Management and Use of Information About an Individual of Concern

1. Introduction

Although the focus of child safeguarding activities of HSC Trusts and related agencies is primarily on children/young people themselves, child protection can require the disclosure of information to third parties about an individual who may pose a risk to a specific child/young person.

The disclosure of information to third parties about individuals of concern in cases involving children/ young people has been the subject of a number of judicial decisions. The Department of Health issued guidance in 2013, with an addendum in 2014, to draw attention to relevant Judicial Review judgements which should be considered when making a decision about whether to share information about individuals who pose a risk to children.

See Appendix 1: Outcome of Judicial Review Against the Department's Circular Hss Cc 3/96 (Revised) Sharing to Safeguard – Information Sharing About Individuals Who May Pose A Risk to Children and Appendix 2: Revision of HSS Cc 3/96 (Revised) Sharing to Safeguard – Information Sharing About Individuals Who May Pose A Risk To Children.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with that guidance. [1] It should also be read in conjunction with:

It is essential that staff who are responsible for making decisions about sharing information about individuals of concern in child protection cases are informed and up-to-date with all relevant guidance and emerging judicial commentary.

[1] The Department of Health is in the process of developing further policy on information sharing in child protection cases and this will be issued to HSC Trusts in due course.

2. An Individual of Concern

A person may be an individual of concern because they fall into one of two categories as follows:

  1. An individual who is believed to pose a risk to a specific child/young person;
  2. An individual who is believed to pose a risk to children/young people generally.

In relation to the first category, child protection procedures should be followed in full by HSC Trusts. In relation to the second category, information should be shared with the PSNI for their management of the issue.

3. Principles for Sharing Information about an Individual of Concern

There are a range of circumstances when professionals may have to decide to share information about an individual of concern. There must be a sound rationale for a decision to disclose information and such a decision must be purposeful, that is, it must be clearly linked to an intended outcome. A decision to share information must be taken on the basis of all available information and with the fullest possible understanding of the potential implications which may result from the disclosure of information.

A decision to share information needs to be based on a clear assessment of risk by social services and/or the police, in line with departmental guidance and case law. It requires the decision-maker to carefully balance:

  • The right of the individual (about whom information may be disclosed) to privacy;
  • The right of the child/young person to be protected.

The protection of a child/young person must be the paramount consideration and should never be compromised to protect an individual's right to privacy.

Information about an individual of concern may be held by a number of agencies. Effective sharing of information about an individual of concern requires strong working relationships between professionals and agencies, which, in turn, need to be promoted, supported and facilitated by senior management within each agency. It also relies on effective and ongoing communication with the family of the child/young person about whom there are protection concerns.

As a matter of routine, HSC Trust staff should consult with the relevant Trust PPANI Principal Officer to establish whether an individual of concern is known to PPANI. This will require the Trust PPANI Principal Officer to be highly visible within each Trust and their role clearly understood. It is a matter for PPANI to consider what action is required to assess and manage any risk posed by that individual to the public.

4. The Child Protection Disclosure Scheme

The Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 amends Article 50 (2A) of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008 so that a member of the public can make an application for disclosure of information concerning convictions relating to sexual and violent offenders.

Disclosure in these circumstances can only take place where it is deemed that an individual presents a risk to a child/young person. Additionally, disclosure will only take place, to the person who has responsibility for the child and/or is best placed to safeguard the child/young person, e.g. a parent, carer or guardian.

Police will consult and advise social services where a disclosure is being considered. In these circumstances, it is a matter for social services to decide whether further enquiries require to be made under Article 66 of the Children Order.