Hampshire Children's Trust

Key points when sharing information

Support for practitioners working within Children's Service and in/with the Children’s Trust

All practitioners can normally expect that their personal situations and health will remain confidential unless:

  • it impinges on their terms of contract

  • it endangers children, young people or other members of staff

  • there is a legal obligation to disclose such information

  • it is necessary for legal proceedings

  • despite the duty of confidence, the practitioner’s interest or the wider public interest justifies disclosure.

All practitioners will be encouraged to share information appropriately and will be supported by senior management if there are any complaints that they have shared information inappropriately, providing that such sharing has followed advice provided in this booklet or national professional guidance.

  1. When sharing information
  2. When sharing information without consent
  3. How this impacts on confidentiality
  4. About recording requirements

1. When sharing information

Information sharing is essential to enable early intervention. Such interventions help children, young people and families who need additional services to achieve positive outcomes, thus reducing inequalities between disadvantaged children and others. Interventions could include additional help with learning, specialist health services, help and support to move away from criminal or anti-social behaviour, or support for parents in developing parenting skills. As local areas move towards integrated working, the professional and confident sharing of information between services is becoming increasingly important in delivering benefits for children, young people and their families.

Information sharing is also vital to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. A key factor in many serious case reviews has been a failure to record information, to share it, to understand the significance of the information shared, and to take appropriate action in relation to known or suspected abuse or neglect.

Practitioners should explain to children, young people and families at the outset, openly and honestly, what and how information will or could be shared and why, and seek their agreement. The exception to this is where to do so would put that child, young person or others at increased risk of significant harm or if it would undermine the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime.

Practitioners should ensure that any information shared is:

  • accurate and up to date
  • necessary for the purpose for which it is being shared
  • shared only with people who need to see it
  • shared securely.

Practitioners should always record the reasons for their decision in the child/young person’s case file – whether the decision is to share information or not. Whilst maintaining confidentiality with the child/young person being worked with, they must be encouraged to share the information being discussed with their parents/carers if this is felt to be appropriate.

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2. When sharing information without consent

Practitioners must always consider the safety and welfare of a child/young person when making decisions on whether to share information about them. Where there is concern that the child/young person may be suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm, the child/young person’s safety and welfare must be the overriding consideration.

Practitioners should, where possible, respect the wishes of children, young people or families who do not consent to share confidential information. However, information may still be shared if, in their judgement on the facts of the case, there is sufficient need to override that lack of consent.

Practitioners should seek advice when in doubt, especially where their doubt relates to a concern about possible significant harm to a child or serious harm to others. The sharing of information should always be done in the best interest of the child/young person and his/her family, taking into consideration recent legislation and in line with the Caldicott Guardian’s principles. (See Appendix 2).

If confidentiality is to be broken, the practitioner should share the information in line with their organisational procedures. The decision to release information should be recorded as follows:

  • what information was provided and to whom

  • the reasons why it was shared

  • evidence that a thorough risk assessment was undertaken

  • who authorised the disclosure of the record.

As children and young people mature they are able to take more responsibility for their own decisions about confidentiality. The exception to this is where a learning disability impairs an individual’s capacity to consent. If a young person is Gillick competent, or Fraser competent in the case of access to contraception and other health care, their decision overrides their parents/carers. (See Appendix 1).

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3. How this impacts on confidentiality

All practitioners who have access to information about children and young people have a duty to preserve confidence. Each individual’s right to confidentiality must be respected. All personal information must be treated with care and kept securely; this means not disclosing it to people who do not need to know.

In normal circumstances the child/young person who is the subject of the information will be required to give consent before information about them can be shared. The consent of the provider of the information may also be required.

Irrespective of the age and level of maturity of the child/young person, if information is disclosed which indicates that the child/young person involved (or another person) is at serious risk of harm, then confidentiality cannot be preserved as safeguardingprocedures must take precedence.

All service users (and their families, where appropriate) should be made aware of the level of confidentiality offered by practitioners working with them. This should include:

  • what information will be recorded

  • where and for how long it will remain recorded

  • the circumstances in which it may be shared with other people

  • the other people and agencies who may have or obtain access to the information; and

  • the reasons for all of the above.

These privacy statements should be well publicised through information on the service provided, websites, family services directories (the Hampshire Family Information Directory), leaflets, posters and handbooks in a wide range of settings.

Children and young people have a right to confidentiality if there is no risk of serious harm to themselves or any other person, but practitioners are encouraged to support the child/young person in talking with their parents/carers on all issues.

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4. About recording requirements

Practitioners (except Children's Services staff) providing a service to children/young people have a duty to record information about meetings, telephone calls, interviews, correspondence received, etc. There are two reasons for this:

  • all staff are accountable to their organisation and should be able to provide a thorough record of their work and the service they are providing. This is one way of making sure that any service being provided is of the best possible quality

  • the law says that everyone who is given a service should be able to see a written record of decisions which are taken concerning them and why those decisions have been taken. This information should be kept securely and confidentially and each record should describe the service given only to one person, so that person can ask to see the information that is kept on them.

The sort of information that should be kept includes the dates and times of any meetings, telephone conversations, letters sent and received (with actual copies kept) and face-to-face meetings. In addition to this, at the very least, a short account of the nature of the discussion should also be kept.

When a child/young person is looked after, practitioners are obliged to keep more detailed information to enable proper communication between key workers. Children/young people will be made aware of that information.

Every child/young person has the right to ask for their record to be deleted if it is not subject to a statutory service. If this occurs it is the responsibility of the person working with them to point out that such an action will probably adversely impact on the services offered to them.

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Obtaining, recording and sharing information >