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STUC 2008



Tackle system to keep personal details safe - don't scapegoat staff

by Kate Ramsden

John Stevenson
John Stevenson

he STUC will call for more resources and a moratorium on job cuts in the public sector until better security is put in place to protect personal information, after a motion from Dundee Trades Council and the PCS union, backed by UNISON Scotland.

The call comes after a series of highly publicised losses of data, where staff have been blamed instead of the cuts and privatisations that have led to an unsafe system.

UNISON's John Stevenson warned that it was not only 'unintentional' disclosure of personal information that was the problem - but also 'intentional' disclosure, as more and more agencies share systems with the danger of details being 'reaped' without people knowing.

"We now work in a range of projects that are joint funded, where statutory agencies work together and in turn work with voluntary and private agencies. More often than not, their systems don't match," said John, "with the risk of disks having to be passed manually."

But even more crucially, he warned, these agencies may have widely differing approaches to confidentiality.

"Our worry is that organisations are becoming so defensive about getting into trouble for not sharing information that they are drifting into blanket information sharing," warned John.

As council cuts bite, the very people who maintain data and keep it safe are under attack in terms of their wages and job cuts.

"All too often, politicians see admin staff as 'bureaucracy' rather than the essential support to front line services," he said.

"We need sound systems and money to deliver them. We need to protect our members from scapegoating at work. But we also have to protect them in their wider lives from a growing culture that data protection is something to get around, rather than something to respect," said John.

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