The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said organisations will not get into trouble if they share information to protect children and young people at risk of serious harm.
It has published new guidance on the issue to address concerns that frontline workers that may be scared to share information for fear of falling foul of data protection law.
The guidance – aimed at people involved in safeguarding children at all levels – comprises 10 steps, including identifying the objective for sharing information, assessing the risks and sharing as needed, entering into a data sharing agreement and following data protection principles.
It adds that senior leaders should make sure everyone in their organisation has the required level of understanding of what to do to safeguard children.
UK Information Commissioner John Edwards said: “My message to people supporting and working with children and young people is clear: if you think a child is at risk of harm, you can share information to protect them. You will not get in trouble with the ICO for trying to prevent or lessen a serious risk or threat to a child’s mental and physical wellbeing.
“Data protection law helps organisations share data when required. Our guide will support senior leaders to put strong policies, systems and training in place, so their staff are encouraged and empowered to share data in an appropriate, safe and lawful way.”
The ICO has also produced materials to support organisations in raising awareness of the benefits of sharing information to protect children and young people from harm.
It is also developing a suite of guidance on the issue aimed at specific sectors across the UK, recognising the different legislative and policy landscapes.
It added that the need to improve data sharing practices has been highlighted in recent serious case reviews showing that children have died or been seriously harmed through abuse or neglect. Poor information sharing was identified as one of the factors contributing to failures to protect the children.