AN investigation is under way after a laptop computer containing sensitive details on vulnerable children was stolen from a member of a fostering and adoption panel.
Police are probing the theft of the device from the home of an independent consultant who conducts reviews of foster and adoptive parents in Edinburgh.
Files and minutes from dozens of reviews are understood to be among the documents kept on the computer, which detectives have so far been unable to recover.
Edinburgh City Council, which operates the fostering system in the Capital, admitted the laptop data had not been encrypted.
Although the laptop is likely to have been stolen at random and not because of the information it contains, it is understood that officials are particularly concerned because some of the information on the laptop may relate to children who were removed from their parents by social services.
The council says it has contacted as many as possible of those whose details are on the laptop to ensure they are aware of the theft.
A council spokeswoman said: “The police advice is that it’s unlikely the information was targeted and that the laptop was probably wiped for resale. However, we won’t take any chances even when there is a low risk of individuals being identified. We have contacted the majority of those involved and have apologised. We’re working with our external advisers to stress the importance of information security.”
Foster parents spoke of their concerns over the theft. Reviews of parents are carried out periodically and involve discussing how the fostered children are settling with the family, along with any behavioural or medical problems.
One foster parent told the Evening News: “The council got in touch and said the minutes of dozens of meetings were contained on a laptop which had been stolen, and there may have been a data protection leak. From what we understood there could have been several years’ worth.
“We got the impression that they were supposed to be very hot on confidentiality. You can’t discuss certain things with your neighbours, so it’s somewhat ironic that this has happened at their end.”
Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown called for the council to take stricter security measures.
He said: “This should serve as another wake-up call to the council about security. While there is always a danger of laptops being stolen, what the council can control is the level of security within the laptop.”
A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “We are following a positive line of inquiry following a house-breaking at an address in the south-east of Edinburgh.”
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