27 June 2008
Chancellor Alistair Darling has said the loss of two child benefit data CDs was 'entirely avoidable', after a trio of reviews of the 'woefully inadequate' processes that led to the loss were published on June 25.
Both the review carried out by the chair of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kieran Poynter, and the report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission on the loss of data on 25 million child benefit claimants, found the incident was avoidable, but did not attribute blame to individual staff.
The IPCC said there was a 'complete lack of any meaningful systems; a lack of understanding of the importance of data handling; and a “muddle through” ethos' at Revenue & Customs, describing the processes at the child benefit office in Washington, Tyne and Wear, as 'woefully inadequate'.
The FDA senior civil servants' union and the Public and Commercial Services union welcomed the reports' findings of institutional failure rather than individual blame, but criticised budget cuts at R&C.
FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume said: 'The issue in R&C is that wide-scale change is taking place against the constant backdrop of ever-decreasing resources.'
Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell published a framework to improve data handling, also on June 25. All civil servants will undergo mandatory annual training if they deal with personal data, and data security roles will be standardised in departments, among other measures.
'Recent data losses and thefts have underlined the need for urgent action to improve data protection right across government,' he said.