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Confidentiality and the sharing of information at the conference

Information concerning safeguarding concerns must always be shared in the best interest of the adult at risk, any other adult or child who may be at risk, or where there are wider public concerns.

Successful inter-agency co-operation in protecting adults at risk is rooted in the exchange and sharing of relevant information and is a duty placed on all partner agencies (See Section 1 for details). Practitioners must share information in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation 2018, and the common law duty of confidentiality. This allows for the lawful sharing of information and should not be seen as a reason for not doing so as a failure to disclose information where appropriate could place an individual at risk of harm. Where there is evidence of a safeguarding concern about an adult at risk of abuse or neglect, or about a risk to others, it is likely to be in the public interest to disclose confidential health data in order to protect the health and well-being of those at risk.

It is essential, to the decision-making process, that individual practitioners share all the relevant information held on their records that they are lawfully able to disclose. The information shared must, however, be no more than is necessary for the purpose for which it is being shared, only shared with individuals who need to have it, and stored securely.

Information received during the safeguarding process must be treated in strict confidence, and should not be shared with others unless they have a lawful basis to do so, for example, to safeguard the adult at risk, or where they have expressed consent to disclosure. If there is any doubt about the ability to share information lawfully, this should be discussed with the chair before the conference. (The same rules for confidentiality apply to strategy meetings).

Practitioner requests to withhold confidential information

In some cases, the conference will receive information that if shared may compromise a future criminal investigation or which relates to a third party and is confidential or sensitive. The chair will need to make arrangements so that during the conference this information is only shared amongst practitioners as required.

It is good practice for the chair to ask practitioners, prior to the start of the conference, whether there is anything a practitioner would find difficult to share with the adult at risk. The chair will facilitate a discussion with practitioner attendees prior to the conference as to how and if the information is to be shared. Members of the conference must ensure that any decision to withhold confidential information is discussed with the Chair prior to the conference.

Circumstances when information should be disclosed

1. Right to request personal information

Subject to certain exceptions, any person has a right to request access to personal information held about them. This includes information contained in conference record and this must be disclosed upon request whether the individual attends the conference or not.

It should be noted that non-family members might also apply to see information about themselves that may be contained in conference record.

2. Court and legal proceedings

Where there are criminal proceedings, the police will disclose the record to the crown prosecution service and if relevant to the defence. Records may be required for other proceedings such as regulatory hearings.

3. Public interest

Disclosure of confidential information when necessary, where there are risks of abuse and/or neglect to others. The public interest to safeguard children and adults at risk will generally override the public interest of maintaining confidentiality.

Disclosures should be justifiable in each case and legal advice should be sought.