Information Sharing

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

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

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

RELATED GUIDANCE

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

See also:

West Yorkshire Consortium - Information Sharing and Confidentiality

Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership - Information Sharing

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Access to Records Procedure

Consents and Delegated Authority Procedure

AMENDMENT

In August 2019 this guidance was reviewed and updated throughout to reflect Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) and the revised DfE Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners Providing Safeguarding Services to Children, Young People, Parents and Carers.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Legal Framework
  3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
  4. Informing Children about Disclosure
  5. Sharing Information with other Professionals to Provide the Best Possible Care


1. Introduction

Everyone working in our homes has a responsibility to ensure that personal information collected on children in our care is stored 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 and processed 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 and lawfully.

When working with children and families, 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 and which will keep children safe.

Keeping children safe from harm will require staff in children’s homes and others to be proactive and share the following types of information:

  • Any concerns they have about the safety or welfare of a child; and
  • Any adults with whom a child is having contact which may impact on the child’s safety or welfare.
Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour; for example when a child has gone missing and when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk (this would include for example, concerns around trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation).

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

Staff in Children’s Homes should not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keeping a child safe. Anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare and considers that they may be a Child in Need or that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm should share their concerns with the child’s social worker and / or the Police.

Staff 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 Registered Children's Home 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 Work Services, the Police and other local agencies (such as schools), will be essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need.

One of the overarching principles set out in the GDPR and 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 the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children, which must always be the paramount concern. The GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 are not barriers to sharing information, where the failure to do so would cause the safety or well-being of a child to be compromised. Similarly, human rights concerns, such as respecting the right to a private and family life would not prevent sharing where there are real safeguarding concerns. The most important consideration is whether sharing information is likely to support the safeguarding and protection of a child. In the case of Children in Need, or children at risk of significant harm, it is difficult to foresee circumstances where the law would be a barrier to sharing personal information with other practitioners.

(Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (DfE)).

Staff should therefore feel confident that information can be shared even without consent if to gain consent would place a child (or vulnerable adult) at risk, or the sharing is necessary to safeguard the welfare of a child or adult at risk, in which case the public interest permits the sharing of information.

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

  • Wherever possible you should seek consent and be open and honest with the child / young person (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom their information will be shared;
  • Seek advice from other practitioners (such as your manager or safeguarding lead) if you are in any doubt about sharing information, this should be done without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible;
  • Where possible, share information with consent, and where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to having their information shared. Under the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 you may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, there is a lawful basis 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 (DfE).


4. 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 Children's Guide, a Privacy Notice 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 to Provide the Best Possible Care

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.

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.