Headlines: April 4th, 2003

The Government has begun seeking people’s views on a new charter which would set out what people can expect from public bodies handling personal information and what safeguards should be in place for dealing with such data in the public sector. It is to run a series of consultations to test attitudes on safeguards and standards of service.The Lord Chancellor’s Department says that to deliver improved services the public sector needs to ensure it is making effective use of personal information but that the public is also entitled to proper reassurance that effective safeguards are in place which respect people’s confidentiality and ensure that information is handled fairly and securely.

Alongside the consultations about a proposed charter the Government will also explore what information, assurances and safeguards the public wants in circumstances where public sector organisations want to share personal information to improve public services.

Yvette Cooper, the Minister for Data Sharing, said “People want to see improvements in public services from using information effectively, but  they also want to know that confidentiality is respected. This consultation will ask the public what kind of information and safeguards they want on the way the public sector uses information.”

The consultation paper will seek the views of individuals and organisations on how public bodies should ask for personal information, what a person can do when things go wrong and the documents the public sector will have to produce to ensure good practice in information handling and sharing. The consultation paper is available on the Lord Chancellor’s Department website and the closing date for responses is June 27th.