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Data protection obligations: SLAB and practitioners
Thursday, Jan 21, 2016
This update offers guidance on how to send correspondence, attachments and client files to us.
It has been prepared following a review of our internal practices around data protection and general Information Governance responsibilities.
As a data controller SLAB is fully committed to complying with the Data Protection Act 1998.
We need to obtain and process personal data in order to carry out our statutory functions, including the determination of legal aid applications. We ensure data is held accurately and processed for the purposes for which it was intended.
To help us maintain a high level of data protection for your clients while we are processing their data please follow these guidelines:
- In your correspondence to us - electronic message, email or letter - please limit each item to one LARN or Applicant/Assisted Person. This allows us to attach the correspondence correctly to an application without having to redact the personal data of another Applicant/Assisted Person
Where it is necessary to reference another application/account please only do this using the LARN and without including any other personal data.
- Responses to account abatements should also relate only to one case rather than multiple cases
We will return any item received that contains personal data of multiple Applicants/Assisted Persons and request that this be re-sent in individual items.
Uploading attachments to Legal Aid Online
As you will be aware, your firm is also a data controller within the terms of the Act. This requires you to take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of any personal data which you provide to us.
Over the past few months there have been a number of instances where incorrect information has been submitted to us, including: inaccurate address details, opponent details and unrelated documents being uploaded with an application.
It is important that you carefully check any information which is provided to us with a legal aid application to ensure it is accurate to the best of your knowledge.
Please ensure your staff are made aware of the need to provide accurate information. If we are given incorrect details this may result in a data breach, which could have serious implications for your firm.
Client files requested for accounts assessment
It has also become more common for us to find solicitors re-using paper, which can sometimes include personal-sensitive data of other clients on the reverse, within files requested by SLAB for Accounts Assessment purposes.
As we do not require this data it could be considered a data breach, especially if the client is not legally aided. We understand the reasons for re-using paper in this way but would like to point out the potential data protection issues created for you as a data controller.
We appreciate your co-operation in these areas.
Director of Corporate Services and Accounts
Senior Information Risk Owner
Legal Aid Online
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