Sharing information, joint working and communication

Guidance for frontline housing staff and contractors

Confidentiality

Why is understanding confidentiality important?

Confidentiality is an important principle that enables people who may be at risk of abuse to feel safe in sharing their concerns. However, sharing information with the right people at the right time is vital to good safeguarding practice. Any member of staff can contact either the police or the local safeguarding lead for advice, without necessarily giving an individual’s personal details, if they are unsure whether a safeguarding referral would be appropriate.

What are your responsibilities?

A person’s choice should be respected unless one or more of the following applies: [10]

Data protection

The basic principles

Any personal information should be shared on the basis that it is:

Vital interest

‘Vital interest’ is a term used in the Data Protection Act 1998 to permit sharing of information where it is critical to prevent serious harm or distress, or in life-threatening situations. If the only person that would suffer if the information is not shared is the subject of that information, and they have mental capacity to make a decision about it, then sharing it may not be justified.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Any person, including employees of registered social landlords (RSLs), may disclose information to a relevant authority under Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, ‘where disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of the Act (reduction and prevention of crime and disorder)’. [13]

The Caldicott principles

The sharing of information in health and social care is guided by a set of principles. [14] These ‘Caldicott’ principles are also of help to housing organisations.

Human rights

Individuals have a right to respect for their private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is not an absolute right and can be overridden if necessary and in accordance with the law. This means that any interference must be justified and for a particular purpose: ‘for example, protection of a person’s health, prevention of crime, protection of the rights and freedoms of others’. [13]

Resources

The principles of the Data Protection Act (Information Commissioner’s Office).

Data sharing code of practice (Information Commissioner’s Office).

SCIE Report 50: Safeguarding adults at risk of harm: A legal guide for practitioners (SCIE 2011) Chapter 5, Information sharing and disclosure.

Social Care TV: Safeguarding adults: lessons from the murder of Steven Hoskin (SCIE).

Information sharing for community safety: guidance and practice advice (Home Office).

Public Concern at Work – whistleblowing charity that can provide independent and confidential advice to workers who are unsure whether or how to raise a public interest concern.