Access to Personal Information

You now have a right to see personal information held on you in Social Work records. This page tells you about your rights and about how the Social Work Department will help you if you want access to personal information.

What Information

Why does the Social Work Department have records?

We need to have some information on people for whom we provide a service. Every effort is made to ensure that records are fair and accurate.

Who can see my record?

In most cases, any worker who is providing a service to you will show you personal information kept on your record.

We are careful to make sure that your records are kept confidential. We may, when necessary, give information to other agencies - to help with housing application for example – but we will insist that they keep your information confidential too.

To Get Access

How do I get access to my records?

To exercise your legal right to access your personal information you should make this request, in writing, to the Chief Social Work Officer. The address is at the bottom of this page.

There may be parts of your record for which we need permission from someone else to show them to you - if information has been supplied by a health worker, or someone else outwith the Social Work Department.

Can you refuse my request?

Yes. In very exceptional cases it might be considered that to show information could be harmful to your interests. Also if a health worker, or someone else on whom personal information is held in your record, turns down your request, you cannot have access to that part of your record.

If you refuse, can I appeal?

Yes. You can complain to the Department in accordance with the Comhairle’s complaints procedure.  You may also have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the national body which oversees the protection of personal information, but if that is the case you will be informed in the letter.

How quickly will you respond?

The law says that we must give you a decision within 40 days of receiving your request.

In practice, we would try to respond to your request much more quickly than that but it may take a little time if we need other people's permission.

When I Get Access

What if the record is not accurate?

If we agree with your view that the record is incorrect, we must correct it at once and show you the new record.

If we don't agree with you, you are still entitled to give a written account of your view and this will be placed in the record.

Will I understand the record?

Everyone who works in the Department is encouraged to keep records in a way that makes them-easy to understand. We will always offer you help to understand fully any information about you.

Will I see it all?

If we have had the consent we need from people outwith the Department, you will see it all.

We have no legal obligation to show records gathered before April 1989. In practice, however, we will need to have good reason to refuse your access to these records as well.


The Council cannot keep all its records forever. Any organisation that kept everything would soon have so much paper it would become very inefficient.

We are in the process of agreeing retention periods for each type of records we hold and will consider:-

  • If there is any legislation that says we have to keep records for a certain length of time
  • If there is any guidance from professional organisations
  • What records staff need to use in their work
  • How much room we have to store records

Once retention periods have been agreed, they will be added to this site. This will help to explain why in some cases, if you make a request under the Data Protection Act 1998, some information may not be available.

( File Retention Policy (53.3kB))

Further Information

For further information and advice, please contact your local office as shown on the Contact Us page.