MSD's client data collection is a breach of privacy, says NZAC
Handing over personal details of clients who are seeking help from social services is a breach of their confidentiality, says the NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC).
NZAC President, Bev Weber, says the Ministry of Social Development's (MSD) demands for clients' names, birthdates, ethnicity and the personal details of any dependents under contracts is "extremely worrying".
From July, more than 800 groups including sexual violence and counselling services will provide private client information in exchange for funding.
Demanding this kind of personal information goes against the Association's ethical values, Ms Weber says.
"Not only is it a complete breach of a client's confidentiality, but also their trust.
"One of our core ethical commitments is to client confidentiality, which is fundamental in the client-counsellor relationship."
Her comments follow revelations from privacy lawyer Kathryn Dalziel who stated that MSD "looked to be on shaky ground".
She expressed concerns about the potential for a breach of privacy due to the government's lack of purpose behind the data collection.
However, what is more concerning is the country's most vulnerable, who could simply walk away from help, Ms Weber says.
"Our main concern about the MSD requiring individual client data from community agencies is that clients may hesitate to ask for help if they think their information will be shared.
"If this government is serious about social investment, then it should invest in the local counselling and sexual violence agencies that are working at the coalface to help those in need."