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Children's charity says 'lessons learnt' after theft of data

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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The Westcountry charity that runs a children's centre which was at the centre of a data loss furore earlier this year says lessons have been learnt following an internal inquiry into the incident.

Sensitive personal data about vulnerable families who used the specialist children's centre at Victoria House in Barnstaple, run by Action for Children, was stolen in February this year.

The confidential information on 45 families was on a USB computer data stick.

It was lost when a member of staff at the centre had her handbag stolen.

Following the incident a spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office, which has the power to fine organisations up to £500,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act, said it would be investigating the loss.

The ICO eventually concluded no further action should be taken.

At the time a spokesman for Action for Children also said there would be an internal investigation.

And that investigation has finally been completed, with practices at the centre changing as a result.

Tom McCulloch, operational director of children's services at Action for Children, said: "Following the theft Action for Children took swift action to manage the situation, reporting the incident to the police and also offering information and support to families affected.

"We also launched a full and detailed investigation at the time, which has now been completed.

"As a result we have taken steps to strengthen our already robust data protection policy by bringing forward and implementing a number of IT measures, which were already planned, to ensure this never happens again."

He also said the organisation was sorry the loss had occurred.

"Action for Children deeply regrets this incident," he said. "We take any breach of security of data very seriously — our absolute priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the families using our services."

But Mr McCulloch was unable to say how the member of staff responsible for the loss was dealt with. The Western Morning News had been told by one source the member of staff was dismissed almost immediately, but Action for Children refused to confirm or deny that.

"We are unable to provide information on individual members of staff due to confidentiality reasons," said Mr McCulloch.

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