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to making
a Subject Access

Written by

Michele Simmons

Preparing and submitting your
subject access request

Children and families have the right to access and receive copies of their
personal data and other additional information. This is called a Subject
Access Request (SAR).
You can make SARs verbally, in writing and through social media and a
third party can also make a SAR on behalf of someone else.
When children and families go through child protection processes they
are often interviewed and assessed by different government bodies such
as councils, hospitals and the police.
Information can be held on several different databases, some of which is
connected across government departments. For example, information
about a child’s adoption can be held by the court, the council involved
with the adoption, CAFCASS and the register office which holds
information about births, deaths and marriages.
Getting these records allows you to see whether the information held is
being used lawfully and whether it is accurate. It also gives you the
opportunity to challenge and correct any errors. This can sometimes be
done by providing evidence that the information is wrong.
For children and families going through care proceedings these records
are very important. Your personal data can reveal wrongdoing, law
breaking, and serious procedural errors. This information can help
family court judges get a clearer picture of what has happened in your
case and prevent a miscarriage of justice or an unfair decision in court.
Examples of organisations and places which you can ask for your
personal data include not just councils, hospitals and the police but also
mental health services, medical services, paediatricians, lawyers and any
businesses which hold data on you or your child.
These records can be accessed directly through the relevant government
departments, NHS or other organisations. Additionally your personal
data can be accessed through the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Tips for making a successful SAR

1. It is best to make a request for data in writing and ask for your
request to be acknowledged once it has been received. You can do this by
letter, signed for/recorded at the post office. This is proof that you sent
the request and also provides you with your own unique reference
number to check your letter’s journey through the post office’s track and
trace system.
2. If you prefer to make your request verbally, record the call. It is polite
to let the operator know you are recording the conversation but it is not
3. If you are asking for data within a specific time period, it is good to
choose a timescale that begins a little before the start date you need. You
do not have to tell the data controller why you want your personal data.
4. Children in England and Wales can access their data as long as they
are considered competent to do so. Competence is assessed by
considering the level of understanding of the child, rather than their age.
A parent can make a request on behalf of their child if the child
authorises the request or if it is clear that it is in the child’s best interests.
5. If you no longer have parental responsibility for your child you can
still make a SAR on their behalf as long as you have a signed and dated
letter from your child giving you consent to make the request.
6. If you didn’t receive all of your data after making the request, or you
feel the body or organisation did not follow procedure properly by failing
to give you personal data you are legally entitled to or did not understand
your request properly, you can ask the data controller whether they are
satisfied you have been sent all of your data.
7. Identify any missing data in your response and then use the items in
the Principles checklist (which refers to fairness and transparency) to
explain why you feel the missing data is a violation of the principles or
cause for concern in your reply.

8. There is usually no fee for accessing your personal information but

some services will charge you for collecting your information. For

example, requesting your natural or birth child's newer birth certificate
(you should ask for the full A4 version) from the register office carries a
9. When gathering information about adoption proceedings and
applying for your natural or birth child's newer birth certificate paying
for the priority service is recommended. It is also helpful to request data
relating to the adoption, including any complaints which may have been
raised during care proceedings. Such requests should be made to the
customer relations department of the relevant council and the family
court which heard the case, and can include requests for copies of court
judgments, the latest care order, the notice of intention to adopt and any
adoption order.
10. If you are looking for information about a social worker you can
check to see if they are registered and up to date with their training on
Social Work England’s register. If you are requesting personal
records from a council, and you discover a document has been destroyed,
you can ask in writing to see which social worker or social work manager
authorised the destruction of removal of the document or documents.
11. Keep your records in a folder if you can, and organise the responses
by the date your received them. You can then sort the documents you
receive in any order that works best for you.

List of documents you can ask for
where the data is available or exists

• Child contact notes

• Running sheets
• Correspondence (emails/letters/telephone records) to and from the
body or organisation
• Summaries or chronologies of events
• Specific phone call transcripts
• CCTV footage
• Newsletters
• Information relating to you about your pregnancy while you still has
parental responsibility
• X-rays
• Paramedics notes
• Hand written notes
• Paper files or records
• Electronic or computer files/records (these may incur a charge but you
must be told first)

Helpful guides by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

about how to make a Subject Access Request:

Preparing and submitting your subject access request

Children’s rights and accessing their data

Your rights of access to your data


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