Information sharing is crucial for effective safeguarding of children and young people and essential for effective identification, assessment, risk management and service provision. Poor information sharing has been identified as a key factor in a number of serious case reviews. Practitioners must be clear about when they should share information and be alert to the signs and triggers of child abuse.
This month, the Government updated their 2015 guidance. The new July 2018 guidance "Information sharing – Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers" is for frontline practitioners and senior managers working with this client group. Sharing information between organisations can improve decision making so that actions are taken in the best interests of the child. All organisations should have guidance which sets out the process and principles for sharing information both internally and externally with other organisations.
The seven golden rules to sharing information
The guidance sets out seven golden rules which are:-
1. Remember that the General Data Protection Regulation, the Data Protection Act 2018 and human rights law do not limit justified information sharing for the purposes of keeping children and young people safe. They provide a framework to ensure that personal information is shared appropriately;
2. Be open with the individual and seek their agreement unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
3. If in doubt ask for advice from other practitioners;
4. Where possible, share information with consent, and where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to having their information shared;
5. Consider safety and well-being;
6. Information sharing must be necessary, proportionate, relevant, adequate, accurate, timely and secure; and
7. Record decisions and reasons.
The guidance sets out principles to assist practitioners but the most important consideration is whether sharing information is likely to support the safeguarding of a child.
- Necessary and proportionate - information sharing must be proportionate to the need and level of risk;
- Relevant - only information that is relevant should be shared with those who need it;
- Adequate - information needs to be of the right quality so that it can be understood and relied on
- Accurate - information must be accurate and up to date;
- Timely - consider the urgency with which to share information in order to reduce the risk of missed opportunities to offer support and protection to a child;
- Secure - ensure that your organisation's policy on security is followed for handling personal and special category data; and
- Record - decisions regarding information sharing should be recorded. Information should not be kept any longer than necessary.
When and how to share information
In relation to when to share information consider the following questions:-
- Is there a clear and legitimate purpose for sharing information?
- Do you have consent to share?
- Does the information enable an individual to be identified?
- Have you identified a lawful reason to share information without consent?
In relation to how to share information consider the following issues:-
- Identify how much information to share;
- Distinguish fact from opinion;
- Ensure that you are giving the right information to the right individual;
- Ensure where possible that you are sharing the information securely; and
- Where possible, be transparent with the individual, informing them that the information has been shared, as long as doing so does not create or increase the risk of harm to the individual.
The guidance includes a useful flow chart of when and how to share information.
How Bevan Brittan can help you
Bevan Brittan's specialist Information Law team can:-
- Provide specialist legal advice in relation to complex decisions regarding information sharing and confidentiality issues generally;
- Provide specialist legal advice in relation to all aspects of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018
- Draft, review or update existing policies and procedures;
- Providing internal training to help your colleagues understand how and when to share information.