Practitioners often have difficulty in assessing whether they can share information with other individuals and organisations. It can feel as if this conflicts with confidentiality policies and with legislation such as the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts. However, fears about information sharing cannot be allowed to stand in the way and if we are to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, we need to pass on concerns about children and their parents/carers. Working Together states:
“Effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential for effective identification, assessment and service provision”
The following key points should help in establishing good practice in information sharing:
- The safety and welfare of the child must be the primary consideration in deciding whether or not to share information, and always overrides confidentiality.
- Where possible, speak with the child and/or family about your concerns, what information you will share and with whom. The exception to this is where you believe to do so would put the child or an adult at risk of harm; where you suspect sexual abuse; where you suspect someone of making the child ill, or fabricating illness; or, where sharing your concerns may undermine investigation, detection or prosecution of a serious crime such as child abuse.
- You should try to respect the wishes of children and families who do not give consent to share confidential information however, you may judge that there are sufficient concerns regarding the likelihood of harm to a child to override the lack of consent.
- Seek advice if you are in doubt – especially when you are concerned about risk of harm to a child or anyone else.
- The information you share should be accurate, up-to-date, only what is necessary for the purpose, shared only with those who need to know it and shared securely (in a way that ensures it cannot be viewed by the wrong person).
- You should always make a record of your decision as soon as possible, and the reasons for it, whether you decide to share information or not. This should be signed, dated and stored in a secure place.
The guidance below is to support good practice in information sharing by offering clarity on when and how information can be shared legally and professionally, in order to achieve improved outcomes. The guidance is for practitioners who have to make decisions about sharing personal information on a case-by-case basis, whether they are:
- Working in the public, private or voluntary sectors
- Providing services to children and young people
- Working as an employee, a contractor or a volunteer