Spanning 50 years, local and national reports and enquiries have told us that we aren’t working close enough with our partners to protect and safeguard children. These reports have often exposed a complete breakdown in information sharing and child protection processes between statutory, charitable, independent and provider multi-agency organisations.
Sharing information enables practitioners and agencies to identify and provide appropriate services that safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Information sharing is vital to improve outcomes for children and vulnerable people, protect their rights, deliver better and more efficient services and is sometimes essential to keep people safe. Consent is not required if, in your judgement, there is a lawful reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk. Please refer to our policies and procedures about information sharing.
Common Myths about Sharing Information
Data protection legislation is a barrier to sharing information
No – the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR do not prohibit the collection and sharing of personal information, but rather provide a framework to ensure that personal information is shared appropriately. In particular, the Data Protection Act 2018 balances the rights of the information subject (the individual whom the information is about) and the possible need to share information about them.
Consent is needed to share personal information
No – you do not need consent to share personal information. It is one way to comply with the data protection legislation but not the only way. The GDPR provides a number of bases for sharing personal information. It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required. The legal bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be ‘legal obligation’, or ‘public task’ which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. Each of the lawful bases under GDPR has different requirements. It continues to be good practice to ensure transparency and to inform parent/ carers that you are sharing information for these purposes and seek to work cooperatively with them.
Personal information collected by one organisation/agency cannot be disclosed to another
No – this is not the case, unless the information is to be used for a purpose incompatible with the purpose for which it was originally collected. In the case of children in need, or children at risk of significant harm, it is difficult to foresee circumstances where information law would be a barrier to sharing personal information with other practitioners.
The common law duty of confidence and the Human Rights Act 1998 prevent the sharing of personal information
No – this is not the case. In addition to the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR, practitioners need to balance the common law duty of confidence and the Human Rights Act 1998 against the effect on individuals or others of not sharing the information.
IT Systems are often a barrier to effective information sharing
No – IT systems, such as the Child Protection Information Sharing project (CP-IS), can be useful for information sharing. IT systems are most valuable when practitioners use the shared data to make more informed decisions about how to support and safeguard a child.
7 Golden Rules for Information Sharing
Key to successful information sharing are the 7 golden rules. If you are in doubt, seek advice (without disclosing the identity of the person where possible).
1. GDPR is not a barrier
Remember that data protection and regulation law is not intended as a barrier to info sharing – it helps us to share the right information, in the right way, for the right reasons. Never put management or organisation interests before the safety of others. The principle of confidentiality is not absolute, especially when it is to safeguard adults or children.
2. Be open and honest
Right from the start, be clear with the people we support (and/or their families where needed) what we hold, why we might share it, who might need to know. Try and get informed consent from the beginning where possible.
3. Seek advice
If in doubt, ask! Have confidence in checking with others. Talk to your safeguarding lead, or line manager. You do not have to disclose personal or identifying information to get someone else’s view, even if you talk to the police or the local authority.
4. Share with consent wherever possible
But respect the wish of those who do not consent. It is their right as an adult, where they have the mental capacity to make that decision. However, you may still decide to share the information without consent, where you can evidence that the need is:
- in the public interest (e.g. other adults at risk, staff are implicated)
- the adult, or someone else, is at very serious risk of harm
- a serious crime has been committed
- you suspect coercion or duress is involved in their decision
- the person lacks the mental capacity to make the decision
5. Always consider the safety and wellbeing
What is the risk of not sharing the information? What will be the impact of sharing / not sharing – on the person, on anyone else involved.
6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure
Check these key words. Is it the right information for the purpose? Is it being shared in the right format, with the right people? Is it accurate and up to date? Are you sharing promptly enough for the purpose intended? Think “need-to-know”.
7. Keep a record
Be clear about what you have shared or chosen not to share. Why have you shared the information? Evidence how you came to that decision, and who you shared what with.
- Early Help Information Sharing Consent Form
- Working Practice Agreement for the sharing of information to support Early Help
- Privacy notice for Early Help and MASH
- A Devon County Council guide to information sharing
- General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) guidance from Devon County Council
- A 10 step guide to sharing information to safeguard children | ICO
- Working Together to Safeguard Children: A Government guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children
- Information sharing Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers
- One minute guidance documents about sharing information on transition to a new school or college
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