Information sharing

Working Together 2023 states:

Effective sharing of information between practitioners, local organisations and agencies is essential for early identification of need, assessment, and service provision to keep children safe. Rapid reviews and child safeguarding practice reviews have highlighted that missed opportunities to record, understanding the significant of, and share information in a timely manner can have severe consequences for children.

Practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess, and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children. This may be when problems are first emerging (for example, persistent school absences) or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care. Sharing information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may impact the child’s safety of welfare, is also critical.

Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child is at risk of going missing or has gone missing, including being missing from education. When multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk, or in relation to children in the secure estate where there may be multiple local authorities involved in a child’s care, it will be for local safeguarding partners to consider how they build relationships and share relevant information in a timely and proportionate way with each other, other local organisations, and other safeguarding partnerships.

The Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) supports the sharing of relevant information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. To ensure effective safeguarding arrangements:

  • all organisations and agencies should have arrangements in place that set out clearly the processes and the principles for sharing information. The arrangements should cover how information will be shared with their own organisation/agency and with others who may be involved in a child’s life.
  • practitioners should not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keep a child safe. If a practitioner has concerns about a child’s welfare or safety then they should share the information with local authority children’s social care and/or the police. All practitioners should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another, due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost.
  • UK GDPR provides a number of bases for sharing personal information. It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required. The legal bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be “legal obligation” or “public task”, which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. Each of the lawful bases under UK GDPR has different requirements. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to obtain consent to share data, but it is important to note that UK GDPR sets a high standard for consent which is specific, time limited and can be withdrawn (in which case the information would have to be deleted).

Practitioners must have due regard to the relevant data protection principles which allow them to share personal information, as provided for in the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR. To share information effectively:

  • practitioners should be confident of the lawful bases and processing conditions under the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR that allow them to store and share information, including information which is considered sensitive, such as health data, known under the data protection legislation as “special category data”
  • where practitioners need to share special category personal data, for example, where information obtained in sensitive and needs more protection, they should consider and identify the lawful basis for doing so under Article 6 of UK GDPR, and in addition be able to meet one of the specific conditions for processing under Article 9. The Data Protection Act 2018 specifies “safeguarding of children and individuals at risk” as a processing condition that allows practitioners to share information, including without consent (where in the circumstances consent cannot be given, it cannot be reasonable expected that a practitioner obtains consent or if to gain consent would place a child at risk). However, practitioners should be aware of the risks of processing special category data and be mindful that a data protection impact assessment must be completed for any type of processing which is likely to be high risk.

Practitioners should aim to be as transparent as possible by telling families what information they are sharing and with whom, provided that it is safe to do so.

View Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023

View myth-busting guide to information sharing

Kent and Medway Information Sharing Agreement

We have now joined the Kent and Medway Information Sharing Agreement. The agreement provides openness and transparency in information sharing, as well as appropriate governance and support, which assists us to share personal information lawfully, safely, and securely.

View the Kent and Medway Information Sharing Agreement

Information Commissioner's Office 10 Step Guide to Sharing Information to Safeguard Children

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) have produced a 10 step guide on data protection considerations when sharing personal information for child safeguarding purposes. It aims to help you feel confident about sharing information when you need to safeguard a child or young person at risk of harm.

View ICO 10 step guide to sharing information to safeguard children