Confidentiality and Information sharing
Whilst the law rightly seeks to preserve individuals’ privacy and confidentiality, it should not be used as a barrier to appropriate information sharing between professionals. The safety and welfare of children is of paramount importance, and agencies may lawfully share confidential information about the child or the parent, without consent, if doing so is in the public interest. A public interest can arise in a wide range of circumstances, including the protection of a child from harm, and the promotion of child welfare. Even where the sharing of confidential medical information is considered inappropriate, it may be proportionate for a clinician to share the fact that they have concerns about a child. The Protection of Children in England: a Progress Report The Lord Laming 2009.
It is critical that all practitioners working with children and young people are in no doubt that where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person may be suffering significant harm or may be at risk of suffering significant harm, they should always refer their concerns to First Response. While a practitioner’s primary relationship may be with the parent, where there is cause for concern, information needs to be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis with the appropriate Children’s Services. Practitioners should seek to discuss any concerns with the family and, where possible, seek their agreement to making referrals to child care services to optimise the care of children and protect them from harm. This should only be done where such discussion and agreement seeking will not place a child at increased risk of significant harm. The child’s interest must be the overriding consideration in making any such decisions.
Where a child is not suffering, nor at risk of suffering significant harm, parental permission is needed for the sharing of information. This should be raised with parents at the beginning of professional involvement following agency guidelines, with emphasis on the help and support which can be accessed by the family as a result of sharing information with other agencies. In general, information sharing is in the best interests of the person and supports delivery of effective treatment. In the process of finding out what is happening to the child, it is important to take into consideration their wishes and feelings.
Consent or the refusal to give consent to information sharing about children should always be recorded. For further information see Information sharing Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers 2018, the aim of which 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.
Practitioners should be made aware of any protection plan around family members eg. Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), Child Protection Plans, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC), and identify the need to be involved in those processes.
In relation to Adult Safeguarding, organisations need to share safeguarding information with the right people at the right time to:
- Prevent death or serious harm
- Coordinate effective and efficient responses
- Enable early interventions to prevent the escalation of risk
- Prevent abuse and harm that may increase the need for care and support
- Maintain and improve good practice in safeguarding adults
- Reveal patterns of abuse that were previously undetected and that could identify others at risk of abuse
- Help people to access the right kind of support to reduce risk and promote wellbeing
- Help identify people who pose a risk to others and , where possible, work to reduce offending behaviour
- Reduce organisational risk and protect reputation