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Arrangements for Managing Safeguarding Adults

Information Sharing and Checklist

See Local Safeguarding Adult Board websites:

In order to carry out its functions, SABs will need access to information that a wide number of people or other organisations may hold. Some of these may be SAB members, such as the NHS and the police. Others will not be, such as private health and care providers or housing providers/housing support providers or education providers.

In the past, there have been instances where the withholding of information has prevented organisations being fully able to understand what “went wrong”. This has hindered them identifying the lessons to be applied to prevent or reduce the risks of such cases reoccurring. If someone knows that abuse or neglect is happening they must act upon that knowledge, not wait to be asked for information.

A SAB may request a person to supply information to it or to another person. Under the Care Act, the person who receives the request must provide the information provided to the SAB if:

  • The request is made in order to enable or assist the SAB to do its job;
  • The request is made of a person who is likely to have relevant information and then either:
    1. The information requested relates to the person to whom the request is made and their functions or activities; or
    2. The information requested has already been supplied to another person subject to a SAB request for information.

Where an adult has refused to consent to information being disclosed for these purposes, then practitioners must consider whether there is an overriding public interest that would justify information sharing (e.g. because there is a risk that others are at risk of serious harm) and wherever possible, the appropriate Caldicott Guardian should be involved.

Decisions about who needs to know and what needs to be known should be taken on a case by case basis, within agency policies and the constraints of the legal framework.

Principles of confidentiality designed to safeguard and promote the interests of an adult should not be confused with those designed to protect the management interests of an organisation. These have a legitimate role but must never be allowed to conflict with the welfare of an adult. If it appears to an employee or person in a similar role that such confidentiality rules may be operating against the interests of the adult then a duty arises to make full disclosure in the public interest.

Information Sharing Checklist

There are seven golden rules to information sharing, see Information Sharing: Guidance for Practitioners and Managers (Department for Education):

  1. Remember that the Data Protection Act is not a barrier to sharing information but provides a framework to ensure that personal information about living persons is shared appropriately;
  2. Be open and honest with the person (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
  3. Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible;
  4. Share with consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. You will need to base your judgement on the facts of the case;
  5. Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the person and others who may be affected by their actions;
  6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely;
  7. Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.

The following are questions to ask before agreeing to share information:

  • How reliable and complete is the information I am considering sharing?
  • How will disclosure contribute to risk reduction?
  • How much information needs to be disclosed, and to whom?
  • Have I sought, considered and recorded the views of the source and/or subject of the information about proposed disclosure?
  • If consent is not forthcoming, or is refused, are there pressing reasons to disclose?
  • Have I balanced rights to privacy and confidentiality against the scale of the assessed risk?


Confidentiality

When does a duty of confidentiality apply?

There is a common law duty to keep information confidential either when the person supplying it says the information is confidential, or where it is clear from the circumstances that it should be treated as confidential (e.g. consultations between doctor and patient, and social worker and service user).


Can the duty of confidentiality give way in cases of risk?

The duty of confidence is not absolute. The public interest in preserving confidences may be outweighed by a greater public interest in the information being disclosed.

A professional who reasonably believes that people will be put at risk of danger if confidential information is not disclosed 'is entitled to take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to communicate the grounds of their concern to the responsible authorities'.


When can information be disclosed to avert or reduce risk?

Disclose only if there is a "pressing need", and if this is a proportionate response.

Give people causing concern the chance to comment on the information about them and its proposed disclosure.

Balance the protection of Adults at Risk against individuals' rights to a private life and record this balancing exercise.

If following investigation, an allegation appears true, this is a stronger reason to disclose.

Consider the role of the proposed recipient and how they are likely to respond if the information is disclosed to them.

Disclose only if the person(s) affected have given informed consent, or there is an overriding reason to disclose without consent.

The Data Protection Act 1998:The Data Protection Act 1998 covers all recording, storage and sharing of personal information held on paper files or computer. All personal data must be recorded and shared lawfully. It should only be shared if disclosure is either:

  • Agreed by the data subject (the person the information is about), required by court order or some legal duty, necessary to protect the 'vital interests' of the data subject; or
  • Necessary to carry out a statutory function, such as a duty to assess.

If the personal data is 'sensitive', stricter safeguards apply. For example, any consent must be explicit rather than implicit; if made without consent, consent must be unreasonable to obtain, or must be being unreasonably withheld. 'Sensitive' data includes racial or ethnic origin, physical or mental health or condition, and any criminal convictions.

Section 29 of the Data Protection Act 1998 allows for the exchange of information for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime, apprehension or prosecution of offenders and where failure to disclose would be likely to prejudice those objectives.


Use of Interpreters, Signers or other with Communication Skills

See also Safeguarding Adult Board websites for local information:

Adults who have difficulty communicating in English and those who have specific communication difficulties should have access to the services of an independent interpreter with a relevant knowledge of culture and observances.

Family members should not be used in this role.

It may assist in smoothing the way for an interpreter, and would be good practice, to ensure that the interpreter has a briefing prior to an interview. This should ensure that the confidential nature of the meeting they are about to interpret is made explicit and that they are prepared for any disclosure that may be of a sensitive nature. The interpreter's job is to interpret, not to mediate or get involved in the case in any other way, but he/she needs this background preparation in order to be able to comprehend what is being said and to interpret as accurately as possible.

It is important that members of staff are aware of potential conflicts which may arise when using an interpreter and the need to ensure that the interpreter has no involvement in the case.

It is recommended and preferable that an interpreter is sourced from a contracted supplier with whom an existing confidentiality agreement is already in place. Please refer to local sources via your Local Authority if necessary.

Any interpreters from a source that is not a recognised contractor must be required to sign a confidentiality agreement prior to undertaking any interpreter service. Interpreters must understand that they must not divulge any of the contents of a meeting or interview to any other person.

In addition, any contract for the provision of interpreting services must comply with the following overarching principles:

  • The interpreter should be acceptable to both the service user and the agency. The service user should be consulted about the acceptability of a named interviewer. There may be concerns for instance about gender, religion, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Every effort should be made to use an interpreter who is acceptable both to the service user and to the agency;
  • Interpreters should also be asked to inform the worker if they know personally any of the people involved in the case;
  • Interpreters should also be asked in advance about their own requirements during an interview or meeting e.g. breaks, water, equipment;
  • Any anticipated difficulties, e.g. with the behaviour of a third party, should be planned for prior to the event;
  • Decisions about the way in which the interpreter will be used will depend on the interpreter's skills and training, the needs of the service user and the type of the interview or meeting;
  • The interpreter may be a helpful source of practical advice about making culturally appropriate arrangements to interview family members. However, professionals should not use interpreters to gain assessment information about racial, cultural, religious and linguistic factors as they affect a particular family's lifestyle or attitudes. This is not a proper use of an interpreter and in any case, the interpreter's values and life experiences will not necessarily coincide with those of the family.

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