Sharing information, joint working and communication
Guidance for local authority social care staff
- work in partnership with housing safeguarding leads to ensure appropriate responses to referrals
- work jointly to resolve any disagreements about referrals and eligibility
- promote mutual professional respect
- understand that sharing information, joint working and communication are essential in keeping people safe
- share a common language and understanding with safeguarding partners
- understand the parameters of confidentiality
- ensure there is an effective communication loop between housing and the local safeguarding adults board
- ensure there is allocated time in team meetings to discuss current safeguarding concerns
- ensure protocols are in place for sharing safeguarding information within and between organisations
- ensure there are local mechanisms for sharing information on cases involving domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and hate crime, where people with care and support needs may be at risk
- ensure housing staff are included in meetings, kept informed about referrals and, where appropriate, involved in protection planning.
Failure to share information and poor communication have been key features in serious case reviews. As most local authorities now have a number of housing providers operating in their area, the complexity of sharing and coordinating information on people with care and support needs who may be at risk of abuse and those who pose a risk cannot be underestimated.
It is important that adult social care and housing staff work together to safeguard people with care and support needs. This will require them to share information between themselves and possibly with others, including carers, care and support services, the police and probation services, child protection, and health and mental health services.
Managers must ensure that all staff understand their responsibilities with regard to sharing information and have a basic understanding of their common-law duty in respect of confidentiality, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. They should also be aware that, without overriding these responsibilities, any person 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)’. 
Joint working and sharing information with voluntary care and support agencies is also important as they may be better placed to provide specialist support to individuals and to spot signs of abuse. For example, domestic abuse charities can provide counselling and support. Mental health charities can support treatment and provide activities, such as at-risk workshops and calming exercise classes, to support people with depression and anxiety that may be related to abuse. Fall care and support services can provide an extra form of monitoring by trained professionals. Relevant safeguarding information should be shared with such agencies in the interests of keeping people safe.
Sharing information within an organisation
Information shared within your organisation does not come under the Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner has published guidance that sharing information between two separate local authorities is clearly subject to disclosure rules under the Act. However, sharing information between two departments in the same local authority does not come under the Act, unless the second department is going to use the information for a secondary purpose, different to the purpose for which the information was initially shared. 
Find out more about how data protection, Caldicott principles, human rights and the Mental Capacity Act affect the work of frontline housing staff.