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Information Sharing

The important statutory duties in relation to safeguarding children cannot be met without effective and appropriate sharing of relevant information, some of which may normally be regarded as confidential between an employee and customer or client.

Confidentiality should not be confused with secrecy. Information may be shared in order to comply with a statutory obligation, or if it is in the public interest.


Contents

  1. The Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing
  2. Personal Information
  3. Consent
  4. Information That Can be Disclosed Without Consent
  5. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
  6. The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme


1. The Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible;
  4. 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;
  5. Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well being of the person and others who may be affected by their actions;
  6. 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;
  7. 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.

These are taken from HM Government Information Sharing Guidance which provides detailed guidance on these issues. There is further information below:


2. Personal Information

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that personal information is:

  • Obtained and used in a lawful way;
  • Only disclosed in appropriate circumstances;
  • Accurate and relevant;
  • Not held longer than is necessary;
  • Kept securely.


3. Consent

The Data Protection Act 1998 defines consent as: a ‘freely given specific and informed indication of his or her wishes by which the data subject signifies his or her agreement to personal data relating to him or her being processed’.

When obtaining consent to disclose personal information it should be made clear:

  • Why the information is to be shared (the reasons, purpose and intended outcome);
  • Which agencies or named practitioners the information will be shared with;
  • What information is to be shared.

If a parent/ carer or young person refuses to allow information to be shared about them with other agencies, employees must decide whether they can lawfully disclose information without consent. In making this decision, the employee will have to weigh up the nature of the concerns for the child and the reasons given for refusing consent.


4. Information That Can be Disclosed Without Consent

In making decisions about sharing information, the safety and needs of the child must be the primary consideration. Information can be disclosed without consent where the employee has a well founded concern that disclosure is necessary to:

  • Safeguard a particular child or children in general. This includes disclosure of information about an adult who may pose a risk of Significant Harm to a child or children;
  • Prevent a criminal act taking place or where seeking consent would interfere in criminal enquiries;
  • Prevent harm to staff;
  • Prevent a child being at increased risk of harm.

Personal information that is disclosed without consent should be:

  • Legally justifiable, with the reasons recorded;
  • Appropriate and proportionate for the purpose;
  • To the extent needed to safeguard the child or prevent a crime.

The parents/carers and child should, however, be told that the information has been shared, unless to do so would place the child at further risk of Significant Harm.  

If in doubt, advice should be obtained from the Nominated lead at the Council/Borough or the Named Senior Manager (see Key Local Contacts), and if appropriate, legal advice should be sought.


5. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

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).

If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.


6. The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

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.

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