Updates to this article:
27th March 2015: NEW Guidance Published ‘Information Sharing – Advice for safeguarding practitioners’
Information sharing is an important aspect of safeguarding children and vulnerable people. Serious Case Reviews often record that a failure to share information has been a key factor. It is important however that information is shared legally. What follows is offered as guidance and is not a substitute for legal advice.
The duty to share information arises from:
Children Act 1989
Children Act 2004 Section 11
Duty to make arrangements to ensure their functions are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children
Data Protection Act 1998 Section 29
Disclose personal information without consent to detect or prevent crime
Defined category of public interest: The protection of vulnerable members of the community
When children are suffering or may be at risk of suffering significant harm, concerns must always be shared with children’s social care or the police.
Schools should make it clear to parents that they have general duty to share information with other agencies where they have safeguarding concerns. However, consent must be sought directly from parents on a case-by-case basis. A general statement does not replace the need to ask for consent when required.
It is good practice that schools should work in partnership with parents and carers. This means that in general schools should share information with other agencies with the parents’ knowledge and consent.
When schools feel that a referral should be made to social care, they should seek the consent of the parent. However, the duty to refer overrides this, as the safety of the child is paramount.
Seeking consent is not required, if to do so would:
- place a person at increased risk of harm (usually the child, but also a family member or another person);
- prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime; or
- lead to an unjustifiable delay in making enquiries.
Recording Consent Decisions
Schools must record the request for consent and the outcome. Where the parent refuses consent or is not asked, the school must record the decision to share information without consent and give the reasons. Social care referral forms usually has a space for the consent decisions to be recorded.
Download: Information Sharing Fact Sheet