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This information charter provides an overview of how we manage data protection, freedom of information and the personal information given to us by our customers.

The Child Maintenance Service and the Data Protection Act

Why we collect your information

We collect information from a number of sources so that we can deal with child maintenance cases. This information helps us to:

  • Process applications
  • Maintain child maintenance cases
  • Process any reviews, appeals or complaints
  • Send you relevant information relating to child maintenance services
  • Offer practical information in areas linked to child maintenance
  • Compile statistics and undertake research and analysis, including risk profiling.

Who do we get information from?

When we want to start working out how much child maintenance a paying parent should pay, we always ask them and the receving parent for the information we need first.

If they don't give us this information, the law allows us to ask other people or organisations for it. These organisations include:

  • government organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and the DVLA
  • prison services and local councils
  • police and law enforcement agencies
  • legal representatives
  • organisations that have information about the paying parent's financial history, such as banks and building societies, credit reference agencies, and gas and electricity suppliers.
  • overseas organisations with responsibilities for enforcing child maintenance in their jurisdictions
  • the paying parent's employer, accountant or companies or partnerships they provide services to

Who can we share the information with?

We take the protection of personal information very seriously. Normally we will not tell anyone your address or phone number, but if the law allows, we may give information about you (including your contact details) to some other organisations, including:

  • other government organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Work and Pensions, and HM Revenue and Customs
  • local authorities (for the purpose of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit)
  • a court or tribunal (in relation to child maintenance)
  • debt-collection agencies and other organisations helping us to collect child maintenance.

We can also pass on information about you:

  • if we have a legal basis to do so (including the Data Protection Act)
  • to prevent or detect crime
  • if a court orders us to do so
  • if you have given your permission

Can I have access to my personal information?

The Data Protection Act 1998 only applies to individuals, but there are two ways of getting information about your company, depending on what you want to know.

1. We can give you some information about your company over the phone. Please Contact Us if you want some information and we'll see what we can do.

2. For all other information about your company, you must send a Freedom of Information request. See the next section for more about freedom of information.

Please note that a Subject Access Request would only give you the information we hold about you personally and would not give you any information about your company.

You can download a British SAR form or download a Northern Ireland SAR form , but remember you will not get any information about your company from a SAR.

Please send your completed SAR form to:

Child Maintenance Service 21
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 2BU

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Freedom of information

This section explains our Freedom of Information policy and process.

Freedom of Information - What is it?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) gives any person the right to access information held by a public authority. This covers non-departmental public bodies including the Child Maintenance Service.

Further information on the provisions of the Act can be found on the website of the Information Commissioner's Office.

What are the access rights?

Anybody, whether an individual or corporate body such as a private company, can apply to have access to any recorded information held by the Child Maintenance Service. This means that potentially all information we hold can be considered for release no matter what form it is held in, including registered paper files, electronic documents, notebooks or miscellaneous collections of paper. You do not have to provide a reason for your request.

The Act also requires that you be told whether the information you want exists or not, but this is subject to certain exceptions

You can specify the manner in which you wish to receive the information, for example a copy, summary, by letter or email. We will attempt to comply with your request.

The Act is fully retrospective. This means that you can ask for any information we hold irrespective of its age. For example, information contained in a document created in 1999 can be requested under the Act even though the Act did not come into force until 1st January 2005.

Information that's already published

The information you want may already be published. Please check our existing information sources before making a request.

  • Search our websites for the information
    A lot of information is already available on GOV.UK
  • Browse our Publication Scheme
    Our Publication Scheme divides information into categories and tells you where to find it.

How to make arequest

Routine requests for information outside our Freedom of Information process

If you know what documents or information you require you may be able to get them by contacting us directly without the need to start our Freedom of Information process. For example, you may want a copy of a document held by a caseworker.

If you think this may apply to the information you want, please Contact Us

How do I make a Freedom of Information request?

If we can't answer your request through the routes described above, you will need to make a Freedom of Information request through GOV.UK

Can the Child Maintenance Service refuse to provide the requested information?

Yes, in certain circumstances. The following information explains these circumstances.

Exempt information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 contains a number of exemptions to the right of access to information. Most exemptions need to be considered in two stages. These are:

  • whether the exemption applies to all or parts of the information requested and, if so,
  • whether the public interest in releasing the information is greater than the public interest in withholding it.

If the balance of interests favours disclosure, exempt information will still be released. However, some information (eg personal data of the requester) is covered by 'absolute' exemptions, which means that the public interest test does not apply and we need to withhold the information.

Where we can't release information, we will inform you which exemption applies and why.

Guidance on exemptions is available on GOV.UK.

Requests exceeding the appropriate cost limit

We do not charge for answering Freedom of Information requests. However, we do not have to provide the information to you if the cost of doing so is above the appropriate limit.

The appropriate limit for the Child Maintenance Service has been set in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection ( Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 at £450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2.25 working days in determining whether the Child Maintenance Service holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting it.

If we are unable to provide the information to you because it's too costly, we will write to tell you this. We may also ask you to narrow down your request to bring it within the cost limit.

The clarity of your request

It is important that your request includes a clear description of the information you require, to enable us to identify the exact information you want and avoid refusal on the ground of disproportionate costs. For example, this may include specifying what time period you would like the information to cover.

If your request is not clear, we will ask you to clarify it. Once your clarification is received, our response should be issued within 20 working days.

Information not held by the Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service might not hold the information you have requested, in which case we will tell you within 20 days.

If we do not hold the information you requested but have a reason to believe that another public authority does, we will inform you how you can contact that authority to ask for the information.

If you are not happy with our decision

What happens if I am not happy with the response?

If you're not happy with our response or with our handling of your request, you may ask for an internal review by writing to the Child Maintenance Service:

Child Maintenance Service
Freedom of Information Act Focal Point
PO Box 61791
London
SW1P 9NT

Alternatively, please email us at
FOI.FocalPoint@childmaintenance.gsi.gov.uk.

Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of the response.

The review will be conducted by a senior official who was not party to the compiling of the original response. It will examine the decision that was made in the original response and decide if the Freedom of Information Act was applied correctly. If appropriate, this would include the application of exemptions and subsequent public interest tests. In addition, the review will also consider the comments you have made in your review request.

You will be informed of the reviewer's decision in writing. This may support the original decision or overturn it. Any information that we feel able to provide will accompany our reply.

What if I am still unhappy?

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply to the Information Commissioner's Office for a decision.

The Information Commissioner acts independently, is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen and reports directly to Parliament. The Commissioner is entitled to see all the papers relating to your request and decide whether our decision meets the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Freedom of Information statistics

Statistics on the Child Maintenance Service's implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are reported on quarterly basis to the Ministry of Justice and published on GOV.UK

More information

Further information on Freedom of Information is available on GOV.UK and the website of the Information Commissioner.