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Protecting data

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What is the Troubled Families Programme?

The Troubled Families is part of a national programme aimed at improving the lives of families with complex needs. These are families who need help with getting children to attend school, reducing anti-social and offending behaviour and getting adults in these families ready to enter the workplace.

Where is my data currently being stored?

Middlesbrough Council holds your personal information in order to provide services to you. Information on school attendance and attainment, criminal offences, benefits and employment is collected routinely by Government Departments.

Who is my data being shared with?

Your data will be shared with a research organisation called the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). NIESR will ask Government Departments to match identifiers such as names and dates of birth to the data they routinely collect to measure your progress. The data will be transferred, handled and stored and securely destroyed after the completion of the research project in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Why is my data being shared?

The reason for linking the information is to help the Government and local service providers understand whether or not the programme and reorganising service delivery has been effective in turning around the lives of families.

How will this affect me?

It won't affect you personally. The data used for the research will be anonymous so no one will be able to identify you and results about the success of the programme will be reported at group level. For example any reports would include statements such as: "Over 50% of families on the programme were successful in reducing their offending behaviour for 6 months after receiving treatment as part of the programme."

The results will not be used to make any decisions about the service you currently receive and will not affect any benefits, services or treatment you may be entitled to.

Who is the Data Controller and Data Processor for the project?

Data Controller means a person who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which and the manner in which any personal data are, or are to be, processed.

A government department sets up a database of information about every child in the country. It does this in partnership with local councils. Each council provides personal data about children in its area, and is responsible for the accuracy of the data it provides. It may also access personal data provided by other councils (and must comply with the data protection principles when using that data). The government department and the councils are data controllers in common in relation to the personal data on the database.

Data Processor in relation to personal data, means any person (other than an employee of the data controller) who processes the data on behalf of the data controller.


A utilities company engages a company which operates call centres to provide many of its customer services functions on its behalf. The call centre staff have access to the utilities company's customer records for the purpose of providing those services but may only use the information they contain for specific purposes and in accordance with strict contractual arrangements. The utilities company remains the data controller. The company that operates the call centre is a data processor.

For this project:

NIESR will be the data processor for the matched data provided by Government Departments.

Government Departments will be the data processor for the matched data they provide to NIESR.

DCLG will be data controller for the matched data and anonymised dataset created from the matched data provided by Government Departments.

How will this work in practice?

Here is an example:

The Smith family are assessed as suitable to take part in the Troubled Families Programme. Their personal data (names, dates of birth and address) are stored by Middlesbrough Council. Their personal data is sent with the personal data of other similar families using a secure email by Middlesbrough Council researchers at the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NIESR).

The researchers at NIESR send the Smith family data using a secure email to research teams at Department for Work and Pensions, Department of Education and Ministry of Justice.

NIESR store the personal data of the Smith family and other families securely in a safe which is only accessible to a few named individuals who have been through security checks and understand how the data can be used.

Research teams at each Government Department use the family data, including the Smith data, sent by NIESR to match to the data they routinely collect on school attendance and attainment, benefits, employment data and offences. The data teams remove the Smith personal family data (to anonymise the data they have matched) before they send it back using a secure email to NIESR.

NIESR receive the Smith family data on offences they have committed, any benefits they have claimed, work they have participated in and their attendance and attainment at school. They put all of this data together to look at whether the family has made positive progress.

The same is done with the personal data for the Jones family who were assessed for, but didn't take part in, the Troubled Families Programme.

The researchers at NIESR use the information they have on the Jones' family and the Smith family to compare their progress. If the Smith family have made better progress than the Jones' family, the researchers can be confident that this is because they have taken part in the programme.

These findings will be used to make some recommendations of how services can be improved in the future, such as those to help families with complex needs.

Read the Troubled Families privacy notice.

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