Students Staff

DDLO record keeping – good practice note

Overview

Good practice note

This Good Practice Notes accompanies the Retention Schedule for DDLOs.

In your role as Departmental Disability Liaison Officer (DDLO) the records you keep are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 as well as the Equality Act 2010.

Each student has a right to see the files you keep on them, so please ensure there is nothing in the file you would not wish the student to see.

There are eight data protection principles, and several particularly apply to you as a DDLO.

2nd principle - Information obtained for a specific purpose

This means that you can only use information for the purpose it has been given to you for. So if a student declares that they have a visual impairment then you would use that information to ensure that the student’s department makes materials available in a suitable format. If a local optician contacted you asking for details of visually impaired students so that they could promote their services to them you wouldn’t pass that student’s contact details on. However, there would be nothing to stop you letting the student know that the optician was promoting a useful service - it would then be up to the student to contact the optician if they wished.

3rd principle - Accurate and up to date

This principle means you need to think about accuracy. This will cover things like ensuring you have the student’s most up to date contact details.

Accuracy also means making sure that you note when something is opinion or fact. So if a student has complained that their tutor has failed to make an agreed adjustment then the note you made would say that in the student’s opinion the tutor has failed. The tutor may have a different opinion of the situation.

This also means thinking carefully about the content of e-mails. Avoid judgemental language. You might prefer to make a phone call and then make a note afterwards. Remember that whatever you keep can be seen by the student. You may delete the e-mail you have sent, but you cannot be sure that the recipient hasn’t kept the e-mail and that could still be disclosed to the student on request.

7th principle - Secure

In order to keep records confidential it is important that they are kept secure. Paper files should be stored in a locked filing cabinet and should never be left on a desk over night. Ideally your filing cabinet keys should be locked away in a key cupboard or your desk. Avoid leaving keys in a separate pull out shelf drawer that remains open when your desk is locked, if you have one.

If you need to leave your during the day PC then "lock” it (by hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL) so that no one else can use it while you’re away.

If you are saving information electronically think about where you are storing it. If it is on a shared drive, who else will be able to access it?

Consider what information you need to release to other people. Information should only be shared on a "need to know” basis. When you pass information on ensure that the recipient understands that the information is confidential. Pass on the smallest amount of information that the recipient needs to know.

If you need to e-mail several students about an issue then make use of the "BCC” facility on Outlook so that students cannot see which other students are being e-mailed. The students may well know each other, but it may be that some students prefer not to disclose their disability to other students.

You might also like to consider turning off the "auto suggest” facility on Outlook. This is the process that means as you start to type a name into the "to” box Outlook suggests likely names for you. Unfortunately it’s all to easy to select the wrong name and find that you’ve sent your e-mail to the wrong person.

Which records to keep

There are plenty of pieces of information that do not need to be kept at all. e-mails arranging a meeting, general information from Student Support, notes you’ve made but then written up elsewhere etc can all be destroyed as soon as you’ve finished with them.

What you will need to keep is records about what adjustments have been requested by the student, what adjustments have been made, any problems around adjustments and so on.

How to store and organise your records

Records around student disability are highly confidential and should be kept separate from the main student file held in the department.

There are various ways to store and organise your records. It seems sensible to arrange them by student – perhaps by surname or PRID. The main issue is that you should be able to find relevant documents quickly and easily.

Ideally records should be either paper or electronic as far as possible. When you have paper and electronic files then you have two places to look for information. It becomes easier to mislay information. It also becomes harder to keep track, where you have two or more copies of something, of which is the most recent copy. There is no need to keep paper copies of electronic files. If you have electronic files there is nothing wrong with printing out individual documents that you need and working on them. Any changes you make then need to be made in the electronic file.

If you make a note of a phone call or meeting always remember to date the document and note the date of the meeting or phone call.

How long to keep records for

See the retention schedule for DDLOs. If you have records outside your role as DDLO these will be covered by the other retention schedules on the Records management website.

Handing over to a new DDLO

If you hold records for students who are no longer with the university or who no longer need DDLO support, they can go to SSO for safe keeping.

Records about students who are currently being supported should be handed over to your successor.

Handing over for sabbaticals

If you are going on sabbatical then records should be handed over to the person standing in for you, in the same way as for handing records to new DDLOs.

If you are covering the DDLO role for a short period please make sure you keep records for handover when the usual DDLO returns.

Students moving to other departments

Occasionally students move to other departments, eg because they move from our Essex Pathways Department to another part of the University, or because they are graduating and immediately coming back as a postgraduate.

Student Support will maintain their record and notify the relevant DDLO in the new department. Records kept by the first DDLO can be returned to Student Support. The new DDLO will start a new record. This means that the student doesn’t have to explain everything again to a new department, because Student Support have all their information.

When a student leaves

When a student leaves you should pass all the records you have about them to Student Support for safekeeping. If you have accumulated unwanted records then please weed these out and destroy them securely before you pass the records on.

Protecting yourself and your data

Your data is personal and confidential too! To protect yourself, do not give out your personal contact details to students.

Data Protection requests

If you receive a request from someone to see their files then please contact the Information  Manager.

Seeking help and advice

If you have any questions about record keeping or the Data Protection Act then contact the Information  Manager who will be pleased to help you. The Information Manager will also be happy to advise on locking PCs, use of "BCC” (blind copying) and storing emails.

Useful websites

Created February 2009
Approved March 2009
Last updated March 2018
Information  Manager