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MIRRA: Memory – Identity – Rights in Records – Access

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MIRRA is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project based at UCL and led by Professor Elizabeth Shepherd. It began in October 2017 and is funded until October 2019.  The acronym stands for Memory – Identity – Rights in Records – Access.  You can read more about the project in our leaflet by clicking on the image below.

Click on the image to download our information leaflet.

Overview

The aim of the research is to develop a better understanding of information rights in child social care contexts in England, with a particular emphasis on rights to privacy, confidentiality and access to records and data. The study approaches these issues from a ‘recordkeeping perspective’, meaning that it focuses on how records are created, conceptualised and mobilised by the people who use them. This includes social work practitioners, information professionals (such as data protection officers and records managers), academic researchers and, most importantly, the children, young people and care leavers who the records are about.

The project is oriented towards the experiences and needs of care-experienced people and is delivered in partnership with the Care Leavers’ Association and with the support of other care and care leaver advocacy organisations including Become and the Rees: The Care Leavers Foundation.

Methodology

MIRRA researchers will undertake a detailed study of the public and voluntary sectors in England responsible for the management of child social care records and data. The team will consider recordkeeping practices both current and historic (from 1970). England is the study setting because of the specific national legal frameworks and structure of care provision but findings will be contextualised with comparative national examples from Scotland, Ireland, Australia and Canada.

The research will be comprised of three core activities:

  1. Desk research and literature review

A survey of the literature and relevant research resources will draw on expertise and learning from relevant disciplines such as information rights and records policy; archives and records management; social care; and organisational structures and management. The content of legislation, codes of practice and guidance and public policy on information rights will be analysed.

  1. Data Collection

We will adopt a mixed methods approach to primary data collection, gathering qualitative data from respondents from four communities of knowledge, expertise and practice:

Group 1 – Care leavers and care-experienced people, aged 18+

Group 2 – Social care practitioners, including foster carers and residential workers

Group 3 – Records and information practitioners, including data protection and information governance officers

Group 4 – Academic researchers, e.g. social scientists who use social care data in their work.

Drawing on multiple perspectives will enable us to collect richer data and provide a measure of triangulation of the findings. We will hold workshops and events with participants, as well as conducting individual semi-structured interviews.  Although this approach will not allow for generalisations or seek to be representative, it will enable the project to draw on a range of experiences and views.

Participatory Action Approach

MIRRA is a participatory action project, meaning that it brings people who have different skills and expertise together to explore information rights. The knowledge generated through collaboration will be used to design actions that lead to positive change.  The research is oriented towards the perspectives and viewpoints of care leavers themselves, as the people with a personal and emotional stake in social care records.  Their expertise and knowledge will be given precedence in the research design and outcomes.  This is particularly important in rebalancing the distribution of power in relation to care records, which is usually tipped in favour of practitioners and policy-makers. A Participatory Design Group of six care-experienced people will be involved at every stage of the project delivery, from design and data collection through to publication.

Three key outputs will be co-produced with this group, drawing on the findings from all participants.

  • A care-leaver’s information rights ‘pack’, to support people’s agency and control over their life stories, memories and identities.
  • A policy briefing, to reframe public policy debates about information rights and to advocate for legislative and regulatory change that recognises the unique nature of social care records.
  • Learning materials for practitioners, to raise awareness of information rights and centralise the needs and wellbeing of data subjects in recording and recordkeeping practices.

As the project develops there may be alternative ways of producing these outputs or achieving our objectives and we will be flexible as to their final form.