THE INFORMATION Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Bounty (UK) Limited £400,000 for illegally sharing personal information belonging to more than 14 million people.
An ICO investigation found that Bounty, a pregnancy and parenting club, collected personal information for the purpose of membership registration through its website and mobile app, merchandise pack claim cards and directly from new mothers at hospital bedsides.
But the company also operated as a data broking service until April 30, 2018, supplying data to third parties for the purpose of electronic direct marketing.
Bounty breached the Data Protection Act 1998 by sharing personal information with a number of organisations without being fully clear with people that it might do so.
The company shared approximately 34.4 million records between June 2017 and April 2018 with credit reference and marketing agencies, including Acxiom, Equifax, Indicia and Sky.
These organisations represented the four largest recipients out of a total of 39 organisations which Bounty confirmed it shared personal data with.
The personal information shared was not only of potentially vulnerable, new mothers or mothers-to-be but also of very young children, including the birth date and sex of a child.
Steve Eckersley, ICO’s Director of Investigations, said: “The number of personal records and people affected in this case is unprecedented in the history of the ICO’s investigations into data broking industry and organisations linked to this.
“Bounty was not open or transparent to the millions of people that their personal data may be passed on to such large number of organisations. Any consent given by these people was clearly not informed. Bounty’s actions appear to have been motivated by financial gain, given that data sharing was an integral part of their business model at the time.
“Such careless data sharing is likely to have caused distress to many people, since they did not know that their personal information was being shared multiple times with so many organisations, including information about their pregnancy status and their children”
The investigation found that for online registrations, Bounty’s privacy notices had a reasonably clear description of the organisations they might share information with, but none of the four largest recipients was listed.
Additionally, none of the merchandise pack claim cards and offline registration methods had an opt-in for marketing purposes.
Jim Kelleher, Managing Director of Bounty said: “We acknowledge the ICO’s findings – in the past, we did not take a broad enough view of our responsibilities and as a result, our data-sharing processes, specifically with regards to transparency, were not robust enough. This was not of the standard expected of us. However, the ICO has recognised that these are historical issues.
“Our priority is to continue to provide a valuable service for new parents that is both helpful and trusted. As the ICO has highlighted, we made significant changes to our processes in Spring 2018, reducing the number of personal records we retain and for how long we keep them, ending relationships with the small number of data brokerage companies with whom we previously worked and implementing robust GDPR training for our staff.
“Our ‘Bounty Promise’ sets out our continued commitment to carefully look after our members’ personal information. And to ensure our promise is never broken, we will appoint an independent data expert to check how we are doing every year and we will publish their findings annually on the Bounty website.”
Older people missing out on benefits
AGE CYMRU helped older people in Wales claim more than £6.5m in benefits last year; additional income that could have a massive impact on the quality of life for those individuals who came forward seeking help.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as it’s estimated that more than £3.5 billion of state benefits available to older people in the UK goes unclaimed each year. In Wales this would equate to approximately £175 million of unclaimed benefits; a significant amount of money that could help bring about positive changes to thousands of older people in Wales.
Additionally, a recent study by the National Assembly for Wales found that more than 120,000 older people in Wales are living in poverty.
To help combat such levels of poverty amongst older people, Age Cymru has updated More Money In Your Pocket for 2019/2020; a bi-lingual guide to help older people and their carers claim benefit entitlements in later life.
The guide covers a wide range of benefits and entitlements, including state pensions, Pension Credit, help with Council Tax, help with heating costs, Attendance Allowance and Carers’ Allowance.
Take the case of Jack, who contacted one of Age Cymru’s partners for help in 2018.
Jack is 82 and lives with his wife Gwen who is 73. Jack has suffered six heart attacks and has several other debilitating diseases. As a result he has limited mobility and little stamina so rarely leaves his home.
An Age Cymru adviser undertook a thorough exploration of Jack and Gwen’s circumstances and identified that they were not claiming all their benefit entitlements.
In summary, Jack was awarded the highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance care component at £85.60 per week; Pension Credit for the couple was awarded at £119.00 a week and their Council Tax payments were reduced from £155 to £25 a month. They also received a number of backdated amounts, totalling £5,587.46.
As a result, their life has changed for the better. They can now afford to pay for food and heating and can also pay for transport if they need to go somewhere and therefore no longer feel trapped in their home.
Gavin Thomas, who manages the charity’s information and advice services across Wales says: “Poverty can have a devastating effect on an older person’s quality of life forcing many to choose between eating and heating. It can also keep an older person trapped in their homes leading to loneliness and isolation and, in many cases, poor mental and physical health.”
“Some people miss out on benefits because they mistakenly believe they don’t qualify or are put off by the claims process.
“However, older people might be surprised to learn what help is available to them. I would urge any older person in Wales to claim all their benefit entitlements and to use our guide as a useful tool to start the process.”
More Money In Your Pocket is available free of charge from Age Cymru and local partners throughout Wales. You may call the Advice Line free on 08000 223 444 or email email@example.com to order a copy. You may also download the free guide from our website: www.agecymru.org.uk/
The charity’s expert advisers can also carry out a full benefits check to find out what you might be entitled to claim. Age Cymru also offers a range of information guides and factsheets on many other topics.
Diabetes’ effect on mental health explored
NEW research from Diabetes UK has found that seven out of ten people feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes, significantly affecting their mental and physical health.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults with Type 1, Type 2 and other types of diabetes from across the UK shows that the majority (three quarters) of those who feel overwhelmed say that this affects how well they can manage the condition.
In order to explore the links between mental health and diabetes, the charity collected extensive insights from people affected by the condition and healthcare professionals from across the UK.
The findings, published in the report “Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care”, show that diabetes is much more than a physical condition.
Management of physical symptoms 24/7 – for example checking blood glucose levels, or managing diet – alongside the continual need to make decisions and take actions in order to reduce the likelihood of short and long-term complications, can affect every aspect of day-to-day life.
The research revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing and health, from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.
Three-quarters of those needing specialist mental health support to help manage the condition, such as from a counsellor or psychologist, could not access it. Seven out of ten people with diabetes also reported that they are not helped to talk about their emotional wellbeing by their diabetes teams.
Healthcare professionals surveyed also revealed that there was more to be done in this area. Specifically, 40 per cent of GPs say they are not likely to ask about emotional wellbeing and mental health in routine diabetes appointments, while only 30 per cent feel there is enough emotional and psychological support for people living with diabetes when needed.
The report marks the launch of a Diabetes UK campaign to make the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes recognised and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.
Diabetes UK Cymru is marking the launch with an event on Wednesday 22 May at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay from 12 pm to 2 pm.
The charity is urgently calling on each of the four nations’ health services to create national standards for diabetes emotional and mental healthservices. These should ensure that everyone is asked how they are feeling as part of every diabetes appointment and that a mental healthprofessional with knowledge of diabetes is part of every diabetes care team.
Dai Williams, National Director, Diabetes UK Cymru, said: “The day-to-day demands of managing diabetes can be a constant struggle, affecting people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. In turn, people tell us that struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of self-management. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications, such as amputations, kidney failure and stroke increases.
“Diabetes services that include emotional and psychological support can help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save money.
“Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, but services for people with diabetes don’t always reflect this. We need to bridge the divide between physical and mental health services to ensure those with emotional and psychological difficulties related to their condition do not have their needs overlooked. It is critical that all diabetes care sees and supports the whole person, and explores what matters most to them.”
Diabetes UK is launching a petition to call for national standards for diabetes mental health support and services.
To find out more about the campaign and sign the petition go to www.diabetes.org.uk/missing
Proton therapy centre officially opened
HEALTH Minister Vaughan Gething has set out his vision for cutting edge precision medicine to improve health and deliver a sustainable future for NHS Wales.
During, a visit to the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport, Mr Gething announced new strategies to transform pathology and precision therapeutics in Wales.
He said: “To address future challenges from the increasing burden of disease we must focus more on prevention, early detection and personalised targeted treatments. Precision medicine will increasingly support a more personalised approach to health and care.
“In Wales, we are already making progress in the field of precision medicine and I am confident that we can be a global player in the race to harness its potential. NHS Wales is on the cusp of realising the significant benefits that can be delivered by advances in precision medicine for patients by offering the right test or treatment at the right time.
“Our long term plan ‘A Healthier Wales’ recognises the importance of moving towards earlier detection and intervention to prevent illness and prolong independence.”
One of the first patients in the UK to receive high-energy proton beam therapy has today praised UK oncologists for embracing proton beam therapy and the transformative effects it has had on his treatment.
Ryan Scott, 23, from Cardigan in Wales, underwent treatment for a brain tumour (grade 1 craniopharyngioma) at the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales in Newport as part of NHS Wales’ proton beam therapy treatment pathway for adults.
Ryan Scott said: “I was very pleased when my consultant recommended proton beam therapy and told me that it was available close to home in South Wales. I was due to be treated with proton beam therapy over the course of eight weeks in the United States, a disruption I was not looking forward to. Happily, however, the agreement between NHS Wales and the Rutherford Cancer Centres was struck just in time for me to be treated a short drive from home.
“The process of undergoing proton beam therapy was much better than anticipated. There have been hardly any side effects and being able to sleep in my bed after a day’s treatment is a real plus.”
Mr Gething explained the Welsh Government had a clear vision for harnessing technology to deliver precision medicine in diagnostics and therapy that will ensure a sustainable future for NHS Wales.
“The Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport, which was the first facility in the UK to offer proton beam therapy for cancer patients, is an excellent example of the development of new cancer therapies, here in Wales. It’s a perfect illustration of how we are working collaboratively to deliver technological innovations to improve treatment,” he said.
“Today I have published our Statement of Intent for Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products, which sets out how we will deliver precision therapeutics, like new cell therapies, in Wales.
“Alongside this, I have published a Statement of Intent to transform pathology services. All this builds on our recent investment in diagnostic services such as the new Imaging Academy for Wales.
“In this financial year, I am pleased to provide additional funding of £2.3m to support the delivery of new genetic tests together with a further £2m to support national plans for transforming diagnostic, health science and advanced therapeutic medical services in NHS Wales.”
Andrew Goodall, chief executive of NHS Wales, also attended today’s official opening.
The centre is part of a nationwide network that provides state-of-the-art cancer services including imaging, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and high energy proton beam therapy.
The Newport centre was recently approved by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) to provide high energy proton beam therapy to adult patients referred from the NHS in Wales, the centre also treated the first patient in the UK with proton beam therapy in April last year.
Mike Moran, chief executive of Proton Partners International which operates the Rutherford Cancer Centres, said: “It is gratifying to see UK oncologists becoming increasingly aware of proton therapy and embracing the treatment. Our collaborative partnership with the NHS in Wales means that adult patients have an option to be treated closer to home.”
“I am delighted by the support we have received from the Health Minister, the Welsh Government, the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund and the NHS in Wales which has meant that Wales has been the pioneer in proton beam therapy in the UK. Patient demand is increasing and it is encouraging that the UK is beginning to catch up with Europe in the provision of this therapy.”
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