Information sharing

It is crucial to understand the significance of the information shared and to take appropriate action in relation to known or suspected abuse or neglect.

Within schools there is constant sharing of information about individuals and groups of children.  There are however occasions when we need to share information with others outside of school, and this needs to be done with care, particularly when it relates to individuals.  Whilst the media often focuses on the way in which large organisations such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook use individuals information, all organisations have a duty to make sure that what they know about individuals is only shared with the right people at the right time.

Deciding when and how to share information is not easy.  Many serious case reviews have shown that there professionals have problems with recording, sharing, discussing and analysing information in order to identify the needs of, or risks to a child. Like when constructing a jigsaw, it is often only when information from a number of sources has been shared that it becomes clear that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

When deciding when and how to share information outside of your organisation, the starting point is to ask yourself what you would be wanting if it was your personal information that was being shared.

Consent to share

As the name suggests, personal information is just that, personal.  Therefore, before sharing any information you need to be clear whether the information is classed as personal data (i.e. information that relates to an identified or identifiable individual).  If it is personal data, then the starting point is that you need to get consent to share the information, unless one of the following are met:

Pen ready to tick box to show agreement

Informed consent

Consent may be explicit (where the person has been asked specifically to give consent for a certain piece of information to be shared) or implicit (for example where a person has signed an information sharing agreement saying that information can be shared with certain agencies – in this case the agreement is there but it is not specific about what information).  If you are seeking consent to share information for safeguarding purposes then attempts should be made to get explicit consent.

Whichever type of consent is used, the consent should be informed consent.  This means that the person giving consent understands what the information being shared is, why it is being shared and what the implications of sharing and not sharing the information are.  This may mean that you need to consider the ability (or capacity) of the person to give consent.

Speak to your DSL for further guidance and support.

Books illustrating need to be able to make informed consent.

Recording of decisions

If you decide to share information then you must record your decision, the context in which the information was shared and the reasons for your decision.

Recording is important because there is a chance that someone will ask you or your employers why you chose to share or not share information.  Such questions may not come immediately, and in some cases these questions only arise many years later.  Even if you are still working at your school then it is likely that you will not remember why you made the decision you did, but if there is a clear record then this will provide the required information.

Your school will have its own policy on recording, but good practice suggests that you should record the date, time, what you were being asked to share, what you decided and why.

Pen recording decisions being made

Common myths

Adapted from Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2018) – page 13

  1. The GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 are barriers to sharing information – no.  The GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 don’t stop information sharing, but provide the means to make sure information is shared in the right way.
  2. Consent is always needed to share personal information – no. You should seek explicit consent wherever possible, but if for reasons set out above this is not possible then you can override the need for consent.
  3. Personal information collected by one organisation cannot be disclosed to another organisation – no. Unless the information is obviously irrelevant to what is happening, the need to safeguard children means there no such barriers.
  4. The common law duty of confidence and the Human Rights Act 1998 prevent the sharing of personal information – no.  These again provide a framework by which information is shared, but often the risk to the child outweighs all else.
  5. IT Systems are often a barrier to effective information sharing – no.  IT systems can be an important tool when sharing information, but they should not overrule professional judgement.

Resources

  • The seven golden rules to sharing information

    Poster adapted from the guidance in Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2018).

  • Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners

    Guidance on information sharing for people who provide safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.

  • Data protection: a toolkit for schools

    The document provides 9 steps that it is felt can help schools efficiently develop the culture, processes and documentation required to be compliant with the strengthened legislation and effectively manage the risks associated with data management.

  • Information sharing: what do schools need to know?

    Part of our safeguarding insights section, this is a more in-depth look at the requirements around information sharing, barriers that may get in the way and the relevant laws.

  • Who knows what about me?

    The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has released a report looking at the way that data about children’s lives is increasingly being shared from before they are born, with there then being an exponential increase when they create their own social media accounts. This report looks at the potential implications of this data being available and steps that can be taken to help children and young people protect themselves.

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