Central Beds Council apologises after leaking personal details of ‘dozens’ of county’s SEND pupils – Daily Mail

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Council is forced to apologise after posting sensitive personal details of 'dozens' of special educational needs pupils online

  • Central Bedfordshire Council was slammed by local families after data breach 
  • Local authority accidentally sent out names and information of 'vulnerable' kids 
  • Mistake prompted furious parents and campaigners to complain to watchdog 

By Jacob Thorburn For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

An 'incompetent' council has been slammed by local families after accidentally leaking the personal details of 'dozens' of SEND pupils across the county.

Central Bedfordshire Council was embroiled in controversy yesterday after wrongly sending out names and personal information of 'vulnerable' school children.

The local authority was subject to a Freedom of Information request in March that had requested details on the number of SEND pupils who were without a school place for the past academic year.

Upon the release of the figures, which were also shared on a public website, the council erroneously included sensitive personal information relating to children.

The mistake prompted furious parents and campaigners to lodge complaints with the data protection watchdog.

A spokesperson for Central Beds SEND Action Group described the error as the latest in a 'long history of incompetence and disregard for SEND families'.

'We were extremely concerned, yet unsurprised to learn about the data breach,' they added. 

'It is the latest in a long history of incompetence and disregard for the law in relation to SEND families. 

'This catastrophic mistake poses a particular safeguarding risk to fostered and adopted children and demonstrates the ongoing culture of negligence toward SEND children that has been ingrained at CBC for at least a decade.'

The council has since apologised for its mistake and referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Central Bedfordshire Council (headquarters pictured) was embroiled in controversy yesterday after wrongly sending out names and personal information of 'vulnerable' school children

Upon the release of the figures, which were also shared on a public website, the council erroneously included sensitive personal information relating to children. The mistake prompted furious parents and campaigners to lodge complaints with the data protection watchdog

One document shared on Central Beds Council's official website explains their FOI response included the 'accidental release of highly sensitive personal information relating to children'.

It then went further to encourage those who had access to the data to wipe it from their computers immediately. It is not known how many people downloaded it at present. 

An ICO spokesperson told MailOnline: 'Central Bedfordshire Council has made us aware of an incident and we are assessing the information provided.'

A spokesperson for the council told MailOnline: 'Central Bedfordshire Council takes its responsibility of looking after people’s personal data extremely seriously and our employees receive regular training and reminders around protecting personal and sensitive information.

'Regrettably we were made aware of data being accidentally released to a public website on Monday afternoon, but our officers worked swiftly to get the information removed. 

'We are extremely sorry to all of those affected and we are in the process of contacting all of the families affected to apologise directly.

'We have reported the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we will be working positively with them. 

'We have already made changes to our procedures in response to this incident and will quickly act on any feedback from the ICO to make our data protection systems even more robust.'

The news of the data leak also sparked fury on social media from concerned councillors and parents

The news of the data leak also sparked fury on social media. 

Biggleswade independent councillor Hayley Whitaker told MailOnline: 'I was shocked to learn of this data breach by the council yesterday which has the potential to place some of our most vulnerable children at risk. 

'Although Central Bedfordshire Council acted quickly, once they were made aware of the breach by a parent, questions must be asked about how this was allowed to happen in the first place and what processes they have in place. 

'I very much hope that the council contacts all of those families that were named in the breach by the end of today to make them aware of what has happened.' 

Central Bedfordshire Council recently appointed Sarah-Jane Smedmor as new £155,000-a-year director of children's services and Dr Helen Phelan as assistant director for SEND. 

A damning 2019 report found the council's children's services department had displayed significant weaknesses in its SEND provision. 

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