new government advice on safeguarding and information sharing

The new Information Sharing Advice published by the Department for Education on March 26th 2015 states that “the most important consideration is whether sharing information is likely to safeguard and protect a child.” 

The ‘myth-busting guide’ at the back of the new Information Sharing Advice also says “even without consent, or explicit consent, it is still possible to share personal information if it is necessary in order to carry out your role…” 

On March 26th 2015 the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children was published. This replaces Working Together 2013.

Working Together is statutory guidance.

The difference between Working Together 2013 and Working Together 2015 is not immediately apparent. In other words, this is NOT on the same scale as the major rewrite we saw in 2013 from Working Together 2010.

However, the things I have noticed in Working Together 2015 so far are:

  • a reference to children who have been or may be sexually exploited, children who have undergone or may undergo female genital mutilation and children who have been or may be radicalised (page 15)
  • signposting to new Information Sharing Advice which supersedes the 2008 guidance

The new Information Sharing Advice also directs the reader to newly published advice on what to do if you are worried about a child being abused (March 26th 2015) which replaces guidance issued in 2006 

The information sharing advice and the advice on abuse are both non-statutory advice.

All these new documents issued by the Department for Education on March 26th 2015 apply to ENGLAND ONLY.

The new Information Sharing Advice  says in 2 different places that “fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children at risk of abuse or neglect”. In addition it says that “poor or non-existent information sharing is a factor repeatedly flagged up as an issue in Serious Case Reviews.” 

The new Information Sharing Advice says “human rights concerns, such as respecting the right to a private and family life would not prevent sharing where there are real safeguarding concerns.”

The new Information Sharing Advice asks “do you have consent” and if not, “is there another reason to share information such as to fulfil a public function or to protect the vital interests of the information subject.” (See flowchart on page 12)

The ‘myth-busting guide’ at the back of the 2015 advice says “If the information is confidential, and the consent of the information subject is not gained, then the responder needs to satisfy themselves that there are grounds to override the duty of confidentiality in these circumstances. This can be because it is overwhelmingly in the information subject’s interests for this information to be disclosed…”  

What do do if you’re worried a child is being abused 2015 is 18 pages compared with the 74 page document (2006) which it replaces.

The new advice on what to do if you are worried about a child being abused says (page 14) “if you have concerns about the safety or welfare of a child and feel they are not being acted upon by your manager or named/designated safeguarding lead, it is your responsibility to take action.” 

The new advice on what to do if you are worried about a child being abused  also says “if, at any time, you believe that a child may be a child in need [defined in the footnote to page 14 under s 17 of the Children Act 1989 as “unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a satisfactory level of health or development without the provision of services; their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of such services; or they are disabled”] … you should refer immediately to local authority children’s social care. This referral can be made by any practitioner. If you see further signs of potential abuse and neglect, report and refer again.” 

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4 thoughts on “new government advice on safeguarding and information sharing

  1. EJ

    The trouble is the misuse of these duties. Any disgruntled professional can report a family to SS and falsely claim concerns where nothing is wrong. It’s abuse of power and is wasting vast sums of public money.

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  2. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    I imagine that a lot of time must be wasted sifting through child protection referrals which don’t meet the threshold. I am also concerned once a family is in the system that inexperienced social workers behave defensively and don’t have the nerve to sign a family off, in case something happens later. Ofsted criticises these patterns of behaviour when it inspects children’s social care.

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