CPC Guidelines - Roles
Information Sharing can be a complex and sometimes confusing legal environment for practitioners. In relation to child protection it is fundamental that If a child is considered to be at risk of harm, relevant and proportionate information must always be shared.
‘If a child is considered to be at risk of harm, relevant information must always be shared’.
The general principles in relation to Information Sharing for child protection are:
- The safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person are of central importance when making decisions to lawfully share information with or about them.
- Children and young people have a right to express their views and have them taken into account when decisions are made about what should happen to them. For children and young people with a communication impairment, learning difficulties or where English is not their first language, consideration must always be given to how to support them with this.
- The reasons why information needs to be shared and particular actions need to be taken should be communicated openly and honestly with children, young people and, where appropriate, their families.
- At all times, information shared should be relevant, necessary and proportionate to the circumstances of the child or young person, and limited to those who need to know.
- When gathering information about possible risks to a child or young person, information should be sought from all relevant sources, including services which may be involved with other family members. Relevant historical information should also be taken into account.
- When information is shared, a record should be made of when it was shared, with whom, for what purpose, in what form and whether it was disclosed with or without consent. Similarly, any decision not to share information should also be recorded.
- Agencies should provide clear guidance for practitioners on sharing information. This should include advice on sharing information about adults who may pose a risk to children or others, dealing with disputes over information-sharing and clear policies on whistle-blowing.
Children and their parents/carers should be made aware that agencies will share confidential information in a responsible way to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. It should over-ride any perceived risk of damaging the relationship between a professional and their service user.
Information must be recorded professionally with the following principles applying:
- whether consent/or not has been given, this must be recorded on local electronic systems and manual systems, and with which Data Sharing Partnership, or other, the client has agreed for information to be shared with;
- what Information has been agreed to share, all, none or some;
- where information has been shared or received cross agency the reasons for sharing the information must be recorded on local systems, the source of the information and the date requested and provided. It must also be clearly stated whether the information provided is fact/opinion based on assessment, or a combination; and
- record the agreed action and outcomes including by whom and when, it should be noted that several actions could be agreed.
Within Fife, data sharing is governed by the Scottish Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information (SASPI)which sets out a high level agreement for information sharing between agencies; currently Fife Council, NHS Fife and Police Scotland - Fife Division.
Sharing Concerns and initial information gathering
If a child’s wellbeing is or is likely to be at risk relevant information must always be shared in a proportionate manner.
IF IN DOUBT, SEEK ADVICE FROM STAFF WITHIN INDIVIDUAL AGENCIES WHO HAVE DETAILED KNOWLEDGE OF INFORMATION SHARING WITHIN CHILD PROTECTION.
For the general principles in relation to information sharing for child protection or for greater detail see the Scottish Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information (SASPI)
If there is reasonable concern that a child is or is likely to be at risk of harm, this will always override a professional or agency requirement to keep information confidential. This also applies to sharing information with a child’s Named Person under the CYPA duties. All professionals and service providers have a responsibility to act to make sure that children whose safety or welfare may be at risk is protected from harm.
Where there is a concern that the child is, or is likely to be at risk of harm, information should be shared appropriately. In such circumstances consent should not be sought, but the subject of the information sharing must be made aware unless by doing so the child would be exposed to further risk or a criminal investigation or judicial proceedings would be prejudiced. Examples of circumstances where this may occur:
- a child’s health, development or behaviour is impaired, or likely to be affected by possible abuse/neglect;
- a child may be exposed to harm, this could be due to parental substance misuse, domestic abuse, parental mental health or parental learning difficulties;
- a parent/carer may not be able to care for a child adequately or safely without help;
- the behaviour/presentation of a child may indicate possible abuse;
- information held about an adult may raise concerns for children they have contact with i.e. an adult who has convictions for offences against children;
- where a victim of domestic abuse is pregnant, or is a parent and there is concern that a child may be harmed as a consequence of this;
- a child who may be involved in sexually harmful behaviour to others;
- where a child’s mental health raises concerns about them placing themselves at risk;
- a child who may be involved with offending / for the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious crime;
- when instructed to do so by a court.
Confidentiality is an important issue for children and young people, parents and professionals. They may seek an assurance of confidentiality before expressing their concerns. Practitioners in all agencies should explain that, whilst every effort will be made to respect confidentiality, if concerns arise about a child's safety, it may be necessary for that information to be shared with the appropriate authorities. The child’s best interests will always be paramount. Staff should at all times be sensitive to the family’s cultural and ethnic background when considering responses.