Home Office retains blanket ban on data disposal

All-encompassing embargo on destruction of files is no longer needed, but policy will remain in place until officials have created appropriate ‘targeted moratoria’ for information that needs to be protected

The Home Office will, for the time being, retain a long-term department-wide policy prohibiting the destruction of all records and files.

The moratorium has been in place for almost nine years and was first introduced in order to protect evidence required by the  Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Since its launch in 2015, the inquiry has conducted 15 investigations and published 19 reports, sharing experiences of abuse victims and survivors, and examining safeguarding issues at a wide range of public bodies including NHS organisations, local authorities, police forces, and education institutions.

Following the publication of the inquiry’s final report in October 2022, the Home Office – and its subsidiaries, such as HM Passport Office – are no longer required to retain all data in case it its required to support the work of the inquiry.

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But, in an update to the department’s retention and disposal policy, the Home Office revealed that it will keep in place the all-encompassing ban on data destruction while officials work to replace the policy with discrete rules preventing the deletion of certain key records.

“A blanket moratorium to prevent the destruction of all Home Office business information, including all operational records and case files, was introduced in 2015 as a result of IICSA,” the update says. “Although the requirement to preserve information for IICSA no longer exists, the mechanisms to prevent the destruction of information will remain until work to replace them with targeted moratoria has concluded.”

The retention and disposal policy are applied “to all media of records, including – but not restricted to – paper, digital, audio and video tapes, films, DVDs and CD ROMs”.

Once the organisation-wide moratorium is lifted, the guidelines set out timeframes for how long certain categories of information should be kept before being reviewed or destroyed. These range from categories subject to routine deletion after two years – which is recommended for departmental responses to subject access requests – to those, such as HR records, where information should be kept on file until the person in question is 100 years old.

Sam Trendall

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