As the UK’s social housing sector recovers from the initial Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, now is the time to focus on the challenges that may emerge next.
Data protection means safeguarding important information from corruption, compromise or loss. As the amount of data we create and store continues to grow, it’s becoming more important to have the right systems and processes in place.
Data protection for the social housing sector
You will hold many types of personal information about staff, tenants and third parties with whom you engage. Ensuring that you and your staff understand your duties and obligations as guardians of this data is an essential part of any successful social housing setting.
The Data Protection Act 1998 has been superseded by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018, which took effect in May 2018. This new regime has revolutionised data protection law and information rights, acting as a catalyst for a new culture of privacy that you must embed within your organisation through effective policies and procedures.
Data protection and information sharing
Our team’s understanding of how the new regime impacts the housing sector allows us to work closely with social housing providers, local authorities and other organisations working in the sector to help them to manage their data protection compliance programmes. We can guide you on data protection and how to handle and share information to ensure compliance with the new regime.
The GDPR states that you must make sure the information you hold is:
- used fairly, lawfully and transparently
- used for specified, explicit purposes
- used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary
- accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
- kept for no longer than is necessary
- handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage
There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as:
- political opinions
- religious beliefs
- trade union membership
- biometrics (where used for identification)
- sex life or orientation
There are additional safeguards for personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences.
Under the new regime, everyone has the right to find out what information you hold about them. These include the right to:
- know how you use their data
- access personal data
- have incorrect data updated
- have data erased
- stop or restrict the processing of their data
- data portability
- object to how their data is processed in certain circumstances
Data protection advice for the social housing sector
Our team of experts can help to guide you through this regulatory maze, advising you on the best approach for capturing, handling and sharing information within your organisation so you don’t fall short of your obligations. We can help you identify risks that could result in data breaches, penalties and reputational damage, and put plans in place to mitigate and manage them if they happen.
We advise social housing providers, local authorities and other organisations working in the sector on all areas of data protection and information law compliance, as well as providing guidance on freedom of expression, privacy, reputation and information rights generally. We can help you with the following:
- Drafting and reviewing data protection compliance documentation - including the data protection policy for your organisation. We support our clients in drafting and reviewing contracts, data sharing agreements and compliance documents, such as data protection and retention policies, privacy notices and impact assessments.
- Data breach management - We can provide training, advice and guidance to those who deal with data within their role, to prevent personal data breaches. However, in the event of a breach, our lawyers can assist with and advise on the appropriate course of action to ensure that you not only comply with data protection legislation, but you limit any reputational damage and any punitive action from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
- Responding to data subject access requests - We can advise on managing subject access requests and how to respond to them.
- Training and updates - We offer data protection training to staff (either at your location or our offices), tailored to the needs of your organisation, on data protection, privacy, reputation and information rights issues and developments. To receive invitations to our events, as well as information and articles on legal issues and sector developments that are of interest to you, sign up to Newsroom.
For more information
Please contact Peter Coe.
Provisions within the Housing and Planning Act that remove the need for housing associations (“HAs”) to obtain consent from the Regulator to dispose of social housing (as well as to merge or enter new group structures) come into force on 6 April.
Such freedoms will allow HAs greater flexibility over how they use their assets and, potentially, how they structure their businesses. Our expert panel gathered to discuss the possible opportunities the deregulatory measures offer, together with the likely hurdles. Read the outcome of their discussion here.
Data protection consultant in the Data Protection & Information Law team.
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