At Citizens Advice we collect and use your personal information to help solve your problems, improve our services and tackle wider issues in society that affect people’s lives.
We only ask for the information we need. We always let you decide what you’re comfortable telling us, explain why we need it and treat it as confidential.
When we record and use your personal information we:
- only access it when we have a good reason
- only share what is necessary and relevant
- don’t sell it to anyone.
We collect and use the details you give us so we can help you. We have a ‘legitimate interest’ to do this under data protection law. This means it lets us carry out our aims and goals as an organisation. We’ll always explain how we use your information.
At times we might use or share your information without your permission. If we do, we’ll always make sure there’s a legal basis for it. This could include situations where we have to use or share your information:
- to comply with the law – for example, if a court orders us to share information. This is called ‘legal obligation’
- to protect someone’s life – for example, sharing information with a paramedic if a client was unwell at our office. This is called ‘vital interests’
- to carry out our legitimate aims and goals as a charity – for example, to create statistics for our national research. This is called ‘legitimate interests’
- for us to carry out a task where we’re meeting the aims of a public body in the public interest – for example, delivering a government or local authority service. This is called ‘public task’
- to carry out a contract we have with you – for example, if you’re an employee we might need to store your bank details so we can pay you. This is called ‘contract’
- to defend our legal rights – for example, sharing information with our legal advisors if there was a complaint that we gave the wrong advice.
We handle and store your personal information in line with the law – including the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.
You can check the main Citizens Advice policy for how we handle most of your personal information. This policy covers how we, as your local charity, handle your information locally in our offices.
Coronavirus: Test and Trace if you get advice in person
If you get advice in person we’ll ask for your:
- email address or telephone number.
We’ll keep this information in our secure case management system.
We might be asked to share your name, contact details and the date of your visit with Test and Trace or local public health organisations. This is to help track cases of coronavirus. They might contact you if they think you’re at risk after your visit. For example, because someone getting advice at the same time has tested positive for coronavirus. You can find out more about Test and Trace in England on GOV.UK or Test and Trace in Wales on GOV.WALES.
We’ll never share information about the reason for your visit.
If you can’t give contact details, for example if it’s not safe for you to do so, we’ll still be able to give you advice in person.
Unlike most situations, we won’t ask for your consent before we share your contact details. If you don’t want us to share this information you can tell your local office you want to opt out.
We’re doing this to help keep you and the public safe. This is a ‘legitimate interest’ of Citizens Advice.
We won’t share your contact details with anyone other than Test and Trace or a local public health organisation.
If we share your information we’ll let you know, and offer further support.
If you want to know more about changes to our face to face services or how your information will be used, please contact us.
How we collect your data
We’ll ask you for information about yourself and your enquiry when you call us, visit us or fill out a form on our web site. We’ll get your permission to collect and use this information by asking you to either:
- sign a paper consent form
- tick a box online
- give agreement over the phone if you call our Adviceline.
Before we ask for your permission, we’ll always explain how we use your information.
If you’ve been referred to us from another service or organisation such as your Housing Association or the Council or another local charity, they’ll send us your information using a referral form (paper or on-line) or by telephoning us. They’ll get your permission before sending us your information.
We need to record information about you to help with your enquiry. We have a legitimate interest to do this.
We need your explicit consent to collect some information, including your ethnicity, religion, health conditions, sexual orientation, trade union membership and political opinion.
If you agree, we’ll use this information, which is known as ‘special category personal data’ to:
- give you advice
- help us gather data to improve our service
- support our research in a way that you can’t be identified.
We’ll make sure all your information is kept safe in our secure case management system.
What we ask for
How we use your information
Working on your behalf
When you give us authority to act on your behalf, for example to help you with a Universal Credit claim, we’ll need to share information with that third party.
We commonly share information with the Department for Work and Pensions (Job Centre Plus), L&Q, Wandle and other local housing associations, charities offering grants, Wandsworth Council, banks, building societies and organisations that you may owe money to.
How we store your information
Whether you get advice face to face, over the phone, by email or webchat, our adviser will log all your information, correspondence, and notes about your problem into our secure case management systems.
Some of your information might also be kept within our secure email and IT systems. Our IT systems include file servers based at our offices and on Microsoft Office 360 servers.
We keep your information for 6 years. If your case has been subject to a serious complaint, insurance claim or other dispute we keep the data for 16 years.
Our case management systems are hosted within the EEA and wherever possible, the UK. Most of our trusted partners store their data securely within the European Economic Area (EEA) in line with data protection law.
How we share your information
As stated above, we need to share information with third parties in order to help you. We’ll ask you to give us your authority to do this and sign a form to state this.
We share your information by post, telephone and by secure e-mail and password protected documents.
We will share anonymous information about people we assist in the form or statistics and case-studies/stories with our funders and commissioners and in reports about our service and the issues we deal with. We take steps to ensure that in case studies the subject of the story cannot be identified.
We may sometimes ask you for your explicit consent for your story and your name to be shared – for instance as part of a campaign to highlight a social policy problem or need for change.
Contact us about your information
If you have any questions about how your information is collected or used, you can contact our Battersea Library office:
Citizens Advice Wandsworth
265 Lavender Hill
0203 519 2000
You can contact us to:
- find out what personal information we hold about you
- correct your information if it’s wrong, out of date or incomplete
- request we delete your information
- ask us to limit what we do with your data – for example, ask us not to share it if you haven’t asked us already
- ask us to give you a copy of the data we hold in a format you can use to transfer it to another service
- ask us stop using your information.
Who’s responsible for looking after your personal information?
The national Citizens Advice charity and your local Citizens Advice operate a system called Casebook to keep your personal information safe. This means they’re a ‘joint data controller’ for your personal information that’s stored in our Casebook system.
Each local Citizens Advice is an independent charity, and a member of the national Citizens Advice charity. The Citizens Advice membership agreement also requires that the use of your information complies with data protection law.
If you want to make a complaint
If you’re not happy with how we’ve handled your data, you can make a complaint.
What this policy covers