Sharing information, joint working and communication: Confidentiality

Guidance for local authority social care staff

The review of ‘No secrets’ [23] found that housing staff placed a great deal of importance on confidentiality and consent ‘in all interactions with tenants and very rarely would they want to breach that’. But it is important that all housing and social care staff understand when information should be shared to prevent or reduce the risk of abuse.

In each case it is important to find the right balance to keep people safe without overriding their rights to privacy and autonomy. In some cases – for example, where others are at risk – it may be necessary to share information without a person’s consent. This does not mean sharing information without the individual’s knowledge; this may only be acceptable in exceptional circumstances where letting the person know might increase the risk to them or others.

If others are not at risk and the person has the capacity to make choices about the particular issue, then it may be hard to justify a breach of confidentiality. Where a person has mental capacity to make a decision about their safety, it is important to consider whether they may be subject to duress or intimidation. If a person lacks the mental capacity to make a decision about their safety, housing officers should seek support from social care. Professionals have a duty to act in the person’s best interests under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In all cases it is important to record the decision-making process:

‘From a legal point of view, if public interest in terms of risk is to justify the overriding of confidentiality, the justification must be shown in the decision-making process (and its documentation or recording). The process needs to be consistent with legal rules, have taken account of the relevant evidence and factors for and against disclosure, and employed a reasoning process to explain the decision reached.’ [13]

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