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Suffolk County Council says data breaches of vulnerable children’s personal information see ‘step in the right direction’ despite small increase





Data breaches of vulnerable children’s personal information have seen ‘a step in the right direction’ despite a small increase.

Earlier today, the county council’s audit committee members met to consider an update on the authority’s actions to prevent data breaches, in particular within its Children and Young People’s (CYP) department.

The county council’s progress on prevention had already been called into question in January when councillors called for a faster pace.

Suffolk County Council has said data breaches of vulnerable children’s personal information have seen ‘a step in the right direction’ despite a small increase. Picture: Jason Noble
Suffolk County Council has said data breaches of vulnerable children’s personal information have seen ‘a step in the right direction’ despite a small increase. Picture: Jason Noble

This morning’s report follows data released in July last year showing over half of all information security incidents happened within CYP — this meant out of 588 incidents, 304 were related to the department and, of these, a total of 188 resulted in breaches of personal data.

A year on, the latest published figures show a small increase in these data breaches, with 670 total incidents reported, 335 of which within CYP, and 190 resulting in a data breach.

Despite this, Peter Knight, the council’s head of information governance, said he felt confident in the measures the authority had put in place.

Cllr Bobby Bennett, Conservative cabinet member for equalities and communities at Suffolk County Council, has reiterated her department’s commitment to deal with the issue. Picture: SCC
Cllr Bobby Bennett, Conservative cabinet member for equalities and communities at Suffolk County Council, has reiterated her department’s commitment to deal with the issue. Picture: SCC

He added: “I am reassured that CYP is taking this seriously, I’m not sure I would’ve said that 12 months ago — there was a sense that these things happen, I don’t think they’re in that space anymore.

“I think there is a real sense within the leadership that they want to get their hands on this.”

These measures include, for instance, the implementation of a secure file-sharing solution which gives staff the ability to revoke access to files, as well as the creation of a new dashboard which refreshes data each night and is set to allow for the reporting of incidents.

Cllr Joanna Spicer, audit committee chairperson, congratulated the department’s effort, but called for bolder action to prevent such breaches. Picture: SCC
Cllr Joanna Spicer, audit committee chairperson, congratulated the department’s effort, but called for bolder action to prevent such breaches. Picture: SCC

On top of this, a series of virtual and face-to-face awareness and training sessions have been held by the council.

Speaking about the breaches after the meeting, Cllr Bobby Bennett, the cabinet member for CYP, reiterated her department’s commitment to deal with the issue.

She said: “Any data breach is one too many, we want to make sure that we keep our data as secure as we can and make sure we do that in a way that doesn’t create barriers for the young people, children, and families who need to access it.

“As a local authority, we are taking this very seriously. ”

Councillors were also told that measures had started to bear fruit, with the number of incidents reported at 10 per month since April this year, down from 28 previously — this is despite 1,300 new families being added to the directory in the 12 months leading to May 2024.

Cllr Bennett added: “I’m really keen to see those trends continue because that shows a dramatic decrease in the amount of incidents we are seeing.

“The actions that have been put in place have been acted upon and we are beginning to see the early signs of that having an impact — it’s early days and I want to see that continue, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Cllr Joanna Spicer, the committee’s chairwoman congratulated the department’s effort, but called for bolder action to prevent such breaches.

At her direction, a further report with more up-to-date figures is expected within the next six months to ensure constant monitoring.