News & Blog

For the latest industry and case news

How do I get my social services records? UK legal guidance

By David Greenwood

Published In: Child Abuse

How do I get my social services records? UK legal guidance

The Data Protection Act 2018 has given all UK care leavers the right to request a copy of any personal data that an organisation holds about them, including councils/local authorities.

At Switalskis, our team regularly provides support to people making subject access requests for social services records. We represent many clients making compensation claims in circumstances where they suffered abuse due to social work failings. In these cases, children's social care records held by the relevant authorities can act as vital evidence, which is why we regularly request them..

Here, we'll explain how survivors of abuse can request their records and take action. While nothing can make up for the abuse you suffered, compensation can deliver accountability, some form of justice and help you to live the rest of your life more comfortably, while also preventing similar failures from harming other children in the future.

How to request social services records

Making a subject access request is often as simple as sending an email or filling in a subject access request form. Best practice is to look on the website of the organisation that you wish to request the records from. However, while this is not difficult, it helps to be as thorough as possible at all stages of this process - especially if you intend to use the data as evidence or to build a case for compensation. Speaking to a solicitor can be vital, as they will help you to understand the types of evidence you will need to collect and can support you in building evidence.

 Identify the relevant social services department: Determine which local authority's social services department holds your records. If you moved around a lot as a child, this may be the authority in the area(s) you previously lived. Depending on the nature of your circumstances, you may decide to make multiple requests to different local authorities and gain a broader overview of the decisions that were made about your childhood care.

  •  Make a written request: Although requests can be made verbally, it's highly recommended to submit a written request to keep a record. In most cases, local authorities will have a dedicated section of their website relating to requests for records and usually you simply need to complete an online form. If not, you can do this via an email, which should be directed to the data protection officer (or another relevant contact point for subject access requests) at the social services department in question. Make sure to keep copies of any correspondence you have with representatives of the local authority. [can we provide a template letter?]
  • Provide details: Your request should clearly state that you are making a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 2018. The data protection officer responsible for the records in question may need proof of your identity, and might ask for:
    - Your full name and any previous names.
    - Your current address and any previous addresses during the time you interacted with social services.
    - A detailed description of the specific information you seek, if possible. For example, you may request all information held about you or specify certain periods, incidents, or types of records.
    - Any relevant reference numbers, if known.
    - Proof of your identity (such as a copy of your passport or driver’s licence) and address (recent utility bill or bank statement), to prevent data breaches.

    If you are unsure about the safety of your data when submitting these details, speak to a solicitor for advice on the best way to comply.
  • Specify the format: Indicate how you would like to receive the information (e.g., electronic or paper copies). As we've noted above, you may need to pay a small fee for paper copies or if there are likely to be other difficulties in fulfilling your request.
  • Await a response: in most cases, a representative of the department that holds your data should respond to your request within one month. If they are unable to complete the request quickly, they must notify you of this and provide an estimate of when the data will be available. If you do not receive a response, your solicitor can advise you of the next steps to take.

Using social services records as evidence

Data held by social services is often fundamental for survivors of child abuse if they intend to take legal action or claim compensation from their abusers. Access to social services records can provide crucial insights into the circumstances surrounding the abuse you suffered, the response (or lack thereof) of local authorities, and any documented evidence of abuse or neglect.

For these reasons, a solicitor will often advise you to initiate a subject access request early in the process of building your compensation claim. This will give you time to obtain and review the records before any legal deadlines that may apply. Your solicitor will help you to identify key pieces of evidence, advise you on how to present them effectively, and build your case using the evidence you have collected.

How Switalskis can help

Reviewing records related to abuse and building a case can be emotionally challenging. At Switalskis, we've helped hundreds of clients like you to do exactly that, and we approach every case empathetically to try to make the process as stress-free as possible. We will listen to you and discuss what you want to achieve, so that we can work together towards achieving the best outcome.

For support in making a subject access request, or to discuss the possibility of taking legal action for the abuse you suffered, contact Switalskis on 0800 138 0458 or contact us through the website .

Back to News & Blog
Share this post
photo of David Greenwood

David has worked in the legal sector for 30 years. He is a Solicitor, Director and Head of Switalskis' Child Abuse Compensation department.

Director and Solicitor

News, views and information from us and the industry

Related posts

Contact us