The Child Maintenance Service and Personal Data
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) may hold personal data on anyone with a Child Maintenance Service case. How though, do they use it?
In the normal course, Personal Data is protected by the Data Protection Act which places certain requirements on what it terms “Data Controllers”. The Department of Work and Pensions (of which the CMS is part) would be a Data Controller for this purpose.
The Data Protection Act regulates the “Processing” of data:
Processing, in relation to information or data, means obtaining, recording or holding the information or data or carrying out any operation or set of operations on the information or data, including –
(a) organisation, adaptation or alteration of the information or data,
(b) retrieval, consultation or use of the information or data,
(c) disclosure of the information or data by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, or
(d) alignment, combination, blocking, erasure or destruction of the information or data.
Furthermore, Section 35 of the Data Protection Act exempts Data Controllers if they are required to disclose the data:
Personal data are exempt from the non-disclosure provisions where the disclosure is required by or under any enactment, by any rule of law or by the order of a court.
It may interest readers to know that Parliament has passed legislation that requires the Child Maintenance Service to disclose personal data to ex partners. Data which, under any other circumstances would be deemed private or “sensitive”. This includes the earnings of the paying parent which is sent in every schedule produced by the Child Maintenance Service.
This requirement is laid out in Regulation (1) (b) of the The Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012.
Notification of a decision made under section 11 or 12(2) of the 1991 Act(1) must set out—
(a)the effective date of the maintenance calculation;
(b)where relevant, the non-resident parent’s gross weekly income, including—
(i)whether that is based on historic income or current income, and
(ii)if based on current income, whether that income has been estimated in accordance with regulation 42;
You should also note that under Regulation 59 the CMS can pass evidence you provide in support of a variation to the other party. There are certain exemptions which include medical information and, in certain circumstances, addresses but the CMS would not be responsible for how the other party uses it once it’s in their possession. This is a recipe for privacy invasion and breaches.
But there is more…..
A further set of Regulations called The Child Support Information Regulations 2008. Compels others to provide information to the CMS allowing them to go digging around in peoples private affairs under the auspices of “calculating child maintenance”.
Looking at Regulation 4 of these regulations, we can see that the CMS can compel the following organisations to give information about paying parents to the CMS:
- The non resident parent
- A current or previous employer of the non resident parent
- a person for whom the non-resident parent is providing or has provided services under a contract for services
- a person who acts or has acted as an accountant for the non-resident parent
- a person, other than the applicant, who provides day to day care for a child in respect of whom an application for a maintenance calculation has been made or in respect of whom a maintenance calculation is or has been in force
- a credit reference agency within the meaning given by the Consumer Credit Act 1974(1)
- a local authority in whose area the non-resident parent or the person with care resides or has resided
- persons employed in the service of the Crown or otherwise in the discharge of Crown functions—(i)under the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981(2), sections 97 to 99A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (3) or Part II of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994(4); or(ii)under the Prison Act 1952(5), the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953(6) or the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989(7);
- a person who, in the course of business, may lawfully accept deposits in the United Kingdom (Editor note: this means banks and building societies)
- a person who, within the meaning of the Electricity Act 1989(8), distributes or supplies electricity
- a person who is the holder of a licence under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986(9) to convey gas through pipes or the holder of a licence under section 7A(1) of that Act to supply gas through pipes
This is a very broad list and they are allowed to ask questions of the above list pretty much for “any reason whatsoever”. The exact phrasing can be found in Regulation 4(1) of these regulations.
We mentioned the Data Protection Act at the beginning and you should note that your rights under that Act do not apply when the CMS is using its powers under the above Regulations. Essentially, if you involve the Child Maintenance Service then both parties rights to privacy are compromised.
Also published on Medium.