Sharing information, joint working and communication

Guidance for local authority social care staff

You should:

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)’. [13]

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. [28]

Find out more about how data protection, Caldicott principles, human rights and the Mental Capacity Act affect the work of frontline housing staff.


Adult safeguarding resource (e-Learning course)

Protecting adults at risk in London: good practice resource (SCIE resource)