SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter contains information for practitioners on the safe and appropriate sharing of information; providing clear guidance on when, why and how to share information legally, in line with national and local procedures.
The Consent to Sharing Information Form can be downloaded for use with families.
Sharing information is a fundamental part of a practitioner's role when working with children and young people. Information sharing is crucial to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is also helps to ensure that children and young people get the services that they require in order to meet their needs.
Serious Case Reviews have shown how poor information sharing has contributed to the deaths or serious injuries of children, therefore practitioners must understand the requirement for information to be kept safely and securely, maintaining the privacy of an individual, whilst also being able to share information appropriately to improve outcomes for children.
2. The Principles
These principles are designed to aid practitioners working with children, young people and parents/carers to share information between organisations. Practitioners are required to use their judgement when making decisions on what information to share, and therefore need to consider a number of factors.
The overruling consideration in information sharing should be the safety and protection of the child.
- Information shared should be necessary and proportionate. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 require practitioners to consider the impact of sharing information on the subject and third parties. Information shared should therefore only be proportionate to the need and level of risk;
- Only information which is relevant to the purpose of reducing risk should be shared; information which will allow others to carry out their role effectively;
- Information should be of a quality which ensures that it can be understood and relied upon; adequate for purpose;
- Information should be up to date and accurate, distinguishing between fact and opinion;
- In order to reduce the risk of harm, information should be shared in a timely manner;
- Information should be shared securely, wherever possible, as laid out in the local data protection guidelines;
- The decision of whether or not to share information will be recorded, and should the decision be affirmative, reasons will be cited alongside details of the information shared and with whom. Practitioners will make it clear to the recipient of information, that this information should be reviewed and retained in accordance with the recipient's records management policy, and disposed of confidentially and securely.
If a practitioner is in doubt as to whether to share information, or how much information to share, they should seek advice from other practitioners, without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible. Alternatively, they should seek advice from their manager.
Where suitable, and where possible, consent to share information should be ascertained. The practitioner should be open and honest with individuals (and/or their families if appropriate) as to the content and context of information shared and with whom.
In the case of young children, under the age of 12 years, or those who are thought not to have sufficient understanding to give or refuse consent, the person with Parental Responsibility should be asked to consent on their behalf. In circumstances where a difference of opinion occurs, the practitioner should act in the best interests of the child; even if this means overriding refusal to consent. For further information on assessing whether a child has sufficient understanding to offer consent see Derby and Derbyshire SCBs' Information Sharing Agreement and Guidance for Practitioners.
Where a family does give consent to information being shared, the Consent to Sharing Information Form should be completed.
Although it is good practice to obtain consent prior to sharing information, a lack of consent should never compromise the welfare or safety of a child and therefore there are exceptions where sharing information without consent is justified.
- Where there is evidence that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
- Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm;
- To prevent significant harm to any individual, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of serious crime.
4. Legislation and further information
Effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential for provision of children's services. Legislation and guidance to support this includes: