New information sharing guidance - Ivan Balhatchet reports
New guidance has been published for those involved in providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.
We all know that decisions to share information, with whom and when, is one of the most important elements in safeguarding children. It can make the difference between life and death in some cases. Good information sharing can help to disrupt and deter offenders early on, protect children from risk and support them to recover from the harm they may have suffered.
The headlines have been full recently of a number of high profile cases where a lack of information sharing has been a significant factor in preventing action being taken to stop child abuse, particularly in relation to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and Rochdale. But this isn’t anything new. Remember Daniel Pelka, Victoria Climbié and ‘Baby P’? All reflections of the failings of information sharing between agencies.
There are many reasons why we can all at times feel hesitant to share information. There is a large amount of legislation governing this area and it is definitely not the easiest to understand. But the bottom line is there is no justification for failing to share information that will allow action to be taken to protect children. The duty to safeguard children is paramount and all the legislation reflects this.
The seven golden rules to sharing information:
- Remember that the Data Protection Act 1998 and human rights law are not barriers to justified information sharing, but provide a framework to ensure that personal information about living individuals is shared appropriately.
- Be open and honest with the individual (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.
- Seek advice from other practitioners if you are in any doubt about sharing the information concerned, without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible.
- Share with informed 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, there is good reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk. 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.
- Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the individual and others who may be affected by their actions.
- Necessary, proportionate, relevant, adequate, 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 individuals who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely (see principles).
- 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.
We are already undertaking work in a number of areas to develop multi-agency information sharing:
- Integrated working through the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – a co-located multi-agency team working from the Criminal Justice Centre providing ‘real time’ risk assessments to enhance decision making.
- The RISE multi-agency team tackling child sexual exploitation and working together to tackle specific cases of child sexual exploitation in the county.
- ECIns – the use of a multi-agency IT case management system to enable information to be shared across agencies securely and effectively.
We want to ensure that there is a culture in Northamptonshire where the interests of the child are put first through championing the appropriate sharing of information and where barriers to information sharing are apparent we need to know and challenge them.
Ivan Balhatchet former Assistant Chief Constable, Crime and Local Policing, at Northamptonshire Police.
View and download the guidance:
Last updated: 27 February 2017