Independent Mental Health Advocacy

How we handle personal information

How we handle personal information

We are committed to protecting your privacy and ensuring the security of your information, in accordance with our obligations under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, and the Health Records Act 2001.

What we do

We provide information and advocacy to people on, or at risk of being placed on, compulsory treatment orders. We support people to have a say in their assessment, treatment and recovery and to understand and act on their rights.

What personal and health information we collect

Personal information is material that is recorded in any form that relates to an identifiable living person. Health information is material that relates to an identifiable living or deceased person and concerns their health, disability or genetic make-up.

We collect information that we need to provide our services and to run our organisation and meet our statutory reporting and legal obligations.

The main kinds of information we collect are:

  • information about consumer’s identity, state-wide UR number including when sent to us by the Department of Health or Mental Health Tribunal, health issues and treatment
  • education and employment history from people who work for us, or apply to work for us
  • contact details of consumers, our staff, our contractors and members of the public
  • security footage at some of our offices.

We only collect sensitive information (such as racial or ethnic origin and sexual preferences) if it is relevant to our work and if we either have your consent or are required by law to collect the information.

Generally, we collect personal and health information about you directly from you. When we do this, we will take reasonable steps to advise you of:

  • what information we want to collect
  • for what purpose the information is being collected
  • whether any law requires its collection
  • the main consequences for you, if any, of not providing us with the information.

With your consent, sometimes we will also collect personal and health information about you from other sources, such as health services as requested by the consumer.

As of 1 September 2023, IMHA is the primary non-legal advocacy service under the Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022. This means that the Department of Health who holds data from designated mental health services and the Mental Health Tribunal will give IMHA notifications at key points when a consumer is receiving compulsory treatment. These notifications will include personal and health information of the consumer.

Learn more about when IMHA will be notified. IMHA will collect information in the notification.

IMHA will do this unless the consumer has told us not to. Learn more about how to tell us not to contact you.

When you tell us not to contact you:

  • We will collect personal and health information that you give us and also that is in prior notifications sent to us (if any).
  • You will be placed on the IMHA opt-out register. This is our system for making sure we don't contact you.

We will not share personal or health information in the IMHA opt-out register with the Department of Health, the Mental Health Tribunal, or any other agency.

If we receive a notification about you receiving compulsory treatment AFTER you have told us to not contact you (and you are on the IMHA opt-out register):

  • the notification will be deleted from IMHA records
  • IMHA advocates will not be able to see the notification
  • IMHA will not collect personal or health information that was in the notification

How we use personal and health information

The main ways we use personal and health information are to:

  • provide information and advocacy services to consumers
  • assess whether people are eligible for our services
  • answer enquiries and resolve complaints
  • maintain the IMHA opt-out register
  • respond to information access requests
  • respond to Freedom of Information requests
  • provide updates on our publications and services
  • recruit and manage staff
  • meet our workplace safety obligations.

We also use this information, after removing identifying details, to meet our reporting obligations and for evaluation and strategic advocacy purposes.

When we disclose personal and health information

We may disclose information to third parties as part of our advocacy for consumers.

Consumer information can only be disclosed to third parties outside the Independent Mental Health Advocacy team in the following circumstances:

  • with your consent;
  • where Independent Mental Health Advocacy reasonably believes that use or disclosure is necessary to lessen or prevent a:
    • serious and imminent threat to an individual’s life, health, safety or welfare; or
    • serious threat to public health, public safety or public welfare; or
  • if disclosure is compelled by law.

How we ensure the quality of personal and health information recorded

We take reasonable steps to ensure the information we have about individuals is accurate, complete and current.

Where possible, we check the accuracy of information before we use it.

How we keep personal and health information safe

We do our best to protect information from loss, misuse, unauthorised access, modification and disclosure. To do this we use procedural, physical and software safeguards.

We limit and record access to our buildings and systems. We only use external information storage partners when we are confident they will protect the information as well as we can. We engage with external information storage partners by agreement which include strict requirements for the protection of confidential information

We require our staff to handle information with care and access only what they need to do their job. We support this with usage policies, information barriers and access controls.

We destroy or de-identify information when it is no longer required. We do this in accordance with our obligations under the Public Records Act 1973 (Vic).

Anonymous services

People can be anonymous when contacting us, but it may limit the level of service we can provide.

We use unique identifiers

We create a consumer number for people to whom we provide certain services. This helps us keep a record of the services we provide and make appropriate referrals. We do not share consumer numbers with any other agency.

We also create a consumer number for people who choose to be on the IMHA opt-out register. This helps us ensure we do not contact people who have told us they do not want IMHA to contact them.

How you can access and correct your personal information

You can contact us to request access to your personal information. We will arrange this as soon as possible, or we will assist you to put in a more formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

If you believe that our records of your information are inaccurate or out of date, you can ask us to amend our records.

If you have a complaint

Please contact us if you have a complaint. We aim to resolve complaints quickly and fairly.

Complaints are handled by the Internal Legal Services team at Victoria Legal Aid. If we can’t resolve a complaint directly with you, we will refer you to the Office of the Victorian Information CommissionerExternal Link or the Health Complaints CommissionerExternal Link or the Victorian OmbudsmanExternal Link .

Find out how to make a complaint.

Contact us

All enquiries, requests or complaints about privacy can be directed to VLA’s Internal Legal Services team at:

Internal Legal Services
Phone: (03) 9280 3789
Email for enquiries:

Email for complaints:
Address: GPO Box 4380, MELBOURNE VIC 3001

VLA aim to resolve complaints quickly and fairly, in accordance with our Complaints PolicyExternal Link .

Reviewed 06 September 2023

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