Protecting domestic abuse survivors from data breaches

We are surveying housing providers to find out how data protection features in their domestic abuse policies, writes Kelly Henderson, founder and managing director of Addressing Domestic Abuse.

We recently saw the introduction of the updated consumer standards from the Regulator of Social Housing. For the first time, the Neighbourhood and Community Standard set out expectations on landlords about domestic abuse, including having a domestic abuse policy.

At Addressing Domestic Abuse (ADA), our work involves supporting landlords in developing their approaches to domestic abuse, as well as their domestic abuse policies. As part of their approach, providers need to consider how they interact with victim-survivors on all housing matters – such as allocations, repairs and rent arrears, for example – to avoid inadvertently putting them in danger.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reprimanded organisations, including housing providers and local authorities, for data breaches when responding to domestic abuse. Publishing a report in 2023, the ICO said it had issued seven reprimands in the 14 months before September 2023, some of which included housing providers.

Many organisations will be reviewing their approach to domestic abuse and their policies in light of the inclusion of domestic abuse in the regulator’s consumer standards. This presents an ideal opportunity to ensure that such policies and procedures include the importance of reviewing information with victim-survivors and ensuring that case management and customer contact information is correct.

“The ICO has recommended double checking contact information and pointed out that many data breaches occur due to human error when staff have not checked details thoroughly.”

It stated that organisations should take steps to ensure the data held is accurate. This may include regularly checking with tenants that information and preferred methods of contact are correct so that housing providers do not mistakenly send to or use a previous address, email address or contact number that the perpetrator may be able to access.

At Addressing Domestic Abuse, we are asking housing providers to complete our anonymous survey to get a picture of how housing providers are responding to protecting data within their domestic abuse policies. Early findings show that 83% of providers said their domestic abuse policies and procedures did cover issues around data protection and that they advised staff of the approach they should take.

You can complete the anonymous survey here.

To support Social Housing organisations in developing their Domestic Abuse policies, we will host a live online discovery session with MRI Software on July 4th at 2:00 PM.

5 Steps to Creating an Effective Domestic Abuse Strategy

In this webinar, we will explore the subject in more detail and discuss how MRI Safer Communities can support the management of domestic abuse cases.

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