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9.1.1 Information Sharing Policy

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Legislative and Guidance Frameworks
  3. Confidential Information
  4. The Principle of Consent
  5. Information Requested by the Youth Offending Service
  6. Disclosure of Information by the Youth Offending Service
  7. Information from Health Service Providers to the Youth Offending Service
  8. Information from Substance Misuse Service Providers (including the Substance Misuse Worker) to the Youth Offending Service
  9. Informed Decision Making
  10. Security
  11. Other Rights

    Other Useful References

    Appendix A – A Young Person and Carers Guide to Information Sharing by the YOS

    Appendix B – Assessing Ability to give Informed Consent


1. Introduction

1.1

The information needs of the Youth Offending Service arise from its responsibility under Section 37 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to prevent offending by children and young people. The team fulfils this function through

  • Its assessment of young people (including assessment of any risk of harm they may present to others);
  • Its management of offending prevention programmes as part of either a voluntary arrangement (e.g. in connection with a Final Warning) or a statutory order.
1.2 Sharing of information between agencies will be critical to the effectiveness and accuracy of the assessments and the implementation of the plans upon which they are based.
1.3 The aim of this document is to guide practitioners on when and how they can share information legally.


2. Legislative and Guidance Frameworks

2.1 The law sets a framework for legal information sharing and provides safeguards for individuals against unauthorised use of personal that infringes their privacy.
2.2 The Data Protection Act 1998 governs the protection and use of person identifiable information (personal data). Any organisation obtaining, holding, using, disclosing and disposing of data is responsible for abiding by the data protection principles. These require that the data is for lawful use; processed for a limited specific purpose; adequate; relevant and not excessive; accurate; not kept for longer than necessary; processed in accordance with the person’s rights; kept securely and not transferred to a country without adequate reciprocal arrangements.
2.3 The Act also bestows rights on individuals in respect of their own personal data including the right of access and the right to prevent the processing of their data (e.g. sharing), if it is likely to cause damage or distress.
2.4 Each Youth Offending Service, for information sharing purposes, is a separate legal entity. The Youth Offending Service Manager is the Data Controller responsible for ensuring the compliance of the Team, with the Data Protection Act 1988.
2.5 The common law duty of confidence requires that unless there is a statutory requirement to use information that has been provided in confidence, it should only be used for purposes that the subject has been informed about and consented to. The duty is not absolute but should only be overridden if the holder of the information can justify disclosure as being in the public interest i.e. to protect others from harm.
2.6 There is also legislation that requires cooperative working relationships between agencies to enable information to be shared quickly and efficiently where it is necessary and appropriate to do so.
2.7 The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 authorises (but does not require) relevant authorities to disclose personal information where this is necessary or expedient to the successful implementation of the Act (Section 115). The purposes of the Act include the prevention and reduction of crime and the identification and apprehension of offenders or suspected offenders.
2.8 The Children Act 2004 requires local authorities in England, including Youth Offending Teams, to make arrangements to promote cooperation between the authority, relevant partners or bodies engaged in activities in relation to children and young people and the arrangements being made to improve their wellbeing (Section 10)


3. Confidential Information

3.1

In deciding whether information needs to be shared consideration needs to be given to the following; 

  1. Whether the information is confidential; and
  2. If it is confidential, whether there is a public interest sufficient to justify sharing.
3.2 Confidential information is information of some sensitivity, which is not already lawfully in the public domain or readily available from another public source, and which has been shared in a relationship where the person giving the information understood that it would not be shared with others. If the information was provided on the understanding that it would be shared with a limited range of people for limited purposes, then sharing in accordance with that understanding will not be a breach of confidence. Similarly, there will not be a breach of confidence where there is explicit consent to the sharing.
3.3 Where consent to sharing of confidential information has not been given, it may be lawfully shared if this can be justified in the public interest. The key factor in deciding whether or not to share confidential information is proportionality, i.e. whether the proposed sharing is a proportionate response to the need to protect the public interest in question, weighing up what might happen if the information is shared against what might happen if it is not, and making a decision based on a reasonable judgement.
3.4

There are some circumstances in which sharing confidential information without consent will normally be justified in the public interest. These are:

  • When there is evidence that the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm; or
  • Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child may be suffering or at risk of Significant Harm; or
  • To prevent Significant Harm arising to children and young people or serious harm to adults, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of serious crime. Serious harm to adults is not restricted to cases of extreme physical violence. For example the cumulative effect of repeated abuse or threatening behaviour may well constitute a risk of serious harm.


4. The Principle of Consent

4.1 Wherever possible it is preferable to be able to share information with the prior consent of the individual concerned. The person giving consent needs to understand why information needs to be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.
4.2 The consent must be explicit. For this purpose the YOS has a written notice describing the nature of the information held and shared by the team (Appendix A – A Young Person and Carers Guide to Information Sharing by the YOS). This should be discussed at the first contact with the young person and their carer and they should sign to confirm that they have understood and agreed. The same process should take place with each new intervention.
4.3 Some consideration may also need to given as to whose consent is being sought. Where there is a duty of confidence it is owed to a person who has provided the information on the understanding it is to be kept confidential and, in the case of medical or other records, the person to whom the information relates.
4.4 A young person aged 16 or 17, or a child under 16 who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions, may give (or refuse) consent to sharing. Children aged 12 or over may generally be expected to have sufficient understanding as may some younger children. Each case will need to be assessed on its merits and the decision recorded in the case file (see Appendix B - Assessing Ability to give Informed Consent for guidance on assessing a child’s level of understanding of the issue).
4.5 Having judged a young person competent to give consent, then their consent or refusal to consent is the one to consider even if a parent or carer disagrees.
4.6 Where a child cannot consent or has been judged not competent to consent, a person with Parental Responsibility should be asked to consent on their behalf. The consent of one such person is sufficient. In cases where the parents are separated the consent of the resident parent will usually be sought.


5. Information Requested By the Youth Offending Service

5.1 Staff seconded to the YOS may request data about individuals, including children, young people, parents, and victims, from their parent service. Alternatively staff may be seeking information from another party such as a school, secure unit or the Crown Prosecution Service. In all cases when requesting information the practitioner should provide their name, position and telephone number for verification purposes. Information requested must be relevant to a particular case for which they have responsibility.
5.2 Persons requesting information on a face to face basis or viewing or collecting documents personally will show their official identification card.
5.3

When recording information on Careworks the practitioner must, in so far as is possible, ensure that it is;

  • Accurate;
  • Relevant;
  • Fair;
  • Attributable;
  • Up to date;
  • Necessary.
In YOS terms information is necessary and relevant if it impacts on or influences the delivery or content (and thus effectiveness) of the intervention plan; the assessment of risk that the young person poses to others, the risk of re-offending or any assessment of their own vulnerability.
5.4 When recording information from a third party the record should note why the information was required and its source.


6. Disclosure of Information by the Youth Offending Service

6.1 It is important to note that information held by the YOS is the responsibility of the YOS and any requests for information must be considered within the principles set out within this guidance, even if that request is from a YOS partner agency through one of its seconded staff.
6.2 Services delivered through a YOS intervention plan may be provided by the YOS, one of its statutory partners or an external agency. As a result the YOS will have to share personal information when ‘referring’ the child/young person to other services so that the latter can respond appropriately to the perceived needs.
6.3

Other multi agency settings in which the YOS will find it necessary to share information about those referred to them include:

  • The submission of reports to the Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts;
  • Post Court Report provided for custodial facilities following a Court Ordered Secure Remand or custodial sentence;
  • Sentence Planning meetings held within custodial facilities;
  • Case conferences convened by Social Services Departments when a child/young person is thought to either have been either subject to abuse (sexual, emotional, physical) or to be at risk, or is a perpetrator;
  • Planning meetings and Reviews for both Children in Need and those ‘looked after’;
  • Discussions with respect to the registration of those who have offended against other children/young people as Schedule One Offenders;
  • the transfer of cases to the Probation Service;
  • Anti- Social Behaviour Risk Panel;
  • MAPPA.
6.4 Additionally information may be requested by other agencies to meet their statutory duties for example other YOTs, schools.
6.5 If there is any doubt as to the legitimacy of a person requesting information by telephone, the identity of the person requesting information must be verified by calling the service back.
6.6 Individuals requesting information on a face-to-face basis or viewing or collecting documents personally will be asked to show their official identification card.
6.7 Transmission of confidential information by fax will not be used unless there is an immediate and urgent need for the data. The fax number, agency and address will be verified before transmission.
6.8 Confidential data will be sent where at all possible by the secure email system. Information emailed within the council GroupWise system will be marked as confidential. Emailing of confidential information on the wider internet system is prohibited.
6.9

As with any information recorded by the YOS, any information provided to an outside agency must be;

  • Accurate;
  • Relevant;
  • Fair;
  • Attributable;
  • Up to date;
  • Necessary.
And a record must be made on the case file of any confidential information given and to whom.
6.10 It should be established with the recipients of any information whether they intend to pass the information on to other parties and they should understand the limits of any consent that has been given.
6.11 The person to whom the information relates, and , if different , any other person who provided the information, should be informed that the information has been passed on, if they have not already and if it is safe to do so.


7. Information from Health Service Providers to the Youth Offending Service

7.1 The central issue for health professional with respect to information exchange is that the duty of confidentiality is both a legal obligation set out by case law and a requirement established in professional codes of conduct and included in NHS employment contracts. Health staff contracted to work in youth justice services have that same duty of confidentiality.
7.2 A young person must agree to a referral to the mental health worker (MHW). Where the young person agrees to the referral, the MHW will seek to obtain written permission to share information disclosed with the rest of the YOS service. This decision must be reviewed regularly with the young person.
7.3 The MHW will have access to client information contained within the Careworks data base and will add to the database as part of their daily duties where the young person has given authorisation for all information to be shared. Where they have not, the entry will be limited to confirmation that the appointment has been kept. Information recorded on Careworks is the responsibility of the YOS in terms of data control and must be treated in accordance with YOS policies.
7.4 Where authorisation has not been obtained to share the information with the YOS, the MHW will open a paper file to record all contacts in keeping with the Central and North West London Mental Health Trust (CNWLMHT) recording policies. These files will be the property of CNWLMHT and be returned to them when the young person has reached the age of 18. these files will be kept in a separate locked cabinet
7.5 Where information is to be sought from other medical practitioners they will require a written authorisation from the young person and carer. The MHW will arrange this and be the point of liaison.
7.6

In the absence of consent, whether sought or otherwise, the MHW will approach the medical practitioner and detail the reasons why disclosure is being sought. The decision to disclose will rest with the medical practitioner taking into account;

  • The various legal responsibilities at stake;
  • The duty of confidence to the individual;
  • Tthe public interest in the maintenance of confidentiality within health service practice;
Consideration will also be given as to whether the harm which could result from disclosure of personal information (for example the risk of possible damage to the relationship of trust, between doctor and patient, increasing the likelihood of non compliance with a programme of health care intervention in the future) is assessed as outweighing the positive benefit to the child or young person (for example in diverting him or her from a criminal lifestyle) and/or provide significant protection to others in the public interest.
7.7 In taking the decision to disclose, health professionals will make a distinction between the acquisition and subsequent sharing of information which takes place openly and expressly as part of the legal process, for example when a professional has been asked to write a report for a Court hearing, and the sharing of information acquired in the past in the context of a therapeutic relationship.
7.8 There may be situations where mental health related high risk issues necessitate information sharing with the local Multi-Agency Public Protection Panel and where this is required the young person should be informed.


8. Information from Substance Misuse Service Providers (including the Substance Misuse Worker) to the Youth Offending Service

8.1 As noted above (see Section 1, Introduction and Section 4, The Principles of Consent) within the youth justice system information is shared between professional in order to undertake accurate assessments and to deliver programmes and interventions to meet a child’s needs. Within the YOS this information is gathered through Asset.
8.2 It is appropriate that information is shared between professionals acting to support a young person, provided that either the young person is aware, when the information is gathered, that it is not confidential and so will be shared in this way; or later their consent is gained to share information beyond that originally envisaged, for example, gaining support from an additional health worker.
8.3 However when discussing health and social circumstances with health and social care professionals it is reasonable to assume that a young person would expect this information to be confidential(as it is not generally known to others). Interventions must be carried out with clear confidentiality arrangements and information about a young person’s medical needs and interventions should be used to inform substance misuse care plans.
8.4 Whenever a relationship with the substance misuse worker, or an alternative provider such as SORTED is entered into, the boundaries of this confidentiality must be discussed with the young person so that he or she understands what it means and how and when information is likely to be shared (see Section 3, Confidential Information)


9. Informed Decision Making

9.1

In summary then the key questions to be addressed when considering information sharing are as follows;

  • Is there a legitimate purpose for you or your agency to share the information?
  • Is the information confidential?
  • If the information is confidential, do you have consent to share?
  • Is there a statutory duty or court order to share the information?
  • If consent is refused, or there are good reasons not to seek consent to share confidential information, is there a sufficient public interest to share information?
  • If the decision is to share, are you sharing the right information in the right way?
  • Have you properly recorded your decision?


10. Security

10.1 All case files (paper records) holding personal data on individuals known to the YOS should be held within secure filing cabinets to which only authorised personnel can have access. All files should be locked away at the end of the working day.
10.2 Case files should have a section in them for third party information to which access by the subject has not been approved. This section should be removed prior to giving access for the subject to his/her file.


11. Other Rights

11.1 Any requests for access to files should be made through the YOS Service Manager.
11.2 Any requests from an individual to prevent processing likely to cause damage to that individual must be taken to the Operational or Service Managers.
11.3 The Manager must provide a written response to the individual within 2l days setting out their decision on the request and the reasons for it.
11.4 A copy of the request and response should be retained.


Other Useful References

Information Sharing: Practitioners Guide at the Department for Education website.

Guidance for Youth Offending Teams on Information Sharing.


Appendix A – A Young Person and Carers Guide to Information Sharing by the YOS

Why does the Youth Offending Service need to know about me?

The Youth Offending Service or YOS works with those young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system because they have committed an offence. The YOS is required by law to look at the situation of every young person it comes into contact with and identify, or assess, possible reasons why they may have committed the offence and any difficulties they may be experiencing which may increase the chances they will commit more offences in the future. Sometimes the YOS will do this because a court has asked for a report on a young person before deciding how to sentence them

There are lots of difficulties which young people may have which put them at risk of offending, for example they may have been excluded from school or may be truanting, they may not have a job or a suitable place to live, they may be experimenting with different substances which brings them into contact with the police, they may not be getting on very well with their parents or they may find it difficult to say no to their friends who are also involved in offending. There are lots of different reasons and the YOS is required to help identify them and then help the young person to solve the difficulties wherever possible.

What sort of people work in the YOS?

Because there are lots of different types of problems young people may have, the YOS has lots of different types of workers to assist, all in the one team. So there are social workers, police officers, a probation officer, education and Connexions workers, a housing officer, a health worker and a substance misuse worker plus many more.

What happens when a young person has to go to the YOS?

The young person will be allocated a worker who will try to identify any particular concerns and problems the young person has by talking to them and their parents or carer. That worker, or one of the other workers in the team, will then get further information by speaking to other people the young person may have regular contact with such as a teacher, police officer, social worker and, in a smaller number of cases where a young person may have health problems, with their doctor. The young person and their carer will be told who is being contacted and why.

When all the information is available a programme will be developed with the young person which identifies what the problems are, how they are to be solved and which staff in the YOS or outside the team where that is felt to be best, will be best able to help.

What happens to all the information after that?

All the information about the young person is carefully stored at the YOS in computer files. Only YOS staff have direct access to the information but they may need to share some pieces of information with other agencies in certain circumstances. Some examples of these circumstances would include;

  • A young person may be working with the YOS and move to another area. The YOS would then pass information about the young person to the YOS in their new home area so that all the work can continue;
  • The YOS may ask another service to provide assistance to the young person and would give information to that service about why it is asking for their assistance and how best it can help;
  • If a young person is placed in custody by the court the YOS will make sure that the unit where the young person is going to be are given relevant information, particularly any concerns, worries or health problems the young person may have;
  • Where the police need to contact a young person because they believe he/she has been involved in an offence.

In most cases, although not in the last example, the young person and their carer will be advised that information has or will be shared.

Will all the YOS staff know everything about me?

The information from the assessment, plan and contact records are available to all YOS staff. It needs to be this way as the case worker may not always be available to help the young person with any specific problems they or their carer may have.

However, staff in the YOS understand that young people who have sessions with our health worker or substance misuse worker may share information that is of a very personal and private nature and not perhaps something that they would want other YOS staff to know. Not all of that information will need to be recorded but where it is it will be kept in a separate file that only that can see.

That information will be classified as ‘confidential’ to the young person and the worker. It won’t be shared with anyone else without the young person’s written permission.

So I can tell those particular workers anything and they won’t share unless I say so?

There is an exception to this rule. If that worker feels that any of the following apply, the law says they must share what they know in order to protect the young person or someone else from harm;

  • When there is evidence or reasonable cause to believe that the young person is suffering or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm from somebody else; or
  • When there is evidence or reasonable cause to believe that the young person is at risk of harm from themselves; or
  • When there is evidence or reasonable cause to believe that the young person is a risk to other people, maybe because of their offending.

Can I see the information on the files?

Young people have the right to read the information that is recorded about them, as long as it does not place them or others at risk, or contain details about another person. They must make a written request to the YOS Service Manager who will write back to them within 21 days either with the arrangements to see the file or if the request has to be refused the reasons for that decision. Their case worker can help the young person to write the request if they ask for assistance.

Annex Aii

The whole question of who has access to information to what is quite complex. Your worker will have gone through this document with you but if there is anything you don’t understand ask them to explain it again. It is important that you and your carers understand what the YOS will be recording about you and how that information may be used. If you feel you do understand please sign below.

I understand that when the YOS begin to work with me they will be obtaining information from me, my carers and other individuals who know me and my circumstances so that they can understand what my difficulties are and help to me resolve them.

I understand that this information will be recorded on a computer file which only YOS staff will have access to.

I understand that in certain circumstances some information will be shared and usually my YOS worker will tell me why and for what purpose.

I understand that very personal information that I share with the health worker or the substance misuse worker will be ‘confidential’ and usually won’t be shared with the rest of the YOS team unless I give my written permission.

I understand however that this information may be shared without my permission if the substance misuse worker or health worker believe I am at risk of being hurt by own actions or by somebody else or I may hurt somebody else by my actions or offending.

Young person’s signature                       Carers signature


Appendix B – Assessing Ability to give Informed Consent

When assessing a child’s understanding you should explain the issues to the child in a way that is suitable for their age, language and likely understanding.

Where applicable, you should use their preferred mode of communication.

The following criteria should be considered in assessing whether a particular child on a particular occasion has sufficient understanding to consent, or refuse consent, to sharing of information about them:

  • Can the child understand the question being asked of them?
  • Does the child have a reasonable understanding of:
    • What information might be shared?
    • The main reason or reasons for sharing the information?
    • The implications of sharing that information, and of not sharing it?
  • Can the child or young person:
    • Appreciate and consider the alternative courses of action open to them?
    • Weigh up one aspect of the situation against another?
    • Express a clear personal view on the matter, as distinct from repeating what someone else thinks they should do?
    • Be reasonably consistent in their view on the matter, or are they constantly changing their mind?

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