A confidential document with personal details of almost 30 children has been found dumped outside a council headquarters.
The document contains the full names, dates of birth and case numbers of 28 children – one as young as eight months old. In one excerpt, an adoption case is discussed in some detail.
Highland Council is to report itself to the Information Commissioner and an “urgent” investigation has been launched by the authority after the eight-page document was discovered in a ripped bin bag among general waste outside its Inverness headquarters.
The confidential panel minutes were first discovered by a resident while investigating concerns of fly-tipping in the area.
The papers, including sticky notes with details of queries to the council, were found on the ground and in ripped bin bags at the top of an open bin.
MSP Rhoda Grant said: “Clearly this is a serious breach of confidentiality.
“The fact that these sensitive documents could have been accessed by the public is to, me, shocking and inexcusable.”
Council policy states that paper containing personal information must be “disposed of using the council’s confidential waste paper disposal bins or other approved method”.
Depute Provost of Inverness, Bet McAllister, said she had never seen a breach of this scale in 12 years with the council.
She said: “Obviously I am going to have to investigate this because that should never have happened and I will make damn sure that it never happens in the future. In the 12 years I have been on the council I have never ever heard of anything like that.”
Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner said: “This raises multiple questions about the policies and procedures that the Highland Council has in place in respect of data protection.
“How can we be so inconsiderate in respect of the sensitivity and nature of the material that has been found?
“I would like to sincerely thank the person who has reported this matter and I will be raising it tonight with the chief executive officer at a meeting I will be attending.”
Senior councillor Allan Henderson said that the “system had gone wrong somewhere” before apologising to “anybody for any concern or hurt it has caused”.