Response to Homelessness report

Published: 14 July 2022

The ODPA would like to acknowledge the important issues raised in the Homelessness in Guernsey’ report published on 14 July 2022 by the Guernsey Community Foundation (GCF). The ODPA is in contact with the GCF and is entirely supportive of the report’s recommendations around improving data collection and data sharing, highlighting how important effective data handling is across all sectors.

What does data protection have to do with homelessness?
The report highlights the critical importance of being able to collect, and share, accurate information on how many people are homeless. It correctly cites that this type of activity would have to be done in accordance with data protection legislation (specifically The Data Protection (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2017 – which is equivalent to the EU’s GDPR) as this data relates to living people.

Does data protection prevent data collection and sharing?
No it does not, quite the opposite: it provides a framework for doing these things properly and in a way that respects people. The GCF report rightly highlights that “data protection” is often used as an excuse and blamed by those who do not understand the law well.

What is the ODPA doing about this?
We recognise that increasing everyone’s understanding of data protection legislation is key. So we work every day to improve understanding around what the law is actually there to achieve and emphasise that it is not standing in anyone’s way. The opposite is in fact true: a good understanding of data governance facilitates effective data collection and sharing as well as protecting the human beings who the data is about.

We are committed to raising awareness of data protection in a way that is accessible and benefits everyone in our community. There is a wealth of resources available on our website around organisations’ legal obligations, as well as a more accessible Beginner’s Area, and detailed specific guidance on a range of topics. We also run a social initiative called Project Bijou which seeks to highlight the humanity of data protection. We run free drop-in sessions all year round for anyone to seek our support, as well as the opportunity to apply for a study visit to explore issues in-depth.

At the GCF’s request we held an awareness-raising session with several local charities on 11 July 2022 with the aim of addressing the specific challenges they face around data protection.

What’s next?
One of the initiatives suggested at the above session was that local Data Protection Officers who work outside of the charity sector could volunteer some of their time to charities to help them find a way through any specific data protection issues they’re facing. We are very supportive of this idea and we’re working on how to help facilitate it – if you are a local data protection professional and would be interested to hear more about this proposed initiative please contact us.

On 21 September 2022 we are holding a follow-up session with GCF to build on the session held earlier in July.

The Bailiwick’s Data Protection Commissioner, Emma Martins, underlined the ODPA’s support of the GCF’s report:

“Data is the life blood of almost every organisation across all sectors. Handled well, it can ensure strategic and operational objectives are met in a way that respects the rights of those individuals whose data are being used. We work hard to challenge some of the myths that surround data protection and look forward to continuing the work already started with the GCF to support them and the whole of the third sector.”