What Are My Rights After A Social Services Data Breach?

By Jo Anderson. Last Updated 26th January 2024. In this guide, we consider what could happen if a social services data breach were to occur. 

If you have been psychologically or financially affected by a data breach, you may have a route to claiming data breach compensation in some circumstances. And in such cases, a data breach solicitor may be able to successfully process a claim for you. In many cases, this can be done under a No Win No Fee agreement.

Your potential claim will be based on a set of circumstances that are unique. And while it may share similarities with other claims, it won’t be identical. There could be aspects of your potential claim that raises questions that this guide doesn’t address.

For that reason, our advisors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They give no-obligation, free legal advice. You can call us on 0800 073 8801 or use our live chat for instant answers today.

What are my rights after a Social Services data breach guide

Select A Section:

  1. When Could I Claim For A Social Services Data Breach?
  2. How Could Personal Data Be Breached By Social Services?
  3. What Evidence Could Support A Data Breach Claim Against Social Services?
  4. Calculating Compensation Claims Against Social Services
  5. Types Of Material And Non-Material Damages Under The UK GDPR
  6. No Win No Fee Personal Data Breach Claims Against Social Services
  7. Related Guides

When Could I Claim For A Social Services Data Breach?

Personal data is any information that could directly identify you, or identify you in combination with other information. Your name, address and bank details are all examples of personal data.

Any organisation that processes your personal data has a duty of care to keep it safe. They must also adhere to the rules and regulations found in the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), as together they make up data protection laws.

If an organisation were to fail to comply with data protection laws, this could result in your personal data being breached. A personal data breach is a security incident that affects the availability, confidentiality and availability of personal data.

In order to have a valid personal data breach claim following a social services data breach, you must be able to prove the following:

  1. The breach must have been the result of the organisation’s actions or inactions.
  2. Your personal data must have been compromised in the breach.
  3. Due to this, you must have suffered psychological harm or financial loss.

If you would like to learn whether you could be eligible to make a claim for data breach compensation, you can contact one of our advisors.

How Could Personal Data Be Breached By Social Services?

There are different types of events that could result in data breach lawyers being able to process a compensation claim for you. In order for your claim to be successful, you’d need to prove that social services’ positive wrongful conduct caused a data breach and that you suffered mental harm or financial loss (or both) as a result.

Breaches Of Physical Data

Not everything is fully computerised. Many of the records that social services rely on could still be paper-based. And this type of physical data can be exposed very easily. For example:

  • Some of your personal information held in files is left out and open on a desk, where any unauthorised passerby can read it.
  • A letter containing your personal information is posted to an incorrect recipient, despite your correct address being on file.
  • Documents that contain your personal information aren’t securely thrown away. This means somebody could read them if they can gain access to the waste container.

Breaches Of Digital Data

Council services usually have effective data security protocol, as well as comprehensive hardware and software related to computer and cyber security. However, if best practices are not followed and security slips, your personal data could be exposed or compromised. For example:

  • A device such as a USB memory stick or an external hard drive that contained your personal data is not securely destroyed and so the information is still accessible.
  • A laptop or other device that was easily accessible and contained your unsecured personal data is lost or stolen.
  • A cybercriminal successfully gains access to your personal data due to poor cybersecurity.

What Evidence Could Support A Data Breach Claim Against Social Services?

If you can prove you have been impacted by a social services data breach, you may wish to gather evidence that could be submitted to support your claim. This evidence might include:

  • Written or emailed communication from the services confirming that your personal information was involved in a data breach.
  • Medical notes showing the psychological harm you have suffered because of it.
  • Documented proof of financial losses that were the result of the data breach, such as money taken from your bank account. Receipts, bills and invoices related to expenses incurred due to the data breach could be useful here.

You can reach out to our claims team for some more advice on the types of evidence to gather and how to gather it.

Calculating Compensation Claims Against Social Services

In 2015, the case Vidal-Hall and others v Google Inc set a precedent for claiming for psychological damage due to a personal data breach. The Court of Appeal held that those seeking compensation for psychological harm could do so whether they’ve also suffered financial loss because of the data breach or not.

Therefore, claimants can seek compensation for financial loss caused by a data breach or psychological harm caused by a data breach or they could seek both.

The compensation table below shows what you could claim for mental harm. The figures are taken from guidelines produced by the Judicial College. These guidelines give recommended amounts for different injuries at varying severities. Solicitors use the guidelines to help value injuries.

Health Issues Level of Severity Range of Compensation Additional Information
Severe combinations of injuries with material damage included. Severe Up to £250,000+ A combination of severe psychological injuries and material costs and losses resulting from the data breach, such as costs associated with identity fraud.
Psychiatric damage Severe (a) £54,830 to £115,730 The claimant’s ability to cope with education, life and work would be affected. In addition, the prognosis would be very poor.
Psychiatric damage Moderately severe (b) £19,070 to £54,830 The claimant’s ability to cope with education, life and work would be affected. The prognosis would be more optimistic than the below.
Psychiatric damage Moderate (c) £5,860 to £19,070 The claimant’s ability to cope with education, life and work would be affected. However, there would be a significant improvement and a good prognosis.
Psychiatric damage Less severe (d) £1,540 to £5,860 The level of the award will take into consideration how long the period of disability lasted and the extent to which sleep and everyday activities were impacted.
PTSD Severe (a) £59,860 to £100,670 Permanent issues will affect the person from working as they did before the trauma.
PTSD Moderately severe (b) £23,150 to £59,860 There is room for some recovery with help from a professional. However, the person will still suffer with a significant disability.
PTSD Moderate (c) £8,180 to £23,150 A large recovery will have been made and any persisting issues will not be majorly disabling.
PTSD Less severe (d) £3,950 to £8,180 Within 1-2 years, a virtually full recovery will have been made.

lf you can’t see your injuries in the compensation table above, why not reach out to our advisors? They can give you a free, accurate estimate of what you could claim.

Types Of Material And Non-Material Damages Under The UK GDPR

If your claim is a success, you could receive a settlement that comprises of up to two heads of claim. These are material damage and non-material damage.

Non-material damage compensates you for the psychological harm a data breach causes you. The compensation table above illustrates possible awards for non-material damage.

To prove non-material damages, you would need to attend a medical assessment. An independent medical expert would assess your injuries and create a report that should show:

  • The severity of your injuries.
  • That your injuries were caused or worsened by the data breach. (If they aren’t linked to the data breach, you could find it difficult to claim non-material damage.)

If you use the services of a solicitor to claim, they could use this report to help them when valuing your mental suffering.

Material damage compensates you for the financial losses you suffer due to a data breach.

For example, if a cybercriminal was able to access your bank details, they may have committed theft. What’s more, if they had enough personal information, they could commit identity theft. You could suffer unrecoverable financial loss due to this.

However, you could claim it back under material damage. In fact, you could potentially be compensated for any financial loss that you’ve already experienced or could possibly incur in the future.

For some solid advice on the types of damages you could claim, you can reach out to our claims team.

No Win No Fee Personal Data Breach Claims Against Social Services

If you wish to get professional help with a social services data breach claim, you may be interested to know how one of our No Win No Fee solicitors could assist you.

One of our solicitors could help you with gathering evidence to support your claim and negotiating for compensation on your behalf.

Additionally, they may offer to take on your claim under a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA, which is a type of No Win No Fee arrangement). Under such an agreement, you generally do not have to pay your solicitor anything upfront or while the claim is ongoing for their services.

Should your claim be a success, your solicitor would deduct a predetermined percentage of your compensation as a success fee. The success fee is legally capped.

If your claim is unsuccessful, you wouldn’t typically have to pay the solicitor for their work.

To check if one of our No Win No Fee solicitors could assist with your claim, or to ask any questions you may have, please contact an advisor.

Related Guides

Here are some links to other guides that are similar to this one:

All of these external links lead to pages with some relevant information:

Thank you for reading our guide on what you could do following a social services data breach. 

Guide by MW

Edited by RV