1.8 Information Sharing and Confidentiality Protocol
This chapter was amended in February 2015 with new Sections 9, Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme and Section 10, The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
- Confidential Information and the Public Interest
- Consent to Information Sharing
- Where Information may be Shared Without Consent
- Disclosure of Information With Consent
- Disclosure of Information Without Consent
- Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing
- Further Detailed Guidance
- Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
- The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme
|1.1||Sharing information is vital for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children to facilitate early intervention to ensure that children with additional needs receive the services they require and that children are protected from abuse and neglect.|
|1.2||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 is at risk of suffering Significant Harm.|
|1.3||A key factor in many Serious Case Reviews has been a failure to record information, to share it, to understand the significance of the information shared, and to take appropriate action in relation to known or suspected abuse or neglect.|
|1.4||Practitioners are often concerned about sharing information and uncertain about when they can do so lawfully. This chapter provides a summary of the general principles to be followed by all practitioners on this issue. The general principle is that consent should be obtained from children (depending on their age and understanding) and their families before information about them is shared with others. There are exceptions, however, and these are set out in Section 4, Where Information may be Shared Without Consent.|
|2.1||Confidential information is information of some sensitivity, which is not public knowledge, and which has been shared in a relationship where the person giving the information understood that it would not be shared with others.|
|2.2||Confidence is only breached where the sharing of confidential information is not authorised by the person who provided it or to whom it relates. If the information was provided on the understanding that it would be shared with a limited range of people or for limited purposes, then sharing in accordance with that understanding will not be a breach of confidence. Similarly, there will not be a breach of confidence where there is explicit consent to the sharing.|
|2.3||Even where sharing of confidential information is not authorised, it may lawfully be shared if this can be justified in the public interest. Seeking consent should be the first option, if appropriate. Where consent cannot be obtained to the sharing of the information or is refused, or where seeking it is likely to undermine the prevention, detection or prosecution of a crime, the question of whether there is a sufficient public interest must be judged by the practitioner on the facts of each case. Therefore, where a practitioner has a concern about possible Significant Harm to a child, he or she should not regard refusal of consent as necessarily precluding the sharing of confidential information.|
|2.4||A public interest can arise in a wide range of circumstances, for example, to protect children or other people from harm, to promote the welfare of children or to prevent crime and disorder. The key factor in deciding whether or not to share confidential information is proportionality, i.e. whether the proposed sharing is a response in proportion to the need to protect the public interest in question. In making the decision, the practitioner must weigh up what might happen if the information is shared against what might happen if it is not, and make a decision based on a reasonable judgement.|
|3.1||When any agency considers that it will need to share information in order to promote the wellbeing of a child under 16, consent should be obtained from a parent or other person with Parental Responsibility.|
|3.2||In relation to young people of 16 and over, they have the right to give and withhold consent independently of their parents views.|
|3.3||Where a child is under 16, he or she may wish to give or withhold consent independently of and in contradiction to their parents views. This wish should be upheld where the child is considered to be of sufficient understanding to give informed consent. It is for the practitioner working with the child to make this judgement as to whether the child can appreciate what is being proposed, having regard to the child’s age and level of understanding. The practitioner should also seek advice from his or her line manager or other relevant person in the organisation or agency. Further guidance can be found at Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers.|
|3.4||Therefore, practitioners should explain to children and families when they first receive services, openly and honestly, what and how information will, or could be shared and why, and seek their consent about with whom and when information can be shared.|
|3.5||Consent must also specify with whom information will be shared. It cannot be assumed that a person is willing for information to be shared simply because they have not stated to the contrary.|
|3.6||This must be informed consent and practitioners must check that children, young people and parents have understood their explanation.|
|3.7||The person giving consent may decide to put restrictions on with whom personal information may be shared and if so, this should be recorded on the Consent Form.|
|3.8||Their consent should be obtained in writing and exemplar consent forms are provided in the Common Assessment Framework procedures.|
|3.9||The Consent Form should be securely retained on the individuals file/record and relevant information recorded on any electronic systems to ensure that other members of staff are made aware of the consent and any limitations. Copies of completed and signed Consent Forms should also be left with the individuals concerned.|
|3.10||Consent must be obtained every time an episode of working with a family begins. It should also be regarded as good practice to seek “fresh” consent where there are significant changes in the circumstances of the person or the work being undertaken.|
|4.1||In some circumstances, it is not appropriate to seek consent before sharing information with others and/or information can be shared where consent has been refused. This may be the case where making a referral to Children’s Social Work Services under the Referrals Procedure.|
|4.2||Information cannot be shared without the consent of the parent, young person of 16 or over or a child unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:
|4.3||Practitioners must always consider the safety and welfare of a child as the overriding consideration when making decisions on whether to share information about the child without consent. In many instances a failure to pass on information, that might have prevented a child suffering harm, would be far more serious and dangerous than an incident of unjustified disclosure.|
|4.4||Practitioners should seek advice and consultation when in doubt. Advice must be sought and consultation must take place within a time frame which is not detrimental to the child’s interests.|
|4.5||Practitioners must share information when they are in situations where there is a statutory duty or Court Order requiring the information to be shared. In such situations, information should be shared even if consent has not been given. However, wherever possible, the individual concerned should be informed about the information to be shared, the reasons and to whom it will be disclosed.|
|5.1||Information should only be shared on a “need to know” basis, i.e. necessary for the purpose for which they are sharing it and shared only with those people who need it.|
|5.2||Practitioners should ensure that the information they share is accurate, factual and up-to-date; where opinion is given, this should be made clear to the recipient.|
|5.3||Practitioners should always record the disclosure to include:
|6.1||Disclosure of information without consent must be justifiable as set out in Section 4, Where Information may be Shared Without Consent.|
|6.2||Where information is disclosed without consent, the decision and the reasons for it must be recorded, as well as the matters listed in paragraph 4.2.|
|6.3||In addition, the person making the disclosure must advise the recipient that consent has been refused or has not been sought.|
|6.4||The recipient of information that has been disclosed without consent should record:
These are taken from 'Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers (2008)':
- Remember that the Data Protection Act is not a barrier to sharing information but provides a framework to ensure that personal information about living persons is shared appropriately;
- Be open and honest with the person (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
- Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible;
- Share with consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. You will need to base your judgment on the facts of the case;
- Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and wellbeing of the person and others who may be affected by their actions;
- Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely;
- 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.
See also General Protocol for Inter Agency Information Sharing within Solihull, which is available on the Solihull MBC Intranet.
For further detailed guidance, see the 'Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers (2008)'.
The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.
The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.
If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:
- 'That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
- The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
- A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking’ (Home Office, 2011, p16).
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) commenced on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.
Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.
Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, a disclosure will be made.