How do we maintain confidentiality, while working with other child protection agencies?

Judit Németh-Almasi's picture
14 Jan 2015 -- Judit Németh-Almasi

Children have a right to privacy – and in addition there may well be domestic laws that govern what and how information can be shared.  Therefore, we need to be careful when sharing information with others.  This applies not only in our work with other agencies but also in relation to information we share within our own organisations.  Particularly when working in contexts where people are well known (so in small communities or where people belong to a particular cultural group) confidentiality can be easily broken without thinking. 

Information should be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis: that means sharing those details with others who have a specific role in supporting the family.  For example, a foster carer will need to know more information about a child’s family background in order that they can support the child in a home setting than a teacher is likely to need.

In general it is always best to seek permission of children and families to share their information with others.  We should explain why it is important to share information and how the information will be used, in order that they can make informed decisions about consenting to sharing information.  However it is important to remember that even when families do not consent to sharing information we can still do this in cases where our objective is to protect the child (but we must be careful how much we share!).  The best interests of the child is a clear principle, and an exclusion to data protection laws domestically can be for the purposes of preventing a crime (which may include abuse).

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