It is important that you are confident about when and when not to share information in the early years sector. The government has recently issued new guidance on information sharing and safeguarding called Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015).
This report highlights seven golden rules:
- The Data Protection Act 1998 and human rights law are not barriers to justify information sharing but provide a framework to ensure that personal information about individuals is shared appropriately.
- 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.
- Seek advice from other practitioners if you are in any doubt about sharing the information concerned, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible.
- Share with consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent, if in your judgment, there is good reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk.
- Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the person and others who may be affected by their actions.
- Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely.
- 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. The Alliance also requests that if a decision is made not to share you should record it, and explain the reasoning.
It is important that we do not let concerns about sharing information stand in the way of protecting children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect. The Information Commissioner has published a statutory code of practice on information sharing, which practitioners should be aware of.