View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual
View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual

2.4 Guidance on Information Sharing


Contents

  1. Scope of this Guidance
  2. Considerations
  3. Sharing Information with Consent
  4. Sharing Information without Consent

    Appendix 1: Consent Form for Sharing Information

    Appendix 2: Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing


1. Scope of this Guidance

Confusion about the seemingly complex legal requirements and suite of legislation that impact upon information sharing can make professionals unsure how best to proceed. This Guidance seeks to give clear practical guidance primarily for Children’s Social Care practitioners who are in the forefront of pursuing and sharing information in order to protect children. This guide does not intend to provide a detailed statement of the law on information-sharing but a straightforward description of the key considerations.

Social Care Staff are in the ‘front line’ of timely decision making and making enquiries and sharing information can be crucial to protecting children. They need to work within the law, making pragmatic, case-by-case decisions, balancing the risks of information-sharing with the potential benefits of enhanced safety and protection for children at risk of harm. Practitioners should use their judgement when making decisions on what information to share and when and should follow their organisation procedures or consult with their manager if in doubt. The most important consideration is whether sharing information is likely to safeguard and protect a child. (Information sharing March 2015).


2. Considerations

It is important that practitioner’s make a careful assessment from the outset as to whether consent to share information will be required or not. This is because if consent is sought but refused and subsequently the practitioners shares that information (in effect ignoring the earlier refusal of consent), thus shared on a different basis it is likely to inflame the data subject and result in a more problematic working relationship.

Where a practitioner decides to share information without consent it is important that they record that decision in the case record, explaining the reasons, including what information you have shared and with whom. In essence this recording will reflect that you believe the Section 47 threshold has been reached and sharing without consent is lawful. (See also paragraph below)

There will be some circumstances where it is clearly not appropriate to seek consent.

Such circumstances would be as follows:-

  • Place a person (the individual, family member, yourself or a third party) at increased risk of significant harm if a child, or serious harm if an adult; or
  • Prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime; or
  • Lead to an unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm to a child, or serious harm to an adult.


3. Sharing Information with Consent

It is a matter of good practice that professionals needing to share information should consider obtaining, ideally written or where this is impractical at least documented verbal consent. Practitioners should challenge the assumption that consent will not be forthcoming. (Appendix 1 provides a proforma for recording consent). Obtaining consent can deliver the following benefits.

  • Can provide the data subject with a degree of control over and a sense of involvement in how the information is to be handled;
  • Empower the data subject and increase the likelihood of them engaging with services and maintaining contact;
  • Provided professionals and organisations with a robust defence should they face future challenges concerning information sharing.

Agencies, including GPs, teachers, must seek consent to share information unless this would place the child at greater risk. Where an agency has made contact without seeking consent they must be advised to speak with the data subject to seek that consent. Outside the child protection arena no further action can be taken by children’s services without that consent.


4. Sharing Information Without Consent

Where it is inappropriate to gain consent or where it cannot be obtained or is refused the information can still be shared lawfully providing it can be justified that it is within the public interest. In other words sharing information overrides the interest in maintaining confidentiality. With regard to children where there is reasonable cause to believe that from the information available there is sufficient likelihood that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm (Section 47 of the Children Act 1989) Under these circumstances it is lawful and appropriate to share information without consent but it is important to record on the record that a 47 investigation has commenced.

Where an outside agency makes a referral and there is insufficient information to decide whether it warrants a Section 47 inquiry they must either be asked to seek consent or provide the necessary information as to justify a Section 47 inquiry thus obviating the need for consent to share information

Where the contact is from the public and the professional opinion is that the information available does not meet the threshold for s.47 enquiry and yet there is sufficient concern to warrant obtaining further information. Under these circumstances it will be necessary for social workers, probably in twos, due to the level of unknown risk, to visit and seek permission (using Appendix 1) to make enquiries of other agencies. It should be noted that refusal of consent does not preclude the possibilities of making enquiries or sharing information lawfully where professional opinion is of the view there is a public interest to do so.

Refer to Appendix 2: Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing.


Appendix 1: Consent Form for Sharing Information

Click here to see the Consent Form for Sharing Information.


Appendix 2: Seven Golden Rules of Information Sharing

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible;
  4. 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. When you are sharing or requesting personal information from someone, be certain of the basis upon which you are doing so. Where you have consent, be mindful that an individual might not expect information to be shared;
  5. 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;
  6. 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 (Practitioners must always follow their organisation’s policy on security for handling personal information);
  7. 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.

The Information Sharing Guidance for Practitioners makes a point which should be borne in mind. Information can be held in many different ways, in case records or electronically in a variety of IT systems with access for different professionals. The use of emails in professional communications also raises another mechanism for sharing information other than in direct person to person contact. However the information shared, it should always be recorded in the individual’s record.

End.