Personal and confidential references, within DPA 2018

When undertaking assessments of prospective foster carers, fostering services are required to obtain a range of information about applicants from a variety of sources. This will inform their recommendation about the applicant’s suitability to foster.

Personal references are just part of the information required to inform an assessment along with other checks and references.

In the fostering context, personal references are a statutory requirement in the process of assessing an applicant’s suitability to foster. The legislation across the UK provides the legal basis for the duty of fostering service providers to: 

  • ascertain the suitability of a prospective foster carer, 
  • interview at least two people to provide personal references, and 
  • provide written reports of the interviews.

In data protection law, the Data Protection Act 2018 notes that there is a requirement to clarify the difference between a personal reference and a confidential reference. 

This practice information note provides some further information to:

  • Clarify the difference in data protection law between a personal reference and a confidential reference.
  • Outline the implications of this for fostering services when undertaking fostering assessments.
  • Make recommendations regarding policy and practice in relation to obtaining personal references during fostering assessments and highlight the responsibilities of fostering services when managing references obtained as part of a fostering assessment.


Further information

Data Protection Act 2018

Legislation and Regulations