At Samaritans, privacy is at the heart of what we do.
We are committed to protecting your privacy and the personal information that we hold. The purpose of this statement is to be clear and transparent about how Samaritans uses your personal information, whether you are using our service, interested in volunteering, making a donation or just browsing our website.
Who are we?
Samaritans offers a safe place for you to talk, any time, in whatever way is best for you.
Samaritans has more than 200 branches and locations in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, some of which are independent charities. The branches are coordinated and supported by Samaritans Central Charity (registered charity number in England and Wales: 219432; and in Scotland: SC040604).
Samaritans Central Charity is also registered as a company under company number 757372, and operates a wholly owned subsidiary, The Samaritans Enterprises Limited, company number 01451175.
Within this Privacy Statement ‘we’ and ‘us’ means Samaritans Central Charity, the branches that are part of the Samaritans Central Charity and the Samaritans companies. Each of these are data controllers under the data protection laws.
Samaritans Ireland is registered as a company under company number 450409 and is a separate data controller for the purposes of the data protection laws. If you are in contact with Samaritans Ireland only, please read the information contained here.
Some of the Samaritans branches are independent charities and are separate data controllers for the purposes of the data protection laws. If you are in contact with a particular branch only, you should refer to the branch website to read their data privacy statement.
Which laws apply to us?
Your ‘personal information’ is information that can be used to identify you. This can include your name, email address, postal address, telephone number, date of birth and credit/debit card details, as well as ‘sensitive personal information’ such as details about your ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, physical or mental health and details of criminal offences. Samaritans collects, stores and handles personal information for a variety of purposes, including to manage our volunteers, to process donations made to us, to engage with our supporters and to provide our services to the public.
The following laws apply to Samaritans, as an organisation that collects, stores and handles personal information:
- the Data Protection Act 1998
- the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679
- the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
We will handle your information in accordance with these laws.
Changes to this Privacy Statement
As the service we provide changes, we may need to alter this Privacy Statement. If you have any queries about this statement please contact the Legal & Governance team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF or email [email protected].
How we use personal information
If you use Samaritans’ service
Samaritans supports people in distress through its support service. Our service is available by telephone, email, text message, letter and face to face.
Our telephone helpline is designed so that Samaritans volunteers can’t see your phone number when you contact us. However, some information that could be used to identify you is available on our central systems and can be accessed by Samaritans Central Office staff, for example:
If we need to investigate a call or series of calls (e.g. if you make a complaint), we can use an encrypted telephone number shown on our central system to identify the specific calls.
If you contact [email protected] , we do our best to mask your email address by replacing it with a caller ID and message ID before it reaches a volunteer. If you reply to the email we send you, your actual email address may be visible in the addressee line. This depends on how your computer is set up. If you would like to avoid this, you should review the whole of your email message (including any historic messages, usually shown below your current reply) and delete any mention of your email address before you press send.
If you contact us by letter, the volunteer will be able to see your postal address
Unlike the telephone helpline, your telephone number will be visible if you contact Samaritans Central Office
In general, we try to keep as little information about you as possible. Volunteers may take notes when they talk to you to assist in the conversation. These notes are shredded at the end of the call. We don’t record your phone calls to the helpline but volunteers and staff may from time to time listen in to calls for training, support, or research purposes.
We record some statistical information on each contact we receive, to report on and improve our service. This includes non-identifiable information, such as gender and how distressed the individual was at the time of contact. This information is never used to report on specific people. Where we provide emotional support in locations outside of the branches, our volunteers will take steps to ensure that any notes taken for statistical purposes are kept secure and securely disposed of once the data has been entered into our central contact log.
If we are concerned about you and want to offer you extra support, we may agree to call you back or for you to call us at an agreed time. In these cases, we will record information you’ve given us so that we know it’s you when you call again. We may need to share this information within Samaritans, because we work as a team to provide you with the best possible support and we want to ensure that whoever you speak to is up to date with your situation. This can be helpful if you find it difficult to go over previous conversations or if you are going through a particularity difficult time.
We may contact you to offer our support if you are referred to us by another organisation or individual. Once we have contacted you we will destroy your contact details, unless you agree to further contact – in which case we will, with your consent, keep your contact details.
Our additional support is not meant to be long term, it is a temporary form of extra support and is only put in place with your input and agreement. Samaritans will never pass any of this information on to any other organisation, except in the following situations:
- We receive a call about acts of terrorism or bomb warnings
- We receive a court order requiring us to share information
- We are working in partnership with another organisation and you have given consent for your information to be shared
- You directly ask us to pass on information about you to someone else
- We are concerned that you are not able to make a decision for yourself and we call an ambulance for you
- You threaten the safety of our volunteers
- You misuse or compromise the delivery of our service, for example by making it difficult for other people to get through
Limiting or withdrawing access to our services
From time to time we have to take decisions to limit an individual’s access to our services. For example:
- If you contact us a lot in a short period of time we may need to manage your access to our service to ensure that others are able to get through to us. If this happens to you, you will get a message that explains how else you can contact us to discuss your support needs.
- If we believe you are abusing our service or are abusive towards volunteers, we may use our system to block your calls or messages from getting through. If you can’t get through by phone, you will hear a message that explains how to contact us to discuss our decision to block you from our system.
If we take the decision to limit your access to our systems, we will make every effort to inform you as to the reason why we have restricted your access. We may ask you to give us a contact number so that a member of our Caller Support Team can call you to talk about your support needs.
If you wish to discuss your use of the service or appeal a decision, please contact the Caller Support Team at Samaritans Central Office on +44 20 8394 8300, email [email protected] or write to the Caller Support Team, Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey KT17 2AF. Please be aware that if you call Samaritans Central Office, your telephone number may be visible to the Caller Support Team and may be logged for administrative purposes.
If you are abusive or threaten our volunteers, we may report you to the police and, where available, circulate your CCTV image to local branches to ensure the safety of our volunteers.
If you would like to volunteer with Samaritans
Samaritans is made up of branches across the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, some of which are independent charities. The branches are coordinated by Samaritans Central Charity.
Samaritans Central Charity works with branches to support the recruitment and management of volunteers. Samaritans Central Charity and branches need to collect, use, store and share certain information about applicants and volunteers to manage their application and involvement with the organisation. The need to use applicant and volunteer information in this way is known as a ‘legitimate interest’ of Samaritans and is the lawful basis upon which Samaritans handles personal data for these purposes.
This section sets out how your personal data will be used by Samaritans Central Charity and the branches to administer and coordinate your application and volunteering with us.
If you want to learn more about volunteering with Samaritans
If you are interested in volunteering with Samaritans, you can contact us through our website (www.samaritans.org), via the telephone, post, email, or at events. You can also contact branches directly. Find your nearest branch here.
You will be asked to give us your personal details so that we can contact you in relation to your enquiry. If you have contacted Samaritans Central Charity, we will pass this information on to your local Samaritans branch (or the branch you have requested), so that they can get in touch to discuss volunteering opportunities at the branch.
Samaritans Central Charity will also use the information you have provided to assist you with any queries you might have regarding your volunteering application and to ask you about your experience of applying to volunteer with us.
Samaritans Central Charity also collects statistical information to help monitor enquiries and applications for volunteering, as well as to help us to carry out equal opportunity monitoring. As part of the application process, we may ask for information about your age, disability, gender, employment status and ethnicity (known as ‘sensitive personal information’) to help us with equal opportunities monitoring. You are not required to give us this information, but if you do so, we will use it for the purposes of managing your application and involvement with Samaritans and equal opportunities monitoring only.
If you apply to be a volunteer at a branch
Once you have decided to apply to volunteer with Samaritans, you will need to get in touch with your chosen branch. The branch will explain how to submit your application form.
The branch may need to share some of the information that you give in your application form with Samaritans Central Charity, such as the information from your referees and your criminal records disclosure.
The information you provide on your application form will be used to make a decision about whether you will be accepted on to a Samaritans training course. You may be asked for information about your age, disability, gender, employment status and ethnicity (known as ‘sensitive personal information’) to help Samaritans with equal opportunities monitoring. You are not required to give this information, but if you do, the relevant branch and Samaritans Central Charity will use it for the purposes of managing your application and involvement with Samaritans and equal opportunities monitoring only.
Samaritans will keep the personal information you provide to us during the application process confidential, unless we are required to disclose it in connection with a police investigation and/or we have reason to believe that you may present a risk of harm to others.
We will provide a reference for volunteers upon request.
If you donate to Samaritans
When you donate money to Samaritans Central Charity or one of our branches, we need to collect and use certain information about you in order to process your donation. This could include your name, email address, postal address, telephone or mobile number, bank details, taxpayer status (to understand if we can claim Gift Aid), date of birth and history of previous donations. We may also use the personal information you have provided, and information about you gathered from publically available sources (for example, details of your affiliation with other charities or companies), for research purposes. There is more information on this below.
When you make a donation via Samaritans Central Charity’s website or a branch website, your data is stored on a secure server and processed by our payment service provider, Sage Pay. Sage Pay provides a secure payment gateway – it uses internationally recognised encryption standards and security methods to keep your data safe.
If you donate to Samaritans via your mobile phone either on a one-off or monthly basis, the text-to-donate T&Cs will apply. We use an external supplier, Open Fundraising Limited, to provide and administer the text-to-donate service. See our text-to-donate T&Cs for details of how your information will be used to process your donation and how you can let us know that you don’t want to receive additional communications from us.
As a charity that relies on donations, it is important that Samaritans keeps the public updated on our vital work and campaigns. We also need to understand how we can best attract and communicate with new and existing supporters, in order to target our resources effectively. These are examples of Samaritans’ ‘legitimate interests’ and are our lawful basis for using the personal information that you provide to us to:
contact you by post to update you on our vital work and campaigns (from time to time these updates may include requests for financial support; you can let us know that you no don’t want to hear from us anymore at any time – see the ‘Keeping in Touch’ section of this Privacy Statement);
- invite you to participate in surveys or research (on a voluntary basis);
- carry out research into how we can better engage with and attract new supporters;
- carry out research into how we can better communicate with new and existing supporters;
- keep a record of your relationship with us; and
- keep in touch in relation to any legacy pledges you have made to Samaritans.
Occasionally, Samaritans works with external companies who analyse our donor information to determine geographical and demographic trends. This helps us to send the most effective communications to potential and existing supporters. We only work with suppliers who we trust to keep the personal details of our donors safe. We require our partners to comply with data protection laws and to put appropriate safeguards in place.
If our research identifies that you may be willing and able to support us, we may gather additional information about you, such as professional history, affiliation with other charities and companies, trusteeships or club and livery membership, using publicly available sources. These sources could include Companies House, company websites, Who’s Who, Debretts, LinkedIn, Charity Commission website and recent press coverage. We will use this information to determine which areas of Samaritans work might be of greatest interest to you, in order to contact you with the most relevant information to see whether you are willing to support us.
We may use information from the same publicly available sources to identify who is responsible for a company’s or trust’s CSR, charitable giving and grant making policies and to identify an appropriate means of contact to enquire whether the organisation may consider supporting Samaritans.
We may also aggregate and anonymise personal data that we collect, for research purposes. This anonymous data can no longer be linked to any particular person and may be used for a variety of purposes, such as identifying trends and patterns within our existing supporter base.
Research at Samaritans
Samaritans carries out research into suicide and self-harm, effective ways of providing support to people in distress and the needs and experiences of people using our services. We use this to help us develop our services and to inform our work in influencing government policy. This research may be carried out by Samaritans staff or volunteers, or external research teams that are supported or commissioned by Samaritans.
As well as the steps that we take to ensure your personal data is protected, Samaritans has a Research Ethics Policy which applies to all research that involves contacting and collecting information from current or past callers, volunteers and members of the general public.
The Research Ethics Policy requires informed consent from all individuals for all activities that involve contact between researchers (whether these are Samaritans staff, volunteers or staff from an external institution) and research participants. This means that participants must be fully informed about the project, including how any personal data provided will be used and the degree of anonymity and confidentiality provided, before agreeing to take part. Participants must provide positive consent (which may be written or verbal) that they are happy with the basis of the project and how their data will be used before proceeding.
All electronic and hard copy data collected during research is stored securely and is accessible only by the designated researchers and for the purposes of the research project. Data is stored for a duration of time specific to each research project but will not be kept longer than is necessary for the purposes of that project. Once the data is no longer needed, it is destroyed.
From time to time Samaritans researchers use externally hosted websites to conduct surveys. These websites may be hosted in countries or jurisdictions which do not provide the same level of data protection as the countries within the European Economic Area. You will be told if a website is hosted outside of the European Economic Area before you begin the survey, as well as other information about the purpose of research and how your data will be used. You will also be provided with a link to the survey host’s privacy statement. All survey participants are required to indicate that they consent to take part before they proceed to complete the survey, so by agreeing to take part, you will be providing consent to the use of your personal details and sensitive personal data (such as information about your emotional wellbeing) and the transfer of your data outside of the European Economic Area (where applicable).
Sharing your story
Some of our service users and supporters choose to tell us about their experiences to help further our work. This may include sharing sensitive personal information relating to their health and emotional wellbeing.
If we have the explicit consent of the individual, or their parent or guardian if they are under 18, we may use this information in materials promoting our campaigning and fundraising work, or in documents such as our annual report.
Keeping in touch
As a charity that relies on donations, it is important that Samaritans keeps the public updated on our vital work and campaigns and that we let our potential and existing supporters know how they can continue to support us. These are examples of Samaritans’ ‘legitimate interests’ and are our lawful basis for using the personal information that you provide to us to send you our updates by post. So, if you volunteer, fundraise or donate to us and you have given us your postal address, we will keep you up to date with Samaritans’ activities and work by post. We will also ask you whether you would like to stay in touch by telephone, email or text message. You can also sign up to receive news about Samaritans by email through our website or our Facebook Page.
You can update your contact preferences or let us know that you don’t want to hear from us any more at any time by emailing [email protected] or calling us on 03709 00 00 32. If you tell us that you don’t want to receive our updates anymore, we will keep your details on a ‘suppression’ list to help ensure that we do not continue to send these to you. We may still need to contact you for administrative purposes, for example to process a donation you have made, or to give you information about an event you have registered for.
If you subscribe to Samaritans' emails
If you sign up to receive news and updates from Samaritans by email, your name and contact details will be stored with our third party email service provider, MailChimp. You can read their privacy statement here.
How to unsubscribe from receiving Samaritans emails
If you want to stop receiving emails from us, you can unsubscribe directly through the Unsubscribe link provided within every Samaritans email - it is usually located at the bottom of the email. By clicking this link, you will be automatically unsubscribed from all future emails. Please allow up to 10 working days for our records to update and for the unsubscribe to take effect.
How to notify us of a change in details
If your personal details change, please help us to keep your information up to date by clicking on the “Update my details” link provided within every Samaritans email. It is usually located at the bottom of the email.
Do we use email tracking?
Sharing information outside of Samaritans
Samaritans works with various external companies, who may collect, store or process personal information on our behalf. When we do this, we:
- carry out checks on each company before we decide to work with them, to ensure that they have adequate safeguards in place to keep your data safe;
- do not give them any rights to use your personal information except in accordance with our instructions;
- require them to give us contractual assurances that they will comply with all data protection laws; and
- make sure that your data is transferred to them securely.
Here are some examples of the companies that we may share your data with or that may have access to your data for the purposes of providing services to Samaritans:
- Our website & database providers: EDO, Access Group, Salesforce, Brightgen, Atlas Identity, Differentia
- Our payroll giving, campaigning & fundraising partners: Hands On Payroll Giving, STC Payroll Giving, Payroll Giving in Action, QTS Fundraising, Engaging Networks
- Our payment system, direct debit and Gift Aid processing service providers: Sage Pay, RSM 2000 Ltd, BMC Azurri GA Solutions Limited
- Our printers & communications fulfilment partners: Mosaic, MailChimp, Brightsource, Snap RPB, Red River, Pollards
- Our research survey providers: Quiz Works, SurveyMonkey
- Our raffle & lottery services provider: Sterling
- Our analytics partners: UK Changes, Kissmetrics
Some of the companies that we work with may be based outside of the European Economic Area. Where this is the case, we ask suppliers to provide additional evidence that they have the appropriate measures in place to ensure that your personal information is kept safe.
If you have made a Gift Aid declaration, we will need to disclose the information you have provided as part of our declaration to HMRC for the purpose of reclaiming Gift Aid.
We may disclose your personal information if we are requested to do so by a regulator or law enforcement bodies, or where we are otherwise required to do so by law. We may also need to share your information with external organisations in the case of suspected fraud or for the prevention or detection of other crimes.
We will never sell your personal information to other organisations to use for their own marketing purposes.
Fundraising and social media platforms
We will never sell your personal information to other organisations to use for their own marketing purposes. Where you have agreed to receive communications from us via email or text, we may share an encrypted version of your details with social media companies, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This allows us to reach you and others like you with our latest news and information on those social media platforms. You can tell us that you are not happy for your information to be used in this way by contacting us at [email protected]. We won’t be able to guarantee that you will never see one of our adverts again, as these may be generated from other sources on a randomised basis.
Some of Samaritans premises and branches operate CCTV systems, so you may be recorded when you visit them. CCTV is installed for security, to protect both you and Samaritans staff and volunteers. CCTV footage will only be viewed when necessary (for example to detect or prevent a crime) and is only stored on a temporary basis, other than where it has been flagged for review.
Links to third party websites
Storing your information
Where we store your information
Samaritans operates across the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and stores our data within the European Economic Area (EEA). Three branches within Samaritans’ branch network are not within the EEA: Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. These jurisdictions are, however, on the European Commission’s “safe” list of countries for transferring personal data and are subject to the same policies and procedures as Samaritans branches in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
We do use ‘cloud-based’ applications provided by external suppliers to collect, store and handle some types of personal information. These suppliers (e.g. Microsoft) may be based outside of the EEA. Where this is the case, we ask suppliers to provide evidence that they have the appropriate measures in place to ensure that your personal information is kept safe.
Samaritans uses various technical and organisational measures to keep your data safe. Electronic data and databases are stored on secure computer systems and we control who has access to information, using both physical and electronic means. Our staff and volunteers receive data protection training and are provided with guidance that they are required to follow when handling personal information.
Although we do our best to keep your information safe, the transmission of information over the internet is never completely secure, so please bear this in mind when you share information with us via our website.
How long we keep your personal information for
We only keep your personal information for as long as required, depending on what it was collected for, and in accordance with legal requirements and tax and accounting rules.
If you have told us that you don’t want to be contacted by Samaritans, we will keep your details on a ‘suppression’ list to help ensure that we do not continue to contact you.
The data protection laws give you certain rights over your personal information and how we use it. These include:
- the right of access to a copy of the information that we hold about you;
- the right to ask us to correct inaccurate information that we hold about you;
- the right, in certain circumstances, to object to specific uses of your data; and
- the right, in certain circumstances, to request the information that we hold about you to be deleted.
If you wish to exercise any of these rights, please:
Put your request in writing and email it to [email protected] or send it for the attention of the Legal & Governance team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF. If you are only in contact with a single branch, you can put your request in writing to that branch.
Provide proof of identity including your name and postal address. If you requesting information relating to your use of the Samaritans helpline, we will ask you for information about your contacts with Samaritans and to provide a copy of the telephone bill for the number you use to make calls to Samaritans.
Help us to respond to you as quickly as possible by being specific about which information you would like to receive a copy of or that you would like is to amend/delete. Please note:
We will only send a response to a subject access request to you by registered mail at a postal address.
If we are unable to verify your identity, for example if you contact the service anonymously or use a different name to do so, it may not be possible to provide you with the information requested.
Samaritans is not a ‘public authority’ as defined under the Freedom of Information Act and we will therefore not respond to requests for information made under this Act.
Keeping your information up to date
If your personal details have changed, let our Supporter Care Team know by contacting them at:
Supporter Care Team
The Upper Mill
[email protected] or telephone on: 03709 00 00 32
Alternatively, contact the branch that you support directly.
If you want to complain
Samaritans aims to provide support to the highest possible standard at all times. To help achieve this, we encourage anyone who is not completely happy with the service they have received to let us know immediately, by contacting the branch involved or Samaritans Central Office Quality Team on +44(0)20 8394 8300, or you can use the Complaints questionnaire here.
All complaints will be investigated fully. It is important that you give as much information as possible to enable us to investigate your complaint. Your information will not be passed on to anyone outside of Samaritans but in most cases we will need to involve the Director of the relevant branch. With your prior consent, the Director will contact you directly to try to resolve your complaint.
It is our aim to resolve a complaint within 14 days of receiving it. In some cases, this isn’t possible but we will do our best to resolve it as soon as we can.
If you have any questions or wish to add information concerning your complaint, please contact a member of our Samaritans Central Office Quality Team on +44(0)20 8394 8300 or email [email protected]. Please be aware that if you call our central office number, your telephone number will be visible to the Quality Team and may be logged for administrative purposes.
Using our website
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