SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
For additional guidance see the documents contained in the HM Government Information Sharing Guidance issued in October 2008 which can be found on the Department for Education website/HM And, government information sharing guidance and 2013 Protocol and Good Practice Model. Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings
In January 2018 the latest version of the information sharing protocol was added.
- The Concept of Information Sharing
- Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
- Government Guidance
- Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
Effective information-sharing underpins integrated working and is a vital element of both early intervention and safeguarding. Research and experience have shown repeatedly that keeping children safe from harm requires professionals and others to share information:
- About a child's health and development, and exposure to possible harm;
- About a parent who may need help, or may not be able to care for a child adequately and safely; and
- About those who may pose a risk of harm to a child.
Often, it is only when information from a number of sources has been shared and is then put together, that it becomes clear a child is suffering, or at risk of suffering, Significant Harm. However, when professionals share information at an early stage, this should reduce the likelihood of a child suffering significant harm.
Those providing services to adults and children, for example GP's, will be concerned about the need to balance their duties to protect children from harm and their general duty of care towards their patient or service user, e.g. a parent. Some professionals and staff face the added dimension of being involved in caring for or supporting more than one family member - the abused child, siblings, and an alleged abuser. In English Law, where there are concerns that a child is, or may be, at risk of significant harm, the overriding consideration is to safeguard the child.
When staff are assessing the level of response to a concern they should refer to the threshold documents for each local authority (Family Support Strategy/Pathway to Provision links).
In Nottingham City, this is the Family Support Strategy and Pathway, which can be accessed here: Family Support Pathway
In Nottinghamshire, this is the Pathway to Provision, which can be accessed here: Pathway to Provision
2. The Concept of Information Sharing
Working Together to Safeguard Children states that:
"Effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential for effective identification, assessment and service provision.
Early sharing of information is the key to providing effective early help where there are emerging problems. At the other end of the continuum, sharing information can be essential to put in place effective child protection services. Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) have shown how poor information - sharing has contributed to the deaths or serious injuries of children.
Fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children." (Working Together p15)
3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
The general principle is that information will only be shared with the consent of the subject of the information.
Sharing confidential information without consent will normally be justified in the public interest in the circumstances shown in Section 4, Government Guidance.
There are seven golden rules for information sharing: (see Information sharing Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers DfE (March 2015)).
Each situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Professionals should always seek advice from senior colleagues, including those in legal services, where clarity is required; in the first instance practitioners should contact their manager.
4. Government Guidance
Sharing information is an intrinsic part of any frontline practitioners' job when working with children and young people. The decisions about how much information to share, with whom and when, can have a profound impact on individuals' lives. It could ensure that an individual receives the right services at the right time and prevent a need from becoming more acute and difficult to meet. At the other end of the spectrum it could be the difference between life and death. Poor or non-existent information sharing is a factor repeatedly flagged up as an issue in Serious Case Reviews carried out following the death of, or serious injury to, a child. Fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children at risk of abuse or neglect. No practitioner should assume that someone else will pass on information which may be critical to keeping a child safe. (Information sharing Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers p5)
Working Together 2015 states that:
"Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015) supports frontline practitioners working in child or adult service who have to make decisions about sharing personal information on a case- by-case basis. The guidance can be used to supplement local guidance and encourage good practice in information sharing." (Working Together 2015 p17)
Where there is a clear risk of significant harm to a child, or serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However, there will be other cases where practitioners will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing further information or taking action. The information shared should be proportionate. Decisions in this area need to be made by, or with the advice of, people with suitable competence in Child Protection work such as named or designated professionals or senior managers.
Nottinghamshire Information Sharing Protocol January 2010
The purpose of this protocol is to provide guidance on service user information sharing and confidentiality issues. Aim is to send out a consistent message across the local public service organisations on the best practice standards of information sharing, derived from statutory, mandatory and professional codes of practice and expected from everybody working in those services, including public and private contracted partners and volunteer agencies.
The aims and objectives of this protocol are:
- To provide early notification to the Local Authority and to the Family Court that a criminal investigation has been commenced;
- To provide timely early notification to the Local Authority and to the Family Court of the details and timescale of criminal prosecution;
- To facilitate timely and consistent disclosure of information and documents from the police, and the CPS, into the Family Justice System;
- To provide notification to the police and the CPS of an application to the Family Court for an order for the disclosure of prosecution material into the Family Justice System;
- Subject to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (and relevant Practice Directions3) the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 and the common law duty of confidentiality, to facilitate timely and consistent disclosure of information and documents from the Family Justice System to the police and/or the CPS;
- To provide a timely expeditious process for the Local Authority to respond to a request from the police for material held by the Local Authority which would assist a criminal investigation;
- To provide for timely consultation between the CPS and the Local Authority where Local Authority material satisfies the test in Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 for disclosure to the defence;
- To provide a streamlined and standard process for applications by the police and/or the CPS for the permission of the Family Court for disclosure of material relating to Family Court Proceedings;
- To specify a procedure for linked directions hearings in concurrent criminal and care proceedings.
The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that:
Personal information is obtained and processed fairly and lawfully; only disclosed in appropriate circumstances; is accurate, relevant and not held longer than necessary; and is kept securely.
The relevant issues for social workers are usually around sharing information where consent has been withheld. There is a public interest defence if sharing information is for the purposes of safeguarding a child or vulnerable person.
These are applicable to local authority children's services and Health Trusts. and provide a framework for working within the Data Protection Act 1998 and promote appropriate information sharing.
Every local Health Service and Children and Young People's Directorate has its own Caldicott Guardian, to provide advice and guidance on appropriate information sharing.
Staff in NHS organisations and the Local Authority should familiarise themselves with the contact point for the Caldicott guardian within their organisation who can offer advice in complex cases.
Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 establishes:
The power to disclose information is central to the Act's partnership approach. The Police have an important general power under common law to disclose information for the prevention, detection and reduction of crime. However, some other public bodies that collect information may not previously have had power to disclose it to the Police and others. This section puts beyond doubt the power of any organisation to disclose information to Police authorities, local authorities, Probation Service, Health Authorities, or to persons acting on their behalf, so long as such disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of crime prevention. These bodies also have the power to use this information.
Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights states that:
Everyone has the right to respect for his/her private and family life, home and correspondence;
There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of rights and freedoms of others.
For further information please see the Information sharing Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers DfE (March 2015).
5. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme (see the GOV.UK website) is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child's interests.
The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.
If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:
- 'That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
- The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
- A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking' (Home Office, 2011, p16).
If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.
Age Assessment Information Sharing for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children
To assist in the age assessment in social work with asylum seeking young people the ADCS (Association of Directors of Children's Services) Asylum Task Force and the Home Office to provide further guidance, as detailed below. Age Assessment Information Sharing for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children: Explanation and Guidance;