Information sharing is vital in safeguarding children and young people effectively. Every professional working with a child or young person should be able to share information about vulnerable children consistently and with confidence.
It is important that practitioners understand when, why and how they should share information so that they can do so confidently and appropriately as part of their day-to-day practice.
A consistent message resulting from inquiries and Serious Case Reviews is the need for agencies to do better in recording and sharing the information they hold about children and young people.
The appropriate sharing of information can result in the jigsaw of information becoming complete with new, accurate and informed conclusions being made about the situation of a child.
What do we share?
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
- a parent who may need help, or may not be able, to care for a child adequately and safely and
- those who may pose a risk of harm to a child.
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.
In order to share effectively:
- You should always consider the safety and welfare of a child or young person when making decisions on whether to share information about them.
- Where there is concern that the child may be suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm, the child’s safety and welfare should be the overriding consideration.
- You 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.
- You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the interests of the child. You will need to base judgement on the facts of the case.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.