National guidance on information sharing
The government has published national guidance on information sharing in the context of children and vulnerable adults.
The comprehensive guidance is supported by a wide variety of organisations. It includes a full version, a pocket version and a set of frequently asked questions. There is also more extensive legal guidance online.
Information sharing is one of the trickiest areas of child protection and dealing with vulnerable young people, and the guidance is at pains to deal with a number of myths. It makes the point that while information sharing protocols are useful, the fact that a protocol does not exist is no reason for not sharing information.
The most crucial piece of advice is, as is always the case with child protection, to seek advice when unsure. A very useful part of the guidance is the list of Seven Golden Rules for Information Sharing. These are:
1 Remember that the Data Protection Act is not a barrier to sharing information but provides a framework to ensure that personal information is shared appropriately.
2 Be open and honest with the person (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.
3 Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person if possible.
4 Share information with consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. You will need to base your judgement on the facts of the case.
5 Consider safety and wellbeing as part of the basis of your information sharing decisions - both of the individual and others who may be affected by his/her actions.
6 Ensure information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need it, is accurate and up to date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is done so securely.
7 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.
Although these are not hard and fast rules and contain qualifications, they will be extremely helpful in enabling decision makers to sort out the issues for themselves and to justify their actions.
Schools and colleges need to have the full document readily available to senior staff and the pocket guide is a must for pastoral staff. Both documents contain an excellent decision-path diagram which could be the basis for internal staff training.
For copies of the guidance, go to: www.ecm.gov.uk/informationsharing
© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders