GIRFEC – INFORMATION SHARING
Introduction In many cases, practitioners will need to share information with other practitioners, or with other people involved in a child or young person’s life, to meet the needs of that child or young person. Data protection law is not a barrier to information sharing – in fact, it provides a framework for information to be shared lawfully, securely and transparently.
Falkirk Council and NHS Forth Valley have signed an information sharing agreement, which sets out how, why and when they will share personal information about children and young people to support GIRFEC.
Legal and national policy framework
The important pieces of legislation, policy and guidance on data protection and information sharing are:
- Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Human Rights Act 1998
- United Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
- Scottish Government GIRFEC Guidance
You owe a duty of confidentiality to children and young people with whom you work. However, this is not an absolute duty and it does not prevent you from sharing a concern or worry about a child’s or young person’s well-being where you consider there is a real risk to them which could well lead to harm to them or another person.
Data protection principles (from GDPR)
- Personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully.
- Personal data must be processed for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes.
- Personal data must be adequate, relevant and not excessive.
- Personal data must be accurate and up-to-date.
- Personal data must not be kept for longer than is necessary.
- Personal data must be processed in a secure manner.
GIRFEC KEY PRINCIPLES FOR INFORMATION SHARING
Key practical rules for information sharing
- Data protection is not a barrier to sharing proportionate information about children and young people and their families – rather, data protection legislation provides a framework for ensuring that information is shared, used kept and disposed of appropriately in line with your service’s information governance policies. You may need to share information within your organisation (for example, between social work and education services) or with another organisation (for example, between the Council and the Health Board). The same principles apply.
- Proportionate information sharing means that you only share information where it is necessary and relevant, and only with those who need to know it. Make sure that any information shared is accurate and that it is shared securely in line with your service’s information governance policies.
- Be open and honest with the child or young person (and their family where appropriate) right from the start about how you will use and share their information. If there is any change to how you will use or share their information, you need to discuss that with them. You should have written privacy notices in place to help explain what you do, but face-to-face discussions are important, and provide the opportunity for questions. And there will be cases where you need to share information without discussion (for example, where there are child protection concerns).
- Do not ask for consent to share information if you intend to share that information anyway. Instead, be open with the child or young person, and their family where appropriate, about what you will share and the reasons for that.
- Take advice if you need it. Practitioners are best placed to make professional judgements about whether to share information, based on the particular facts. But take a second opinion from your manager, or take advice from information governance or legal colleagues where you are unsure.
- Consider safety and well-being – base your information sharing decisions on considerations on the safety and well-being of the child or young person and others who may be affected by their actions. The consequences of not sharing appropriate information are usually worse than the consequences of sharing too little or no information.
- Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – whether it is to share information, or not to share. If you decide to share, record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose. Another practitioner may reach a different decision on the same facts, but you are unlikely to be criticised for making a well-reasoned, recorded decision which you consider to be in the best interests of the child.
Non-disclosure of information to parents and other relevant persons
There will be cases where practitioners are concerned that sharing information about a child or young person, either with other practitioners or with the person who holds parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs), may place the child or young person (or parent with caring responsibilities) at more risk. An example would be where the mother and child or young person have moved to Women’s Aid accommodation and the birth father wants to know where the child or young person is. Legally, as a person with PRRs, he will have a right to that information but protecting the child or young person will be paramount. In these circumstances, any possible risk to the child or young person needs to inform the practitioner’s decision to determine whether the information should be shared.
As well as those with PRRs, there may be cases where other people may be deemed to be “relevant persons” or “interested parties”, which would give them a legal right to have information about a specific child or young person. However, these rights can be qualified by orders made by Sheriffs, Children’s Reporters and Panel Members at Hearing who may require that the place at which the child or young person is to reside shall not be disclosed to any person or class of persons as specified in the relevant legal order. In addition, where the Reporter “considers that disclosing the whereabouts of the child … or of any relevant person, would be likely to cause significant harm to the child or of any relevant person, the Reporter may withhold that information” (Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings 2013).
If a Sheriff or Children’s Hearing make a non-disclosure order, that order has legal effect and must be followed. Any case where a Reporter has applied Rule 16 should also be recorded. Steps should be taken to ensure that any non-disclosure case is clearly marked as such – indicating what information must not be released to which individual(s).
If it is discovered that an individual from whom information about another person is to be withheld does in fact know that information, the Sheriff, the Reporter and the Lead Professional should be advised immediately and a risk assessment should be carried out. If the order is removed or varied, the case files must be kept up to date.
Practitioners must ensure:
- Form 8 (non-disclosure of information) must be completed, with it being recorded clearly what information is not to be disclosed and to whom.
- Non-disclosure cases are clearly marked as such.
- The Named Person is informed and marks their records accordingly.
- Other practitioners who are in contact with the family are informed and mark their records accordingly.
- They are vigilant about adhering to non-disclosure when in contact with the people to whom the information is not to be disclosed.
- The Reporter is informed as soon as possible if there are any changes necessary (ie to make, vary or terminate a non-disclosure condition or a Rule 16 application).
|GIRFEC Info Sharing Principles added.
|Information Governance Manager, Falkirk Council
|Page text updated to include legal context to information sharing.
|Information Governance Manager, Falkirk Council