Sharing information about children, young people and their families
The Department for Education has issued Safeguarding practitioners: information sharing advice (PDF) for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers. Alongside this, they have also published information on working together to safeguard children (PDF), which outlines how agencies can work together for the welfare of young people.
Key points about information sharing
Explain to people openly and honestly what information you will share, with whom and why. The only time that you should not do this is, if letting them know, will leave someone at risk of significant harm.
You should respect the wishes of family members if they do not want information shared unless someone will be placed at risk of significant harm if you don’t share the information.
If in doubt speak to your manager or have a general discussion with children’s services, by which we mean, one where you do not necessarily share the name of the family.
Make sure that the information that you are sharing is accurate, up to date, necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it and only shared with those who need to know it. The information should also be shared securely. Having decided to share information you need not tell everyone everything.
You should always record the reason for your decision; whether you shared the information or not.
The importance of proportionality
The word proportionality is rather jargonistic but it explains a very helpful concept. It accepts that the decision about sharing information is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision but depends upon a number of factors.
- How at risk is the young person?
- Is the risk imminent?
- How much safer will the young person be if the information is shared?
- Will the relationship between professionals and the family be so damaged by sharing information against their wishes that it may be better to not share?
- Does the information need to be shared now? Could it wait until the family have changed their mind about agreement?
Sometimes you may not be able to answer the questions above. In this case it is best to contact one professional and share information with them. Following a discussion you may be clearer about what to do. If not, contact one further professional.
Consent must be informed which means that the person who has given consent understands:
- what will happen to the information
- who will be told what
- who they will then tell
- why people are being told the information
Although there is a lot of guidance about sharing information there is very little about communication; the process by which information is shared. The following tips, taken from the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge are very helpful.
- communicate effectively with other practitioners and professionals by listening and ensuring that you are being listened to
- appreciate that others may not have the same understanding of professional terms and may interpret abbreviations such as acronyms differently
- be able to use clear language to communicate information unambiguously to others
- listen carefully to what is said and check understanding
- know that inference or interpretation can result in a difference between what is said and what is understood