Privacy and cookies

At Samaritans we are committed to protecting your privacy. The purpose of this statement is to explain how Samaritans processes your data, whether you are using our service, interested in volunteering, making a donation or just browsing our website. 

Samaritans is made up of 201 branches in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, some of which are independent charities.  The branches are co-ordinated by Samaritans Central Charity.  Three branches within the branch network are not within the European Economic Area (EEA): Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.  These jurisdictions are however on the European Commission’s “safe” list of countries for personal data exports.  The branches in the Crown Dependencies are subject to the same policies and procedures as branches in the UK and Republic of Ireland. 

Samaritans takes appropriate technical and organisational measures to keep your data safe.  We do use “cloud-based” applications to process some types of personal data and data may be stored outside of the European Economic Area.  Where this happens we ask our suppliers to provide evidence that they have the appropriate measures in place to make sure that your data is secure.

As the service we provide changes, we may need to alter our privacy statement on the website. If you have any queries about this statement please contact the Data Protection Office at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF or email at

If you use Samaritans’ service

Samaritans supports people in distress through its support service.  The service is available by telephone, email, SMS, letter and face to face in a number of settings.

Our service is designed so that the volunteer can’t see your phone number or email address when you contact us. However, some of this information is available on our central systems and can be accessed by staff.  

  • If we need to look into a call or series of calls (for example if you need to make a complaint, we can see telephone calls made to Samaritans on our central system, but see an encrypted telephone number.
  • If you contact , 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) before you press send, and delete any mention of your email address.
  • 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 also record some statistical information on each emotional support contact, to report on and improve our service. This includes information such as gender, and how distressed you were at the time you contacted us. This information never reports about specific people.

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 to enable us to improve our service.

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 the contact log.

If we are concerned about you and want to offer you extra support, we may keep information you’ve given us to help us know it’s you when you call again and so we’re up to date with your situation. We share this information within Samaritans, because we work as a team to provide you with the best possible support.   An example of this is the setting up of assigned support; this is where we will arrange for volunteers to contact you at pre-arranged times.  This can be helpful if you find it difficult to go over previous conversations or if you are going through a particularity difficult time.   Assigned support is not open ended or long term, it is a temporary form of extra support and is only put in place with your input and agreement.

Any records about callers are kept for a limited amount of time.  This ranges from 30 days for caller emails and SMS messages to six months for letters to our Correspondence service.   

We’ll 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 call an ambulance if during the course of a contact it appears that you are not able to make a decision for yourself.
  • 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
  • You threaten the safety of our volunteers
  • You compromise the delivery of our service, for example by making it difficult for other people to get through, or by misusing telephony or other technology
  • You are in a situation which has or could cause you harm, you have given us information that identifies you and you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  This applies to all young people under 13, and in some circumstances to older children and adults.  If we are worried about this situation, we will always talk to you about it first.  Further information about our confidentiality can be found here.
  • You provide information that identifies someone who has caused harm or says they are going to cause harm to a child or vulnerable adult
  • 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 the contact details.

From time to time we have to take decisions to limit an individual’s access to the service.  If this happens, we will make every effort to inform you as to the reason why we have restricted your access.  For example, 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 contact us a lot in a short period of time we may get our system to limit the number of calls we will accept.  We do this to ensure that we can manage the capacity of our service.  The call limit is set bearing in mind that some callers need to contact us several times each day.  If this happens to you, you will get a message that explains how to contact us to discuss your 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 appeal the decision.  If you receive a message saying that we won’t respond to you, or you don’t receive an answer to an email or SMS message, you can appeal our decision. 

In either of the above circumstances, we may limit or withdraw access to the service, as abuse towards volunteers is not acceptable and we cannot be in a position where your use of the service prevents Samaritans services being used by other people.  In extreme situations we may also involve the police.

If you wish to discuss your use of the service or appeal a decision, please contact the Caller Support Team on +44 20 8394 8300, email 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 threaten our volunteers and we bar you from our service, we may report your abuse to the police and circulate your CCTV image to local branches if this available.

If you want to complain

Samaritans aims to support our callers 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, either by contacting the branch involved or Central Charity (contact details below). All complaints will be investigated fully.  

It is important that you give as much information as possible in order to fully investigate your complaint. Your information will not be passed on to anyone outside of Samaritans. So we can effectively handle a complaint, we will in most cases need to involve  the Director of the branch involved to contact you directly.  This is done with your prior consent, so that we resolve the 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 wish to, you can use the Complaints questionnaire here.

If you have any questions or wish to add information concerning your complaint, please contact a member of the Quality Team on +44(0)20 8394 8300 or email Please be aware that your telephone number will be visible to the Quality Team and may be logged for administrative purposes.

You can read the full Complaints Procedure here.

If you would like to volunteer with Samaritans

Samaritans Central Charity works with branches to support the recruitment and management of volunteers across both Central Charity and branches.  It processes volunteer data in the following ways:

If you contact Samaritans about volunteering

If you are interesting in volunteering with Samaritans, you will be asked to give us your personal details.  Most people contact us through our website (, however you can also enquire via the telephone, post, email, or at events.  You can also contact branches directly. Find your nearest branch here.

If you contact Samaritans Central Charity, we will pass this information on to your local Samaritans branch or the branch you have requested.  The branch will then contact you about volunteering at the branch. 

Samaritans Central Charity will also use this information to allow us to monitor requests for volunteering, assist you with any queries you might have regarding your volunteering application and ask you about your experience of applying to volunteer with us. 

We ask for information about age, disability, gender, employment status and ethnicity to help us with equal opportunities monitoring.  You are not required to give us this information, but by choosing to do so you consent to the processing of this information by us. 

If you apply to be a volunteer at a branch

Applications to volunteer need to be made to individual branches.  Your local branch will explain how you can do this.     

The branch may share some of the information that you give in  the application form with Central Charity.  It may also share information from your referees and the criminal records disclosure.  Information about you from a third party will only be used with your knowledge. 

The information provided will be used to make a decision about whether you will be accepted on to a Samaritans’ training course.   

Sharing information outside of Samaritans

Samaritans will keep your personal information 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.

At your request we will provide a reference. 

If you donate to Samaritans

When you donate money to Samaritans, we may collect and process information about you. This information may include your financial details, name, email address, postal address, telephone or mobile number or date of birth. Some of this information may come from external sources.

We may use your information for a number of purposes including:

  • To process donations you have made;
  • If you have consented we will update you about our work and activities.  From time to time these updates may include requests for financial support 
  • For administration purposes (for example, we may contact you regarding a donation you have made or the event you have registered for);
  • For internal record keeping, including the management of any feedback or complaints;
  • To invite you to participate in surveys or research (this is voluntary).

When you make a donation via our website, the data is stored on a secure server. We also take appropriate measures to ensure the information disclosed to us is kept protected and up to date.  You can also donate to Samaritans via a number of online providers such as PayPal, Virgin Money Giving or Just Giving websites (separate privacy statements apply).  You may also donate directly to a branch through their branch pages on this website. 

You can donate to Samaritans via your mobile phone either on a one-off basis or through a monthly subscription service.  Click here for our text-to-donate T&Cs, which explain how to opt-out of further text or phone communication from us. We work with a supplier to provide and administer the text-to-donate service, and calls about this service including how to opt out of calls or texts, will be routed through this supplier (see our text-to-donate T&Cs for details).

Marketing communications

If you donate to us, we will ask you if we can stay in touch and keep you up to date with our fundraising activities and the work of the charity.  We will also ask you how you would like us to stay in touch – by mail, telephone, email or text message. 

  • If you have given us your postal address, we may send you direct mail by post unless you have told us that you would prefer not to receive information in this way
  • If you have given us your telephone number, we may telephone you about our work unless you have told us that you prefer not to be contacted in this way.
  • If you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service, we will only call you if you have told us that you are happy to receive telephone calls from us.
  • If we are contacting you by email or text, we will tell you how you can opt out of further communications.

We work with some event / challenge organisers who collect your personal information as part of the registration process.  If you have consented to contact from Samaritans as part of registration, your contact details will be passed to us and we will contact you as referenced by the third party supplier.

From time to time, Samaritans works with fundraising agencies, which provide data processing services.  For example, this may be a fundraising telemarketing agency who will call on our behalf or a company that provides printing and postage services to send postal communications to our supporters.

In such cases we may share your personal information with these suppliers.  When we do this, we do not give these organisations any rights to use your personal information (or contact you) except in accordance with our instructions. We also require these third parties to comply with Data Protection legislation, and we make sure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

Where personal information is passed from Samaritans to our contracted suppliers, this is transferred securely and is only used for the specific purpose as confirmed by our contract with them.

If you have made a Gift Aid declaration, we may disclose the information you have provided as part of the declaration to HMRC for the purpose of reclaiming Gift Aid on your donation(s).

We not share or sell personal information to third parties for marketing purposes.

We will hold your personal information on our systems for as long as is necessary for the relevant activity. If you have indicated that you do not wish to be contacted, we will retain your details on a suppression list to help ensure that we do not continue to contact you.

Keeping your information up to date

If you have provided us with your details, but decide at a later date that you no longer want to receive information from us or your personal details have changed, simply let our Supporter Care Team know by contacting them at:

Supporter Care


The Upper Mill    



KT17 2AF or telephone on: 03709 00 00 32

Alternatively, contact the branch directly that you support. 

Research at Samaritans

Samaritans undertakes 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 inform the development of our service and our work to influence government policy.

As well as the policies for the protection of data set out above, Samaritans has a Research Ethics Policy which applies to all research that involves contacting and collating information from current or past callers, volunteers and members of the general public and is carried out by Samaritans staff or volunteers, or external research teams that are supported or commissioned by the charity.

As per the Research Ethics Policy, informed consent is required for all activities that involve contact between researchers (whether Samaritans staff or from an external institution) and research participants. This means that participants must be fully informed about the project, including how any data provided will be used and the degree of anonymity and confidentiality provided, before agreeing to take part and must provide written consent.

All electronic and hard copy data collected during research is stored securely and is accessible only to designated researchers and for the purposes of the research.

From time to time the research team uses externally hosted websites to conduct surveys. These websites may be sited in countries or jurisdictions which do not provide the same level of data protection as the UK. Surveys contain information at the beginning about the purpose of research and how the data will be used, and participants are required to indicate that they consent to take part before they proceed to complete the survey. This information includes the fact that the website hosting the survey is outside of the UK, so by participating in the survey, they are providing  written consent to the transfer of any data they provide, including any personal details and sensitive personal data such as information about their emotional wellbeing. 

Complaints about research should be directed to the researcher leading the project or to the Head of Policy and Research at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF

Using our website

Do we use 'Cookies' ?

Our website uses cookies, as almost all websites do, to help provide you with the best experience we can. Cookies are small text files that are placed on your computer or mobile phone when you browse websites. You can find more information about cookies here.

Almost all websites use cookies to ensure that you can interact with our website successfully.

Our cookies help us:

  • Make our website work as you'd expect
  • Improve the speed/security of the site
  • Allow you to share pages with social networks like Facebook
  • Continuously improve our website for you
  • Make our services more efficient
  • Save you having to login every time you visit the site

We do not use cookies to:

  • Collect any personally identifiable information (without your express permission)
  • Collect any sensitive information (without your express permission)
  • Pass data to advertising networks
  • Pass personally identifiable data to third parties
  • Pay sales commissions

Our own cookies

Our uses a number of different cookies:

  • SERVERID – used for load balancing, to ensure we deliver the website as quickly as possible
  • has_js – identifies whether your machine has Javascript, a very common piece of technology that allows forms to work, or open new windows, amongst other features
  • Kissmetrics cookies, which track how users behave on the site so we can improve how it's used

Third party cookies

Google Analytics cookies

These cookies help tell Samaritans how many people have been to the site before, what time people visited the site and what pages were looked at. No personal information is stored.

  • _utma stores each user’s number of visits, time of the first visit, the previous visit and the current visit. Expires two years after your last visit to the site
  • utmb and _utmc checks how long a visitor stays on the site: when a visit starts and ends. These expire 30 minutes after your visit, or after 30 minutes of inactivity, or when you close your browser.
  • utmz tracks where a visitor came from (search engine, search keyword, link). Expires six months after it was last set

For more information, see Google’s help pages and Google’s privacy policy here.

Cookies when sharing content

So you can easily “Like”, “Tweet” or share our content on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, we have included sharing buttons on our site.

Cookies are set by AddThis, Facebook and Twitter.

Add This provides the sharing mechanism to Facebook and Twitter. Their cookies are:

  • ssc – record the network you are sharing to
  • ssh and sshs – optimise the appearance of the sharing settings
  • uid – tracks your login to the service. Expires in 2 years

You can read the Add This privacy policy here. You can opt out of Add This cookies here.

Tweeting a page link automatically creates two cookies on your machine:

  • guest_id - This cookie is used to identify you to twitter. This cookie will expire in two years’ after creation.
  • Twitter_sess - This cookie remembers changes from page to page

You can read the Twitter privacy policy here.

Facebook sets a number of cookies when you log into its website. For more information, click here.

Cookie when making donations

Single donation

Sagepay cookies allow our online payment processing facility to know how much you wish to donate, so it can charge your credit/debit card appropriately:

  • JSESSIONID -assigns you a unique ID so it can differentiate you from other users
  • NSC_wjq-tbhfqbz-dpn – This cookie is used to store the session identifier of your SagePay Session.

No personal information or card information is recorded in the cookies, and the transaction takes place on secure web pages. These cookies are deleted when you close your browser. 

Sagepay's privacy policy can be read here.

Regular donation

  • __cfduid - This Globalsign cookie is a mechanism to protect from malicious traffic. No identity or personally identifiable information is associated with this cookie.

Globalsign's privacy policy is online here.

  • Session cookie – this cookie from Samaritans makes sure your browser remembers your details if you need to go back and change anything. This cookie is deleted when you finish the donation.

Paypal donation

If you choose to donate to Samaritans using PayPal, a number of cookies are placed on your machine to allow the transaction to go ahead. These are managed by PayPal.

You can find out more about PayPal’s privacy policy here.

Removing cookies

If you want to prevent our cookies being stored on your computer in future, you may do so by referring to your internet browser's instructions. You can do this by clicking on the "Help" menu.
You can find out how to do this on your computer here.

If you wish to prevent Google from collecting any information about your presence on our website, they offer a tool here.

If you subscribe to Samaritans' emails

You can sign up to receive news about Samaritans by email in a variety of ways including through our website, our Facebook Page, when making a donation, at events or via other methods. You can also sign up to hear more about Samaritans’ campaigning through our website. In both these cases we will ask you to give us your name and email address and we may ask for other personal data depending on the context. If you sign up to our monthly e-newsletter or to receive information about our campaigning, we will send you a confirmation email and registration for the newsletter will not be completed until you confirm.

Your contact data is stored with our third party email service provider, MailChimp (separate privacy statement applies). If you are in touch with Samaritans for other reasons such as volunteering or making a donation, you should also refer to the relevant section of this privacy statement.

We will only use your contact details to send you the information that you have requested from us.

How to unsubscribe from receiving emails

Should you wish to stop receiving emails from us, you can unsubscribe directly through an 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?

Samaritans uses MailChimp, which is a web based email service provider. MailChimp does not use cookies to track our subscribers. Links and images are used to track / open and clicks for campaigns. Our emails use email tracking technology, as almost all emails do, to help provide you with the best experience we can. The technology places an invisible single pixel gif image (also called a web beacon) in emails to detect when they have been opened and when links within emails have been clicked. Web beacons allow us to collect information about when you open the email, your IP address, your browser or email client type and other similar details. We use this data to create reports about who has or hasn’t opened emails or clicked links and this information helps us to improve our email content so you receive more useful and relevant information from us.

You can find more information about email tracking here.

Right of subject access

You have the right under the Data Protection Act 1998 to ask for a copy of the information we hold about you and to have any inaccuracies in your information corrected.  If you wish to make a subject access request we will ask you to:

  • Put the request in writing for the attention of the Data Protection Officer, at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF. Or if you are 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 are using the helpline, we will ask you  for information about your contacts to Samaritans  and to provide a copy of the telephone bill for the number you use to make calls to Samaritans
  • Pay a fee of £10

For your information we will only send a response to a subject access request to you by registered mail at a postal address.

You should also note that 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.