SBC premises, including foster homes, are permitted if all those with parental responsibility agree, including the Local Authority if the LA has parental responsibility. For
example, photographs may be taken at contact sessions in these circumstances. The local authority records some meetings with people applying to be adoptive parents, with their consent, in order to assist
with the assessment process.

3. How does it inform on such policies as in 1 or 2 above prior to or
during a meeting and how?

Please see 1 above. In addition if a service user asked to record a meeting the need for confidentiality would be explained to them as the reason for refusal.

4. If it is realised that such recording is or has taken place what is the LA's policy and practice regarding its response?

If service users refuse to delete audio or video recordings made without consent this would affect the way the department worked with them. For example, if the unauthorised recording occurred in a contact centre then contact arrangements might be changed in order to protect the rights of children and adults to have their contact session or meeting remain confidential. Should SBC become aware of any audio or video footage which,
in our view, had been recorded without consent, misused or posted inappropriately we would take all necessary steps including application for court orders if necessary in order to remove or delete the footage.
If a covert recording was presented to management as evidence of an employee’s behaviour as grounds for a complaint it would be taken into account in the investigation of such a complaint. However the lack of context for such a recording would likely to render it unhelpful for the investigative process. Service users should understand that Judges are highly unlikely to accept covert recordings as evidence in court.

5. Does the LA have any sanctions policy or framework either under contract as in A 4. (above) or otherwise where such recordings have taken place by service users?

The contact centre in Southend has a written terms and conditions for parents attending the contact centre, which contains the following relevant paragraphs:

35. Failure to comply … may lead to immediate suspension of attendance at the centre.

5. Does the LA engage with third parties that provide services especially such as contact centres for children as in A. 5. (above) have any sanctions policy or framework where such recordings have taken place by service users?

For solicitors acting for service users it would be considered professional misconduct to record conversations or meetings without permission. The contact centre in Southend is run in house i.e. by
Southend Borough Council.

Dear Pranav Patel,

If you contact AF via the email form we can get back to you via email

http://www.advocacy-fund.org/home/index....

Yours sincerely,

Advocacy Fund

Dear Pranav Patel,

Another example from another LA response.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/po...

Indicates that Gateshead Borough Council would/may consider criminal prosecution/compensation as appropriate for what is a lawful act, such a threat would not only be a serious miss quote of law but also quite threatening to any service user and would cause alarm fear and distress.

If there is a breach of section 55 the person found to have breached section 55, can face criminal prosecution(the penalties have recently been increased to now include the possibility of imprisonment as a sentence), and/or a claim for compensation for damage and distress caused.

However section 55 relates to powers of the Commissioner over a DPA regulated body not an individual so the quote of this section is entirely misconceived.

Yours sincerely,

Advocacy Fund

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