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  4. 10.3 Information sharing for service delivery coordination
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  6. 1. Key principles for information sharing

1. Key principles for information sharing

Information sharing is fundamental to ensuring children are safe and their needs are met. Sharing the right information at the right time in a timely and open way allows key agencies involved in the lives of children and families to better respond to their safety, wellbeing and best interests.

The Child Protection Act 1999, chapter 5A, provides the legal framework for information sharing and outlines who is authorised to share information in particular circumstances. Child Safety and other entities may share information when it:

  • is relevant to the respective roles of each entity
  • is relevant to the specific purpose for which it is disclosed
  • ensures the child’s safety and promotes their best interests.

Sections 159MA-159ME of the Child Protection Act 1999 enable information sharing to enhance decision making, coordinate services and effectively meet the care and protection needs of children and their families.

Information sharing includes both the giving and receiving of information. Child Safety may be the recipient of information from another entity and at other times will be the holder of information to be given to another entity. The information sharing provisions require that Child Safety workers only share information:

  • about a relevant child or an unborn child who may be in need of protection after birth
  • to ensure the safety, wellbeing and best interest of a child – this is the paramount consideration which overrides an individual’s right to privacy and their consent
  • with service providers or prescribed entities
  • if it will help the recipient with a particular purpose listed in the Child Protection Act 1999
  • after considering whether it is safe, possible and practical to seek the consent of the individual whose information is being shared.

Refer to the Information Sharing Guidelines (PDF, 2.1 MB) for additional guidance about information sharing.

It is best practice to seek consent from parents and children to share their personal information. However, the safety, wellbeing and best interests of children must be prioritised over the protection of an individual’s privacy, and consent is not required to share information under the Child Protection Act 1999, chapter 5A, part 4.

It is not always safe, possible or practical to seek and obtain consent. Seeking consent may prevent or delay a service engaging with a family and prevent the effective coordination of services where multiple services are involved. Use professional judgement to assess what is safe, practical and possible, consider the particular circumstances of the child and the family and the reason information is being given or sought.

Privacy

When Child Safety staff share personal information in accordance with the information sharing provisions of the Child Protection Act 1999, the privacy principles in the Information Privacy Act 2009 are not breached. To ensure compliance with the Information Privacy Act 2009:

  • collect information only to perform Child Safety functions
  • advise people why information is being collected, the authority for the collection and to whom it may be disclosed
  • ensure secure storage and retention of documents containing personal information
  • record what information has been shared and with whom, on the person’s ICMS file.

For further information, refer to the Information privacy principles and other obligations and the Information Sharing Guidelines (PDF, 2.1 MB).

Confidentiality

Any information received while performing functions under the Child Protection Act 1999 must be kept confidential. The Child Protection Act 1999, sections 187 and 188, outline specific confidentiality requirements.

It is an offence to use or disclose the information or give anyone access to a document, except where the law allows it, and penalties apply. Disclosure means passing the information to another person and access might be as simple as leaving a file in a position where someone could view the content of the file.

Disclosure or access to information is permitted:

  • so a person can perform their child protection functions under or in relation to the Child Protection Act 1999
  • if the use or disclosure is for purposes related to a child's protection or wellbeing – for example, a foster carer can provide information about a child directly to a school to help the school meet the child's needs
  • to protect a person from a serious and imminent risk to their safety or health
  • if it is required or permitted by the Child Protection Act 1999 or another law – for example, where a summons or subpoena has been issued for the production of certain documents to a court.

In addition to these circumstances, it is always permissible to disclose or give access to the person who the information or document is about, without breaching the Child Protection Act 1999, section 187.

Legislative provisions relating to confidentiality
Confidentiality of notifiers (S.186) Prohibits the disclosure of the identity of people who notify Child Safety about harm or risk of harm to a child (or, in the context of court proceedings, information from which the identity of a notifier may be deduced), except in certain limited circumstances. It also sets out when disclosure of information is permitted, for example with the leave of a court or tribunal in a court proceeding.
Confidentiality of information obtained (S.187) Prohibits entities and people (such as prescribed entities, Child Safety, service providers) who obtain information as part of their role under the Child Protection Act 1999, from disclosing this information, except in certain limited circumstances. It also sets out when disclosure of information is permitted, for example when Child Safety is cooperating and coordinating with entities to provide services to a child or their family.
Confidentiality of information given to other persons (S.188) Prohibits a person who receives personal information from an entity (including Child Safety or prescribed entity) performing a role under the Child Protection Act 1999, from disclosing this information. It also sets out when disclosure is allowed, for example when directly related to a child’s protection or wellbeing, to protect a person from serious or imminent risk.
Prohibition of publication (S189) Prohibits publication of information that leads to the identification of children.
Litigation director’s duty of disclosure (S189C) Imposes a duty on the litigation director to disclose all documents in his or her possession which are relevant to the proceeding, subject to the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 186 and 191.
Refusal to disclose particular documents or information (S191) Sets out the circumstances when the litigation director or another person engaged in the administration of the Child Protection Act 1999 may refuse to disclose information in court proceedings.