To achieve the best outcomes for children and young people; to promote their welfare and safeguard them from harm, agencies need to work together. Children and young people’s needs and circumstances can be complex and it is only by agencies coming together and working collaboratively that we can achieve a holistic assessment of the child or young person within their family and community and ensure that they receive the services that they need.
Effective interagency working is dependent upon effective information sharing whether a child or young person just needs some additional support (early intervention) or whether there are concerns that they are at risk of significant harm (safeguarding).
Where a professional believes that it is necessary to share information to help them to better understand the needs of a child or family or to enable the child or family to receive a service from another agency and the child is not at risk of significant harm they should seek the consent of the parent or carer before requesting the information or contacting the other agency. This will ensure that the family understand the issues and are more engaged with any services provided by agencies.
Effective joint working can be undermined by poor communication and several Serious Case Reviews have highlighted poor information sharing as a factor. For this reason Working Together 2013 is absolutely clear that “Fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.”
It is important that professionals share information in an appropriate and timely fashion. Professionals should, without delay, discuss with their line manager or designated safeguarding lead the need to share information when there are concerns about a child or young person. They will be able to discuss the need to speak to the parent or carer (and child / young person if appropriate) about contacting Children’s Social Work Service, and how to inform the family. This is not the same as seeking consent but will help the parents to understand the concerns and why they will be contacted by Children’s Social Work Service and is consistent with a restorative approach to working with families.
There will be rare occasions when it would not be appropriate to inform parents / carers that Childrens Social Work Service are being contacted, when by doing so the child / young person would be placed at immediate or greater risk of harm. Such an approach is supported by legislation (Children Act 1989, 2004) and the professional guidance from individual agencies.
The following chart may help clarify what confidential information is, and if it can be shared:
Key Points on Information Sharing
Explain at the outset, openly and honestly, what and how information will be shared
Always consider the safety and welfare of a child or young person when making decisions on whether to share information about them
Seek consent to share confidential information. You may still share information if, in your judgment, there is sufficient need to override the lack of consent
Seek advice where you are in doubt
Ensure the information is accurate and up to date, necessary, shared only with those people who need to see it, and shared securely
Always record the reasons for your decision – whether it is to share information or not.
Key Principles for Information Sharing