Good information sharing between professionals is vital in relation to child protection. Numerous Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) show that children can be seriously harmed or die when professionals don’t share information. Professionals should always seek agreement to share information when it is right to do so and where this does not place a child or adult at risk. However, if there is no agreement, or if information is seen as “third- party”, this should NEVER be used as an excuse for not sharing information, holding a professional’s meeting or having a conversation with a fellow professional when there are good reasons to be worried about risk to a child.
Golden Rules for Information Sharing
Some professionals worry about their responsibility to keep information private under the Data Protection Act 1998 – but there are simple ways to make sure you share information appropriately:
- 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.
- 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.
- Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Professionals working with children, parents or adults in contact with children, should always share information with children’s social care where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child may be suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm. Sharing information under these circumstances is legitimate and in the public interest.
Guidance on Information Sharing
Further details and guidance on information sharing can be found in the document Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners: providing safeguarding services to children and young people, HM Government, March 2015.
A number of Government departments, including the Department for Education (DfE), published a letter in March 2015 addressed to Local Authority Chief Executives which set out the commitment to sharing information for the protection of children.
This overarching protocol sets out the principles for information sharing between partner organisations, setting out the rules that all people working for, or with, the partner organisations must follow when using and sharing information.
In addition to the overarching protocol document, Herefordshire Safeguarding Adults Board and Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Board have signed up to a specific data exchange agreement which sets out in more detail how practitioners can share information relating to safeguarding. This agreement can be downloaded below: