Responding to concerns and sharing information
Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (PDF) states that all children have a right to privacy.
The convention also states that children should be protected from abuse and that their best interests should be prioritised when making decisions that affect them.
This means that, if a child is at risk of harm, it is in their best interests for an adult to share information with relevant agencies – even without the child’s consent.
In England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the Data Protection Act 2018 sets out how personal information should be processed under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The introduction of GDPR does not affect the principle that adults should share child protection information with other agencies in order to keep a child safe.
The Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill was published in June 2017. It will introduce a duty on public and other services to consider if the sharing of information will promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of a child or young person.
Statutory guidance across the UK highlights the responsibility of those in the education, community and care sectors to safeguard children from all forms of abuse and neglect. It explains how practitioners should respond to concerns and how agencies should work together to protect children.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a quality standard on child abuse and neglect. This describes how child abuse and neglect should be recognised, assessed and responded to by health and social care practitioners in England (NICE, 2019).
There is also specific guidance on data protection and sharing personal information.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has provided a Data sharing code of practice (PDF) to help UK organisations that need to share personal data (ICO, 2011).
In England, the Department for Education (DfE) provides guidance for sharing information relating to children’s services in Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (PDF) (DfE, 2018a).
In Northern Ireland, Chapter five of the Code of practice on protecting the confidentiality of service user information (PDF) by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), covers disclosing personal information relating to children (DHSSPS, 2012).
In Wales, the Government has produced non-statutory guidance on information sharing to safeguard children (Welsh Government, 2019).
Guidance for schools
In England and Wales, the Data protection: toolkit for schools provides guidance on how schools should process and record personal information in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (DfE, 2018b).
In Northern Ireland, the Think data online resource hub hosts resources that schools can use to ensure they are GDPR compliant (Education Authority, 2018).
In Scotland, Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC): information sharing sets out guidance on information sharing for schools (Scottish Government, 2018).
Complaints and whistleblowing
If you are worried that your organisation or another organisation is not responding to or sharing child protection information appropriately, it’s vital that you share your concerns to keep children safe.
Legislation across the UK ensures that you shouldn’t be treated unfairly or lose your job because you ‘blow the whistle’ (Gov.uk, 2018).
In England, Scotland and Wales, whistleblowers are protected by law under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
In Northern Ireland, The Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 protects workers who ‘blow the whistle’ over wrongdoing.
The government provides guidance on whistleblowing for employees in the UK (Gov.uk, 2018).
Ofsted provides guidance on sharing concerns about children’s social care services in England (Ofsted, 2018).
In Wales, Estyn is responsible for inspections of maintained and independent schools, and should be contacted with any concerns about practices or procedures relating to safeguarding children or vulnerable adults (Estyn, 2018).
> Contact the Whistleblowing Advice Line if you have concerns over how child protection issues are being handled in your own or another organisation