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.
Samaritans Central Charity Privacy Statement
The purpose of this statement is to be clear and transparent about how Samaritans uses your personal information.
This Privacy Statement applies to people who use our service, our supporters, our volunteers as well as to the general public and visitors to our premises. If you are an employee, or a potential or past employee, please refer to our employee privacy statement.
Some of the Samaritans branches are independent charities and are separate data controllers for the purposes of data protection laws. If you are in contact with a particular branch only, you should refer to the branch website to read their privacy statement.
Changes to this Privacy Statement
As the service we provide changes, we may change our privacy statement from time to time so please check back periodically. This Privacy Statement was last updated September 2023.
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 Samaritans uses personal information
When you use our service
Samaritans supports people in distress through its support services. Our service is available by telephone, email, letter, online chat and face to face.
Our helplines are designed so that Samaritans volunteers can’t see your contact details, however, some information that could be used to identify you is stored on our central systems and can be accessed by some Samaritans Central Charity employees.
When you contact one of our helplines, and depending on the way you contact us, we will collect various personal information:
If you contact us by phone, we will collect your phone number
If you contact us by email, we will collect your email address
If you contact us by letter, we will collect your postal address
If you contact us by online chat, we will collect a unique device ID (also known as a fingerprint) by placing a cookie on your device (you will be asked to consent to this beforehand).
We will also collect times and dates of your contact, your gender and age (if given) and the concerns you have discussed with us.
We take steps such as encrypting phone numbers and masking email addresses so that you can not be identified, unless you provide us with additional information. Contact information is only unmasked as part of official processes such as when we receive a request from law enforcement. This also applies if you withhold your phone number.
Where contact is electronic (by email or online chat) we keep copies of communication for 30 days.
We use this information for the following purposes:
- To provide you with support: we use your contact information to connect you with one of our volunteers and provide you with support. Where contact is electronic (for example, by email or webchat) we keep copies of the contact for a rolling 30 day period in order to allow our volunteers to respond.
- To provide a follow-up call or additional support: in some circumstances we may offer to call you back or for us to call you as part of an agreed support plan. In these circumstances, we record information you’ve given us to complete the follow-up call or support plan. We may need to share this information internally, so that whoever you speak to is up to date with your situation.
- To safeguard our callers and third parties: there are certain circumstances where we cannot guarantee confidentiality, for example, where we are made aware of a child or vulnerable adult at risk. In these circumstances we may be required to share the information we hold with other services including the police and emergency services. Please see our Safeguarding Policy for further information.
- To manage our service and prevent inappropriate use: if we need to investigate a call or series of calls (e.g. we have received a complaint or a report of inappropriate use of our service) we may use unique identifiers such as your encrypted phone number, masked email address or device ID to identify specific contacts. If we become concerned about the way our service is being used, we may use this information to limit or restrict access to the service.
- To protect our volunteers or staff from harm: If you are abusive or threaten our volunteers or staff, we may report you to the police, provide them with that information we hold on you and where available, circulate your CCTV image to local branches to ensure the safety of our volunteers.
- To comply with a legal obligation: in certain circumstances, such as when we receive a court order from the police, we may be required by law to share your information.
We rely on our legitimate interest in supporting our callers when providing support, as well as when creating a record of your contact in order to manage contacts and our service. Where we work with you to provide additional support we will create a support plan, and where possible give you the option to provide information that you feel will be relevant and helpful for volunteers to provide you with support. We will seek your consent to store additional information to facilitate this.
Where we have identifiable information about you, we may be required to use or share your information for compliance with a legal obligation or to protect your vital interests.
We occasionally receive requests from other individuals or third parties such as the police or missing persons organisations to make calls to individuals they believe would benefit from our support. In these cases we ask for the minimum amount of information in order to make the call, including the individuals name, phone number and the reason for the call. This information is destroyed once the call is complete.
When you support or donate to us
When you donate to Samaritans Central Charity or one of our branches, we ask you to provide certain information so that we can process your donation (including setting up a direct debit where you choose to do so). Information we may collect includes your name, email address, postal address, telephone number, bank details, taxpayer status, date of birth and history of previous donations. When you support us by signing up to take part in a Samaritans event, depending on the event, we may also collect information such as your age, gender identity, social media handle, next of kin information and information relating to your health. We use supporter information for the following purposes:
- To process your donation: We work with payment processors who process your payment on our behalf. Our payment service providers use international recognized encryption standards and security methods to keep your data safe.
- To facilitate event participation: Where you have signed up to an event we will use your information to provide you with supporting information and facilitate your participation.
- To claim Gift Aid: If you have chosen to donate to us through Gift Aid, your full name and home address and details of your donation will be shared with HMRC. We rely on your consent to claim Gift Aid, and on our legitimate interest in raising funds for processing payments.
- To respond to requests, queries and complaints: If you contact us through our website, phone, post or email we may use the information we hold on you to help us to investigate and respond to your query.
- To add you to our marketing lists: From time to time we may send you communications about our work and how you can help us, for example information about our campaigns, volunteering, fundraising activities and how you can donate to us. We will only send you electronic marketing (by email or text/SMS) if you have specifically agreed to us doing so. We may send marketing information by post or call you for marketing purposes, unless you have previously opted out. You can change your marketing preferences anytime by emailing [email protected] or calling us on 03709 00 00 32.
- To ensure that our address records are accurate: We may share your information with third party sources to check for updated contact details so that we can stay in touch if you move. These third parties act as our data processors and will only use your information as instructed by us.
- To identify potential high value donors: Like many other charities, we carry out research in order to engage with suitable high value donors. We do this by researching individuals using publicly available information. Where appropriate we may also share your information with third parties in order to provide us with additional insight. We rely on our legitimate interest in raising funds for this processing, which you can opt-out of at any time by contacting our Philanthropy Team at [email protected].
- To better understand our supporters and tailor our communications to you: We may use research and third party tools to build profiles on our supporters to better understand your preferences and how to best engage with you. We may use this information to tailor our communications to you. You can opt-out of this processing at any time by contacting [email protected].
- To send you surveys: From time to time we send our supporters surveys to help us get to know our audiences better and understand how we can improve our communications.
When you apply and become a volunteer with us
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. This is collated through our Branch Management Tool. This tool manages and processes potential and successful volunteer applications. We use information about volunteers and potential volunteers for the following purposes:
- To answer your questions: If you contact us through our website, by phone, post of email in relation to volunteering you may be asked to give your personal details in order for us to get in touch. Where appropriate, we may share your information with your local branch to allow them to get in touch to discuss volunteering opportunities at the branch.
- To process your application: The information you provide on your application will be used to process your application and make a decision about whether you will be accepted on to a Samaritans training course. Your application will be shared with the relevant Samaritans branch.
- To monitor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion amongst applicants and volunteers: One of our goals is that our staff and volunteer teams are representative of the communities that we live and work in. In order to monitor how well we are progressing against this goal, you may be asked some questions relating to sensitive categories of personal information including your gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability status. We will seek your explicit consent to use this data for our purposes, which you can amend at any time by emailing [email protected].
- To add you to our marketing lists: At the application stage we may also ask your permission to add you to our marketing database. From time to time we may send you communications about our work and how you can help us, for example information about our campaigns, volunteering, fundraising activities and how you can donate to us. We will only send you electronic marketing (by email or text/SMS) if you have specifically agreed to us doing so. We may send marketing information by post or call you for marketing purposes, unless you have previously opted out. You can change your marketing preferences anytime by emailing [email protected] or calling us on 03709 00 00 32.
- If you withdraw your application: Records relating to unsuccessful or withdrawn applications are anonymised 6 months after withdrawal. This means that all identifying details are removed and they will no longer be considered personal data.
If your application is successful, throughout the course of your onboarding and volunteering journey we may collect and store additional information about you for the following purposes:
- To check for relevant criminal history: We undertake background checks on all volunteers to help us to make safe recruitment decisions and determine whether an applicant with relevant offences is suitable to volunteer. We will keep a record of DBS checks for the duration of your volunteering. Where a potential volunteer’s application is declined due to risks identified during the criminal record check, records of this are retained for 7 years.
- To monitor training: When releasing mandatory training we believe it is within our legitimate interest to monitor the completion of that training and take action such as removing volunteers from shifts where this is not complete. We may use data from different internal sources to identify when someone who is actively volunteering has not undertaken training.
- To investigate caller complaints: Each contact received by volunteers are stored in our eLog system and linked to a volunteers Samaritans account. The data in eLog may be used to support investigation of specific incidents and complaints, for example, it may be used to identify which volunteer handed a call that gives rise to a complaint from a caller.
- To conduct investigations into volunteer conduct: There may be circumstances where we are required to investigate your conduct as a result of a complaint or allegation made against you. This will be dealt with under our Volunteer Problem Solving Policy. As part of an investigation we may collect information from you and other involved for the purpose of assisting with our investigation of the matter and retain this for an appropriate period in order to evidence appropriate internal investigations into serious matters in line with our obligations to safeguard our callers, volunteers and staff.
- To exclude you from volunteering: Under our Volunteer Problem Solving Policy, all volunteers who have been dismissed or have resigned from their duties before or during an investigation for serious misconduct are referred to the Criminal Records and Exclusions Panel, to consider whether their name should in included on the list of those who are unable to volunteer for Samaritans in the future. If the decision is made to permanently exclude you from volunteering your name and date of birth will be placed on a secure list with is accessible to a limited number of staff and all branch directors, to allow them to check for excluded volunteers during the recruitment process. We consider it within our legitimate interest to maintain a list of those who are no longer able to volunteer for us.
- To make referrals to relevant bodies following investigations: In some cases it may be necessary for reasons of substantial public interest and under our regulatory obligations to share information relating to serious misconduct with third parties such as the charity commission, the disclosure and barring service or professional associations. Where there is a requirement to do this without your consent, we will always ensure that we have undertaken the appropriate assessments to ensure that this sharing is lawful.
- To process expenses: If you are eligible to reclaim expenses associated with your role, we will process information about any expenditure including amount and type of expense, as well as your name and bank account details, in order to determine whether you expenses should be refunded and to make any resultant payment to you.
We consider that it is in our legitimate interests to process your personal data in connection with your volunteering journey with us as described above. Where other legal basis apply we will detail these in our privacy statement.
When you take campaign action with us
If you sign up to be a campaigner with us, we will add you to our database of campaigners on the Engaging Networks platform and you will be sent information about opportunities to get involved with Samaritans work through campaigning, volunteering and donating.
We rely on your consent to process your information as a campaigner and to send you marketing. You can change your marketing preferences in relation to campaigns at any time by emailing [email protected]. If you have engaged with Samaritans in other ways, you may be on separate mailing lists and need to opt out of these separately by contacting [email protected] or by calling us on 03709 00 00 32.
When you take part in research with us
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. Before you begin the survey, you will be told 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.
When you take part in Lived Experience opportunities
We offer a variety of opportunities to take part in and influence our work including interviews, focus groups, project work, advisory groups, co-design and more.
When you sign up to take part in a Lived Experience opportunity, we will collect information from you such as your name and contact information. With your consent we may also record information about your experience of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, self-harm, bereavement by suicide or Samaritans service use, your other areas of engagement with Samaritans, and your demographic data (including your gender, ethnicity, age bracket, sexual orientation and details of any disability). You do not have to consent or provide us with this information in order to take part. We will use your information for the following purposes:
- To facilitate your participation in the opportunity: We will use your contact information to contact you and send you information about the opportunity you are signed up to.
- To track your participation across the organisation: We will use information about your engagement across Samaritans, for instance, in other projects, to assign you a lead contact within the organisation. This is to ensure you have a good experience and know who to contact during each opportunity.
- To make sure the opportunity is relevant to you: We may use information you provide us about your lived experience to make sure the opportunity you are signed up to is relevant to you, for example, if we are seeking views specifically from people with experience of accessing crisis support at university.
- To safeguard participants and ensure safety: We may also use your information to check on your wellbeing, pause your participation or signpost you to support if we become concerned about your wellbeing during an opportunity.
- To check whether you are subject to a ban from Samaritans services: We will use your contact information to check whether you have been banned from using Samaritans services before taking part in an opportunity, in line with our legitimate interest to ensure that those who have misused our service are not participating in our Lived Experience work.
- To process payment: If you are participating in a paid opportunity, we will process your name and bank account details, in order to make payment to you. We hold records of payment for 6 years for audit and tax purposes.
- To monitor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within our Lived Experience work: One of our goals is that our Lived Experience work is representative of the communities that we live and work in. In order to monitor how well we are progressing against this goal, you may be asked some questions relating to sensitive categories of personal information including your gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability status. This data will only be used for reporting and monitoring in a non-identifiable format, with your explicit consent.
We will hold your data for the duration of your involvement plus 18 months. You can remove your consent at any time, and request deletion of your data by contacting [email protected].
When you join Samaritans Lived Experience Panel
We host an online panel of people with lived experience of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, self-harm, bereavement by suicide or Samaritans service use. The panel is hosted externally on a website hosted by QuMind.
Upon registration, panel members will be asked to provide their name, contact details and some demographic information. This data will be kept for as long as the individual is an active member of the Lived Experience Panel and used to communicate with panel members as well as to check whether potential members have been excluded from using Samaritans services.
Surveys and polls are sent to panel members on a fortnightly basis about a range of topics related to Samaritans work. The results are pseudonymised, meaning that names, contact information, and other identifiable information are removed from responses before being analysed and will only be linked back to an individual in specific circumstances such as removing a panel member’s data or conducting a well-being check. Only those with access to the platform (Lived Experience Researchers and the QuMind Team) are able to search for panel members and their contact details.
Survey results are retained for eighteen months, after which time they are fully anonymised.
If a panel member wishes to be removed from the panel, they can unsubscribe at any time using the unsubscribe link in email communications or by selecting the contact us section on the Samaritans Panels website.
When you use our online resources or visit our website
When you use our online resources, such as the Samaritans Self Help App or Veterans App in a browser, no one other than you will see what you write in it. We will collect your email address and password to allow you to create an account in order to save information from previous sessions. If you consent to performance cookies, we will use Google Analytics and Hotjar to measure how the app is performing and to find out how different features are used so that we can improve them.
When you download one of our mobile apps
If you download one of our apps on a mobile device from the app store, Samaritans does not collect or process any of the information you input, as everything is stored on your device directly. If you consent to performance cookies, we will use Google Analytics and Hotjar to measure how the app is performing and to find out how different features are used so that we can improve them.
When you interact with us on social media
We operate accounts and groups across various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) in order to increase awareness of our services and events and engage in conversation with our supporters. We do not provide our emotional support services via any of these platforms.
When you see or interact with a Samaritans ad online
We sometimes advertise through online platforms such as Facebook or Google, using targeting methods which rely on information the platform already holds on you. For example, we may ask Facebook to show a particular advert to people aged over 50, or people interested in running events. This process is managed entirely within the platform and we do not receive any information about you as a result, unless you interact with an ad and provide us with your information directly, for example, if you request a free pin badge from us.
We may track overall numbers of interactions with our adverts so that we know how many people have clicked on or viewed an advert. This allows us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.
If you opt in to our use of ‘Targeting Cookies’, we may use this information to target you with relevant adverts on other websites. We also use these cookies to limit exposure to such adverts for people who have accessed emotional support content on our website.
When you visit our premises
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.
How we keep your information 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.
We will never sell your personal information.
Where we work with or share your personal information with another organisation we ensure that these relationships are regulated through appropriate contractual agreements. Where possible and appropriate we will maintain control of data shared with third parties and ensure that processing only takes place on our instruction and in line with our purposes.
From time to time, we may also need, or be required, to share your information with law enforcement, public authorities, regulators and/or our professional advisers. We will only do so where we have a clear lawful basis for doing so, as detailed throughout this privacy statement (please see how we use your personal information).
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.
Most information will be kept for 3-10 years (usually 6 years), but the exact time frame will depend on the nature of the information. Notable exceptions are:
- Details stored on our excluded volunteers list (kept for 99 years)
- Information stored on your self-help online account (kept until account is deleted or 99 years, whichever is sooner)
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.
Samaritans operates across the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
We 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 UK or 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, and we have taken steps to protect that data which is subject to transfer outside the UK and the EEA.
We will always seek to ensure that appropriate or suitable safeguards are in place to protect your personal information and that storage of your personal information in in compliance with applicable data protection laws.
Updating your information
If your personal details have changed, let our Supporter Care Team know by contacting them at: Supporter Care Team, Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Ewell, Surrey KT17 2AF, emailing them at [email protected] or telephone on 03709 00 00 32.
Alternatively, contact the branch that you support directly.
The right to be informed
You have the right to be informed about the collection and use of your personal information. We aim to satisfy this right through the provision of this privacy statement. If you have any questions about how we collect and use your personal information, you can also contact us by email at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF.
The right of access
You have the right to access and receive a copy of the personal information that we hold about you. This is commonly referred to as a subject access request. You can exercise this right by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF.
Please 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.
The right to rectification
You have the right to have inaccurate personal information rectified or completed if it is incomplete. This is most likely to be relevant to supporter data, for which you can contact the Supporter Care Team, Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Ewell, Surrey KT17 2AF, emailing them at [email protected] or telephone on 03709 00 00 32. If your request is in relation to other information, you can exercise this right by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF. Some categories of information may be exempt from this right.
The right to erasure
You have the right to request that we delete personal information we hold about you. This is also known as the ‘right to be forgotten’. This right may not apply where we still require the data for the purposes for which it was collected, where an overriding legitimate interest or other exemption applies. Erasure requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis. You can exercise this right by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF.
The right to restrict processing
You have the right to request the restriction or suppression of your personal information. This is not an absolute right and only applies in certain circumstances. These requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. You can exercise this right by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF.
The right to data portability
You have the right to request for us to provide your personal data in a structured, commonly used and machine readable format. You can also request that we transmit this data to another controller. This only applies to personal data you have provided to us. You can exercise this right by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF.
The right to object
You have the right to object to the processing of your personal data in certain circumstances. Where this is the case we have provided relevant contact details throughout this privacy statement. You can also object by emailing us at [email protected] or by letter FOA the Legal and Governance Team at Samaritans, The Upper Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2AF. In order to help us process your request, please detail which processing you would like to object to.
Making a complaint
If you require further information about the way your personal data will be used, or if you are unhappy with the way we have handled your personal data and wish to contact us please submit your concerns to: [email protected]
You also have the right to lodge a complaint to the UK Data Protection Regulator (the "ICO") about how we have used your personal data. To contact the ICO please use the following details:
Telephone: 0303 123 1113