Sharing information about children, young people and their families

Sharing information about children, young people and their families

Why is information sharing important?

Information sharing is key to delivering better, more efficient services that are coordinated around the needs of the individual. It is essential to enable early intervention and preventative work, for safeguarding and promoting welfare and for wider public protection. Information sharing is a vital element in improving outcomes for all.

Why is there a need for guidance on information sharing?

Many practitioners recognise the importance of information sharing and there is much good practice. However, in some situations they feel constrained from sharing information by uncertainty about when they can do lawfully. This is especially in early intervention and preventative work where information sharing decisions may be less clear than in safeguarding or child protection situations.

It is important that people remain confident that their personal information is kept safe and secure and that practitioners maintain the privacy rights of the individual whilst sharing information to deliver better services.

It is important that practitioners understand when, why and how they should share information so that they can do so confidently and appropriately as part of their day-to-day practice.

For those who have to make decisions about information sharing on a case-by-case basis, the information sharing guidance and associated materials aim 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. Cross-Government guidance has been developed by the DCSF in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and in consultation with a range of practitioners, national organisations and representative bodies. It is based on and supersedes the HM Government guidance, first published in April 2006 for further information access, Information sharing: guidance for practitioners and managers

Seven golden rules for 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
    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
    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 judgement 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
    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.

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The importance of proportionality

 The word proportionality is rather jargonistic but it explains a very helpful concept. It accepts that the decision about sharing information is not a simple 'yes' or 'no' decision but depends upon a number of factors.

  • How at risk is the young person?
  • Is the risk imminent?
  • How much safer will the young person be if the information is shared?
  • Will the relationship between professionals and the family be so damaged by sharing information against their wishes that it may be better to not share?
  • Does the information need to be shared now? Could it wait until the family have changed their mind about agreement?

Sometimes you may not be able to answer the questions above. In this case you should discuss what information to share with one of the safeguarding leads within your organisation.

Consent

Consent should be obtained from a parent or other person with parental responsibility for all children and young people under the age of 16 unless the sharing of information will protect a child or young person from harm or aid in the prevention or detection of a serious crime.

Understanding consent

Consent must be informed which means that the person who has given consent understands

  • What will happen to the information
  • Who will be told what
  • Who they will then tell
  • Why people are being told the information
  • Children and Young People may be able to give consent for information sharing if they have the capacity, by being able to fulfill the above criteria

Sharing Information without Consent

The safety and welfare of a child or young person must be the first consideration when making decisions about sharing information.

When the perceived needs of the child do not indicate a risk of significant harm the consent of the child, young person or parent must always be sought prior to seeking or sharing any information which identifies the child.

The decision not to seek consent or to dispense with refusal of consent should only be taken in the following circumstances:

  1. There is a legal obligation to do so e.g. court order
  2. For statutory requirements e.g. notifiable diseases
  3. There is overriding public interest where you must exercise judgement, which include but are not limited to:
    1. When there is actual or potential risk of significant harm e.g.
      • When the act of seeking consent would itself place the child or another child / person at risk of 'significant harm'
      • When the referring agency has made a professional judgement that a child is at risk of significant harm and seeking consent or the refusal of consent is likely to increase the risks to the child, or potentially compromise a child protection investigation
      • When professional judgement is that there is a need to share information to build up a picture to determine whether or not a child is at risk of significant harm and making the child or family aware of this process may, in itself, increase those risks
      • When a child is deemed to be 'Fraser/Gillick competent' and is refusing consent (contrary to the wishes of their parent) and such refusal places the child at risk of significant harm
    2. Where information is shared to prevent and/ or aid detection of a serious crime

Communication

 Although there is a lot of guidance about sharing information there is very little about communication; the process by which information is shared. The following tips, taken from the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge are very helpful.

  1. Communicate effectively with other practitioners and professionals by listening and ensuring that you are being listened to
  2. Appreciate that others may not have the same understanding of professional terms and may interpret abbreviations such as acronyms differently
  3. Be able to use clear language to communicate information unambiguously to others
  4. Listen carefully to what is said and check understanding
  5. Know that inference or interpretation can result in a difference between what
  6. Details of Newcastle Integrated Working Team Training on Information Sharing Training

Contents

Procedure Flowcharts

  1. Referral to Children's Social Care
  2. Action following assessment
  3. Urgent action to safeguard children
  4. What happens after the strategy discussion?
  5. What happens after the child protection conference, including the review process?