The Privacy Commissioner’s rejection of Government plans to collect clients’ data has been welcomed by ComVoices, a Wellington-based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations.

In a report on Individual Client Level Data, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, has rejected a plan by the Minister of Social Development (MSD) to collect non-government organisation clients’ individual data as a pre-requisite for funding. He described the Government’s plans to capture the individual and personal data of vulnerable clients as “excessive and unnecessary”.

ComVoices spokesperson Trevor McGlinchey says it is very important the families and individuals seeking support from community service providers can trust that their rights to privacy will not be breached.

“This encourages early access to support and allows vulnerable families to grow into independence rather than being forced to hide their problems for fear that this information will be used against them or publicly shared.”

McGlinchey believes more direct engagement with providers of social services could have prevented the current situation arising.

“We have repeatedly offered to support the [Ministry of Social Development] to develop alternative data gathering systems so they could better understand the high value of social services organisations and how these make a real difference for vulnerable people and communities.”

“The reported breakdown of the system proposed by MSD to collect the private information of social service clients illustrates the need for a more effective and better protected data system. It is evident that good governance and principles need to be developed across the public sector to support a coherent approach to the collection and analysis of relevant data. Community and iwi social services providers want to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of their services to all stakeholders, but not to the detriment of their clients.

The establishment of the new Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki means a large proportion of government funded community services will move to this new Ministry, however many services will remain with MSD and Work and Income New Zealand.

“Social services want to work collaboratively with government to support them to understand the huge value of the services they receive for their $330million a year investment,” says McGlinchey.

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