Privacy Policy

Surrey Welfare Rights Unit (SWRU) is a member of Citizens Advice. As a member of Citizens Advice we agree to work within a specified membership framework. At SWRU we collect and use your personal information to help solve your problems, improve our services and tackle wider issues in society that affect people’s lives.

We only ask for the information we need. We always let you decide what you’re comfortable telling us, explain why we need it and treat it as confidential.

When we record and use your personal information we:

  • only access it when we have a good reason
  • only share what is necessary and relevant
  • don’t sell it to commercial organisations

At times we might use or share your information without your permission. If we do, we’ll always make sure there’s a legal basis for it. This could include situations where we have to use or share your information:

  • to comply with the law – for example, if a court orders us to share information. This is called ‘legal obligation’
  • to protect someone’s life – for example, sharing information with a paramedic if a client was unwell at our office. This is called ‘vital interests’
  • to carry out our legitimate aims and goals as a charity – for example, to create statistics for our national research. This is called ‘legitimate interests’
  • for us to carry out a task where we’re meeting the aims of a public body in the public interest – for example, delivering a government or local authority service. This is called ‘public task’
  • to carry out a contract we have with you – for example, if you’re an employee we might need to store your bank details so we can pay you. This is called ‘contract’
  • to defend our legal rights – for example, sharing information with our legal advisors if there was a complaint that we gave the wrong advice

We handle and store your personal information in line with the law – including the General Data Protection Regulation.

You can check the main Citizens Advice policy for how the national service handles your personal information.

This page covers how we, as your local charity, handle your information locally in our offices.

How Surrey Welfare Rights Unit collect your data

We’ll get your permission by asking you to either:

  • sign a paper consent form or
  • give agreement over the phone

Before we ask for your permission, we’ll always explain how we use your information.

What information we ask for

We’ll only ask for information that is relevant to the problem that you or someone acting on your behalf referred to SWRU for advice.  Depending on what you want help with, this might include:

  • personal information – for example about family, work, or financial circumstances.  We need this for giving benefits advice.
  • your name and contact details – so we can keep in touch with you about your case
  • information like your gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation

If you don’t want to give us certain information, you don’t have to. For example, if you want to stay anonymous we’ll only record information about your problem and make sure you’re not identified.

How we use your information

The main reason we ask for your information is to help solve your problem.
We only access your information for other reasons if we really need to – for example:

  • for training and quality purposes
  • to investigate complaints
  • to get feedback from you about our services
  • to help us improve our services

All advisers and staff accessing data have had data protection training to make sure your information is handled sensitively and securely.

Understanding people’s problems

We use some information to create statistics about who we’re helping and what problems are the most common. This information is always anonymised – you can’t be identified.

We share these with funders, regulators, government departments and publicly on our blogs, reports, social media and press releases.

The statistics also inform our policy research, campaigns, or media work.

When we share your information with other organisations

With your permission, we might share your information with other organisations to help solve your problem or to monitor the quality of our services.

Organisations we share your data with must store and use your data in line with data protection law.

Sharing information to solve your problem

If you ask us to act on your behalf we might need to share some of your information with other organisations – we’ll always tell you when we do this. For example if we contact HMCTS about your benefit appeal we will need to give them personal details in order to discuss your case.  In most cases these third parties will be the statutory organisation that is dealing with your case (DWP, HMRC or the local authority), the County Council or the organisation that referred you to us.

If we refer you to another organisation for more advice, we might share information about your problem with them so they can help you more quickly.  We will ask your permission before doing this.

Monitoring our quality of service

With your permission, we’ll share your contact details with our trusted research partner so they can contact you for feedback on your experience with us. We use different research partners depending on how you accessed our services.

Where you got adviceResearch partner
a local Citizens Advice including SWRUMaru/edr
the Debt Advice ProjectRecognising Excellence, Optimisa and PWC Research

If we’re concerned about yours or someone else’s safety

If something you’ve told us makes us think you or someone you know might be at serious risk of harm, we could tell the police or social services – for example if we think you might hurt yourself or someone else.

Storing your information

Whether you get advice face to face, over the phone or by email, our adviser will log all your information, correspondence, and notes about your problem into our secure case management system, Casebook

Some of your information might also be kept within our secure email (Microsoft 360 Cloud) and IT systems. Emails and locally held computer files are password protected.

If you have used our service for advice we keep your information for 6 years. If your case has been subject to a serious complaint, insurance claim or other dispute we keep the data for 16 years.  If you have applied for a job with us we keep recruitment information for 12 months.

Our case management systems are hosted within the EEA and wherever possible, the UK. Most of our trusted partners store their data securely within the European Economic Area (EEA) in line with data protection law.

If you contact us for email advice

Emails between you and the SWRU adviser are stored within our office email system. These are kept secure and kept for 6 years.

If you get advice over the phone

We do not live record phone calls.  If you are giving your consent verbally over the phone we will make a record of this when we record your enquiry on our case management system.

If your adviser refers you to another Citizens Advice Service

Some other Citizens Advice services store and share your information in different ways.

If your service isn’t listed here, there’s nothing extra we need to tell you.

If you’ve been referred to the Citizens Advice Debt Management Service, find out more about how they use, store and share your personal information.

If you’ve been referred to the Citizens Advice Debt Relief Order (DRO) Team, find out more about how they use, store and share your personal information.

If you’ve been referred to the Citizens Advice Witness Service, find out more about how they use, store and share your personal information.

If you’ve been referred to Pension Wise, find out more about how they use, store and share your personal information.

Get in touch with us about your data

You can contact us at any time and ask us:

  • find out what personal information we hold about you
  • correct your information if it’s wrong, out of date or incomplete
  • request we delete your information
  • ask us to limit what we do with your data – for example, ask us not to share it if you haven’t asked us already
  • ask us to give you a copy of the data we hold in a format you can use to transfer it to another service
  • ask us stop using your information

You can call us on 01483 492929 or email

If you want to make a complaint

If you’re not happy with how we’ve handled your data, you can make a complaint. We can send you a leaflet on how to make a complaint or you can ring the office on 01483 492929 or email

You can also raise your concern with the Information Commissioner’s office.

Who’s responsible for looking after your personal information

Surrey Welfare Rights Unit is the data controller for your personal information. The national Citizens Advice charity and local Citizens Advice including Surrey Welfare Rights Unit operate a system called Casebook to keep records of the advice we give. Citizens Advice and Surrey Welfare Rights Unit are joint data controllers of the Casebook system.

Each local Citizens Advice is an independent charity, and a member of the national Citizens Advice charity. The Citizens Advice membership agreement also requires that the use of your information complies with data protection law.

You can find out more about your data rights on the Information Commissioner’s website.