2.2 Information Sharing
Last reviewed in July 2023
Next review in July 2026
Children's social care: improving case management systems - published by the DfE. Guidance for local authorities on improving case management systems for children's social care services.
Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services (July 2018) - Accurate at this time, but is due to be updated in due course (Note made on 23 July 2021).
- The Concept of Information Sharing & The UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018(Jump to)
- Confidentiality and Consent: Using 'consent' to process/share personal data(Jump to)
- Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information(Jump to)
- Sharing information with family members about other adults and the risk they may pose(Jump to)
- National Guidance on Sharing Information(Jump to)
- Caldicott Guardians(Jump to)
- The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme(Jump to)
- Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme(Jump to)
- Age Assessment Information Sharing for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children(Jump to)
The Concept of Information Sharing & The UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 states that:
“Effective sharing of information between practitioners and local organisations and agencies is essential for early identification of need, assessment and service provision to keep children safe. Serious case reviews (now referred to as child safeguarding practice reviews) have highlighted that missed opportunities to record, understand the significance of and share information in a timely manner can have severe consequences for the safety and welfare of children".
“Practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care (e.g. they are being supported as a child in need or have a child protection plan). Practitioners should be alert to sharing important information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may impact the child’s safety or welfare".
"Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child is at risk of going missing or has gone missing, when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk, or in relation to children in the secure estate where there may be multiple local authorities involved in a child’s care. It will be for local safeguarding partners to consider how they will build positive relationships with other local areas to ensure that relevant information is shared in a timely and proportionate way".
The Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR) do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.
For more information see page 21 - Working Together to Safeguard Children - page 21 - Myth-busting guide to information sharing
Confidentiality and Consent: Using 'consent' to process/share personal data
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 provides the core legal basis for professionals to share personal information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child.
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 provides that professionals do not need consent to share personal information. It is one way to comply with the data protection legislation but not the only way. Where consent is not sought the family should be informed unless doing so may:
-Place the child at risk of Significant Harm e.g. by the behavioural response it prompts (e.g. where fabricated or induced illness is suspected)
-lead to an unreasonable delay
-Place others at risk (see Violence Towards Staff and Working with families who are uncooperative and/or not engaging with professionals
-Lead to the risk of losing evidential material.
Informing families of the use of their information can be verbal in most cases, with reference made to relevant existing privacy notices where required. All organisations should have up to date privacy notices on their website that individuals can be directed to if they would like to find out more about how their data might be used.
In addition to Working Together to Safeguard Children, the GDPR provides a number of lawful bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances. These include ‘legal obligation’ and ‘public task’. Public task includes processing of personal information (including sharing) where the processing is necessary for you to perform a task in the public interest or as part of your official functions.
For more information about public task see - Public task | ICO .
Whilst consent is not required to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child (provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required), individuals do have the right to be informed about the sharing, collection and use of their personal data. This is a key transparency requirement under the UK GDPR.
The lawful bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be ‘legal obligation’, or ‘public task’ which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. For more information about public task see - Public task | ICO
For section 17 and section 47 cases, the lawful bases for processing will largely be for the performance of a public task and necessary for the provision of social care.
The IFD/FDFF/ SPOA environments are unique because they enable multiple sources of information to be considered and shared in a secure and safe location. Each has its own Information Sharing Agreement setting out arrangements for the lawful sharing of information between signatory organisations involved in the safeguarding of children
Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
It is good practice to work as collaboratively with families as possible. Professionals should be open and honest with the individual from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom, their information will be shared. A record of what has been shared should be kept.
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.
If you are ever unsure about information sharing seek advice from your supervisor, manager, nominated person within your organisation or area, or from a professional body.
Sharing information with family members about other adults and the risk they may pose
Working Together 2018 states that “practitioners should be alert to sharing important information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may impact the child’s safety or welfare.” It is important that practitioners consider whether relevant information should be shared not just with other practitioners, but also with anyone else with caring responsibilities for a child who needs to know the information to help them to take good decisions about how to keep that child safe. This applies even in cases where information about an adult would normally be regarded as confidential. The need to keep a child safe will usually override considerations about the right of the adult who is the subject of the information to have their information treated as confidential. It is also important that practitioners do not make assumptions about what someone with caring responsibility already knows; it is essential that we are proactive in ensuring that they know what they need to know in order to keep the child safe.
Please refer to 2.3 Sharing information with family members about other adults and the risk they may pose | Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures Manual for guidance on sharing information with family members about other adults.
National Guidance on Sharing Information
Working Together 2018 states that:
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.
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.
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.
For guidance for local authorities on improving case management systems for children's social care services see Children's social care: improving case management systems - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
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.
A Caldicott Guardian is a senior person responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patient and service-user information and enabling appropriate information-sharing. The Guardian plays a key role in ensuring that the NHS, Local Authority Social Services Departments and partner organisations satisfy the highest practicable standards for handling patient identifiable information.
The Eight Caldicott Principles
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.
The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme(DVDS), also known as “Clare’s Law” enables the police to disclose information to a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse about their partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family. See more Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme factsheet
Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.
Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.
If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, a disclosure will be made.
A disclosure can be made lawfully by the police under the scheme if the disclosure is based on the police’s common law powers to disclose information where it is necessary to prevent crime, and if the disclosure also complies with established case law, as well as data protection and human rights legislation. It must be reasonable and proportionate for the police to make the disclosure, based on a credible risk of violence or harm.
Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (CSOD) 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. See more here Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
To apply see here - Sarah's Law (Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme)
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:
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
The issue of age assessment in social work with asylum seeking young people remains controversial and has been something that Children’s social care have struggled with since the millennium. The ADCS Asylum Task Force has worked with the Home Office to provide two new jointly agreed documents, as detailed below. These documents are offered as practice guidance, by way of assistance to local authorities and their partners. The use of the proforma and consent form is voluntary. The content does not, nor does it seek to, be binding on local authorities. It is simply a recommended approach.