Information Sharing

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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 with other agencies 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 (DfE)

Working Together to Safeguard Children (DfE)

See also: Safeguarding Children Partnership, Information Sharing Guidance

RELATED CHAPTER

Access to Records Procedure


Contents

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


1. Introduction

Everyone working in the home 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.

When working with children and families, effective sharing of information is essential for the early identification of need, in order to complete robust assessments and to provide services which are tailored to individual need.

Keeping children safe from harm will require staff in children's homes and others to record, analyse, understand the significance of and share information about:

  • A child’s health and development and exposure to possible harm;
  • Individuals (adults and other children / young people) who may pose a risk of harm to a child.

Workers in the home should be proactive and share information as early as possible where this will help to identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children. Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour; for example when a child has gone missing or is at risk of going 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 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 allocated social worker and / or the Police or Children’s Social Care.

Staff should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another, due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost - for example of a child moves to a home or placement in another local authority area.

All staff in the home who work with children should complete information sharing training - including refreshers. This training should equip staff with the skills and knowledge to share information in a timely and safe way.

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


2. The Legal Framework

The Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR) provide a legal 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.

However, this legislation does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. The UK GDPR provides a number of bases / reasons which set out when personal information of the type collect by children’s homes can be shared between organisations. One of these bases is that the individual has consented to their information being shared. However, It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child. This means that 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.

It is important though that staff in the home understand the data protection principles which allow them to share personal information.  The UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 emphasise the need for organisations to be transparent and accountable in relation to their use of data. All organisations handling personal data must ensure they have comprehensive and proportionate arrangements for collecting, storing, and sharing information. This also includes arrangements on informing children (and their families) about the information that the home will collect about them and how this may be shared.

2.1 Terminology used in the Data Protection Act and UK GDPR

Personal Data - Under the UK GDPR, personal data covers information which could be used to identify a person (also sometimes called the ‘data subject’). This includes for example, a person’s name, address, or an identification / file number. 

Special category data - Under the UK GDPR, special category data relates to information about individuals which is particularly sensitive and so needs greater protection before it is shared. This includes for example, information about a person’s race and ethnic origin, their health and sexual orientation.

Lawful Bases for Sharing Information (UK GDPR Article 6) - The UK GDPR provides practitioners with a number of lawful bases for sharing information. It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child, providing there is another lawful basis for the sharing.

Consent - Consent is also a lawful basis for sharing information  in UK GDPR and would cover sharing where the individual has given clear consent for you to process their personal data for a specific purpose. However, the UK GDPR sets a high standard for consent to share information, and requires that it must be specific, time limited and able to be withdrawn.

Consent means offering individuals real choice and control. Genuine consent should put individuals in charge, build trust and engagement. Consent is one lawful basis for processing information, but there are five others.  It is important to always choose the lawful basis that most closely reflects the true nature of your relationship with the individual and the purpose of the processing.

Where there is a clear risk of significant harm to a child, or serious harm to adults practitioners should be confident that they can (and should) share information.

Whenever any information is shared it should be proportionate, and a record should be kept of what has been shared, with whom and for what purpose and the reasoning behind it.


3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information

  • Where possible, share information with consent, and where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to having their information shared;
  • However, you may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, there is a lawful basis to do so, such as where the safety of a child or adult 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;
  • 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;
  • Information 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: Working Together to Safeguard Children and Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (DfE).


4. Informing Children and Families about Information Sharing

Regular  information sharing between homes, Children’s Social Care, the Police and other local agencies (such as schools and health practitioners), will be essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need.

Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared routinely with other professionals and their consent to this sharing should be sought. This information should  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 shared will be limited and only include that which is relevant.


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 practitioners 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.