Confidentiality

Untitled Document

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

The Children's Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard
Regulation 7

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Staff working in the home should understand their responsibility to keep children's personal data secure. However they should also feel confident about situations where they can share information without consent in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015)

LSCB Information Sharing Guidance for the area where the home is located.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Access to Records Procedure

Consents and Delegated Authority


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Legal Framework
  3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
  4. Confidentiality and Consent
  5. Disclosure of Confidential Information in Exceptional Circumstances
  6. Informing Children about Disclosure
  7. Sharing Information with other Professionals


1. Introduction

Everyone working in the home has a responsibility to ensure that personal information collected and stored on children in our care is kept securely, and that when it is shared with other agencies this is done appropriately and in accordance with the law.

The Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) provide a framework to ensure that personal information which is collected by organisations is done so fairly and lawfully, that it is accurate and relevant, stored securely (for no longer than necessary) and that, when it is shared, this is done appropriately.

Effective sharing of information is essential for the early identification of need, to complete robust assessments and to provide services which are tailored to individual need.

Keeping children safe from harm requires staff in children's homes and others to share the following types of information:

  • Any concerns about a child's health and development, and any exposure to possible harm;
  • Any concerns about a parent who may need help, or may not be able to care for a child adequately and safely; and
  • Any information about adults and children who may pose a risk of harm to a child.

Often, it is only when information from a number of sources has been shared and is then put together, does it become clear that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

Staff working in children's homes should use their professional judgement and knowledge from training when making decisions about when to share information. If staff have any concerns or doubts, the home's manager or safeguarding lead should be consulted for advice.


2. The Legal Framework

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 do not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Legal and secure information sharing between homes, Children's Social Care, and other local agencies (such as schools), is essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need.

  • The overarching principle set out in the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 is that any personal information cannot be shared with another person / organisation unless either: the child / young person providing the information (or their parent / carer if the child does not have sufficient age and understanding) has consented to their information being shared; or
  • The disclosure / sharing is necessary to safeguard the welfare of a child or adult at risk, in which case the public interest in protecting children and at adults at risk permits the sharing of personal information without consent

Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of promoting the welfare and protecting the safety of children, and data protection legislation should never be a barrier to sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm. The most important consideration is whether sharing information is necessary to safeguard and protect a child. (Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015)).

Staff should therefore feel confident that information can be shared without consent if to gain consent would place a child (or vulnerable adult) at risk.

Whenever information is shared, it must be done securely and in accordance with any relevant local policies. In addition sharing should always be proportionate (meaning only relevant / key information is shared).


3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information

  • Be open and honest with the child / young person (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about the information contained in their records including how it will be used and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
  • Seek advice from other practitioners (such as your manager or safeguarding lead) if you are in any doubt about sharing the information concerned, this should be done without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible;
  • Share with informed consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. However, you may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, there is good reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk. You will need to base your judgement on the facts of the case. When you are sharing or requesting personal information from someone, be certain of the basis upon which you are doing so;
  • Sharing should always be necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, that it is shared only with those people who need to have it, that it is accurate and up-to-date, that it is shared in a timely fashion, and that is shared securely (Staff should always follow the home's policy for handling personal information);
  • Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it - whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.

Source: Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015).


4. Confidentiality and Consent

Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015) states that:

Wherever possible, you should seek consent or be open and honest with the individual (and/or their family, where appropriate) from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom, their information will be shared. You should seek consent where an individual may not expect their information to be passed on and they have a genuine choice about this...even without consent it is still possible to share personal information if it is necessary in order to carry out your role, or to protect the vital interests of the individual where, for example, consent cannot be given. Also, if it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so, i.e. where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, you would not need to seek consent. A record of what has been shared should be kept.

It is also possible that an overriding public interest would justify disclosure of the information (or that sharing is required by a court order, other legal obligation or statutory exemption). To overcome the common law duty of confidence, the public interest threshold is not necessarily difficult to meet – particularly in emergency situations. Confidential health information carries a higher threshold, but it should still be possible to proceed where the circumstances are serious enough. As is the case for all personal information processing, initial thought needs to be given as to whether the objective can be achieved by limiting the amount of information shared – does all of the personal information need to be shared to achieve the objective?


5. Informing Children about Disclosure

Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with other professionals and their consent to this sharing should be sought. This information may be provided in the form of a Children's Guide, a Privacy Notice or in other ways, and it will be made clear that in each case the information passed on will only be what is relevant and on a 'need to know' basis.


6. Sharing Information with other Professionals

Sharing relevant information promptly with others working with the same child is central to safeguarding the child's interests and to ensuring they receive the best possible care. Staff in children's homes should work in partnership with other professionals involved in caring for the child (for example, education, social workers, health professionals and youth justice) to monitor the child's progress, share information and obtain expert advice as appropriate. Therefore, relevant information about children must be shared with colleagues, other professionals or agencies who have a role to play in their care or need the information in order to look after the child.

Where information is requested by telephone or electronically, great care must be taken to ensure that the recipient is entitled to receive the information requested. Where there is any doubt the information may not be provided without the approval of a Manager.