Information Sharing and Confidentiality

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

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

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Staff working in Wakefield Residential Homes should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the information sharing and confidentiality requirements relating to the children they care for.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Information sharing - Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (Department for Education, March 2015)

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality (West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures).

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Access to Records Procedure

Consents and Delegated Authority Procedure


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Legal Duty of Confidence
  3. Disclosure of Confidential Information in Exceptional Circumstances
  4. Informing Children about Disclosure
  5. Sharing Information with other Professionals


1. Introduction

We have a responsibility to ensure that personal information pertaining to children in our care is protected, and that only those who have a legal right are given access.

All information, whether verbal or in writing, must be managed sensitively, giving paramount consideration to the welfare and safety of children.

The legal requirements are set out below, but the principle is that all information must be kept confidential unless the child has consented to it being shared, or disclosure / sharing is in the public interest e.g. the disclosure will help to protect a child or others from suffering Significant Harm or a criminal offence being committed.

When a child gives their consent to information being shared, this consent must be informed.


2. Legal Duty of Confidence

Personal information held about children is subject to the same legal duty of confidence as adults, and should not normally be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the child.

The legal framework for confidentiality is contained in common law, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998.


3. Disclosure of Confidential Information in Exceptional Circumstances

Whilst the general principle is that information obtained about children should not be shared without their agreement (or the agreement of their parents or carers, depending on their age and level of understanding), there are exceptions. The public interest in safeguarding children from significant harm overrides the public interest in maintaining confidentiality, e.g. if there is a risk of harm to the child or others, the law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard the child.

Disclosure should be justifiable in each case, for example to provide information to professionals from other agencies working with the child. Where possible and appropriate, the agreement of the child / young person concerned should still be obtained, and even in these circumstances, the disclosure should be limited to information necessary to achieve the stated purpose.

Staff should make sure that children understand that that confidentiality may not be maintained if the disclosure of information is necessary in the interests of the child.

Where third parties such as advocates, solicitors or external researchers request access to information, this should only be shared if written consent is provided by the child or young person concerned.


4. Informing Children about Disclosure

Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with other professionals. This may be provided in the Children's Guide or in other ways. It should also be made clear that in each case the information passed on will only be what is relevant and on a 'need to know' basis.


5. 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.

This includes information gathered as part of therapeutic intervention or counselling sessions. However, the general principle is that information may only be shared on a 'need to know' basis.

Information should be shared in the following circumstances:

  • Where professionals are undertaking a Child Protection Enquiry / Section 47 Enquiry or complaints investigation in relation to a child;
  • Where the Police are investigating a criminal offence or require information to help them find a missing child;
  • Where information is requested with regards to an inquiry or tribunal, or for the purposes of a Serious Case Review;
  • Where the information is required by colleagues engaged in caring for the child or the information may reduce or prevent harm to the child at some time in the predictable future.

In these circumstances the person to whom the information relates should be informed that records have been requested or will be shared unless to do so would prejudice the purpose of the request.

Any objections they have should be considered before responding to the person making the request.

Where information or records are passed to others it should be noted and confirmed in writing.

Information may also be disclosed to persons who have a statutory right of access to the information; for example

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.