2.9 Adult Safeguarding and Sharing Information
- 2.9.1 Introduction
- 2.9.2 Why do we need to share adult safeguarding information?
- 2.9.3 What if an adult does not want their information shared?
- 2.9.4 How to improve communication and joint working
This section focuses on the sharing of sensitive or personal information between the local authority and its safeguarding partners (including General Practitioners and health, the police, service providers, housing, regulators and the Office of the Public Guardian) for safeguarding purposes. This may include information about adults who are at risk, service providers or those who may pose a risk to others. It aims to enable partners to share information appropriately and lawfully in order to improve the speed and quality of safeguarding responses.
The Care Act emphasises the need to empower people, to balance choice and control for adults against preventing harm and reducing risk, and to respond proportionately to safeguarding concerns.
Sharing information between organizations as part of day-to-day safeguarding practice is already covered in the common law duty of confidentiality, the General Data protection Regulation, the Human Rights Act and the Crime and Disorder Act. The Mental Capacity Act is also relevant as all those coming into contact with adults with care and support needs should be able to assess whether someone has the mental capacity to make a decision concerning risk, safety or sharing information. This section, which is based on the SCIE Safeguarding Adults Sharing Information guide, summarises key parts of these laws to help increase understanding of the basic principles in relation to safeguarding practice and, in particular, the sharing of safeguarding information.
2.9.2 Why do we need to share adult safeguarding information?
Organisations need to share safeguarding information with the right people at the right time to:
- Prevent death or serious harm.
- Coordinate effective and efficient responses.
- Enable early interventions to prevent the escalation of risk.
- Prevent abuse and harm that may increase the need for care and support.
- Maintain and improve good practice in safeguarding adults.
- Reveal patterns of abuse that were previously undetected and that could identify others at risk of abuse.
- Identify low-level concerns that may reveal people at risk of abuse.
- Help people to access the right kind of support to reduce risk and promote wellbeing.
- Help identify people who may pose a risk to others and, where possible, work to reduce offending behaviour.
- Reduce organisational risk and protect reputation.
Principles of information sharing
- Adults have a general right to independence, choice and self-determination including control over information about themselves. In the context of adult safeguarding these rights can be overridden in certain circumstances.
- Emergency or life-threatening situations may warrant the sharing of relevant information with the relevant emergency services without consent.
- The law does not prevent the sharing of sensitive, personal information within organisations. If the information is confidential, but there is a safeguarding concern, sharing it may be justified.
- The law does not prevent the sharing of sensitive, personal information between organisations where the public interest served outweighs the public interest served by protecting confidentiality – for example, where a serious crime may be prevented.
- The General Data Protection Regulation enables the lawful sharing of information.
- There should be a local agreement or protocol in place setting out the processes and principles for sharing information between organisations.
- An individual employee cannot give a personal assurance of confidentiality.
- Frontline staff and volunteers should always report safeguarding concerns in line with their organisation’s policy – this is usually to their line manager in the first instance except in emergency situations.
- It is good practice to try to gain the person’s consent to share information.
- As long as it does not increase risk, practitioners should inform the person if they need to share their information without consent.
- Organisational policies should have clear routes for escalation where a member of staff feels a manager has not responded appropriately to a safeguarding concern.
- All organisations must have a whistleblowing policy.
- The management interests of an organisation should not override the need to share information to safeguard adults at risk of abuse.
- All staff, in all partner agencies, should understand the importance of sharing safeguarding information and the potential risks of not sharing it.
- All staff should understand when to raise a concern with the local authority adult social services.
- The six safeguarding principles should underpin all safeguarding practice, including information-sharing.
2.9.3 What if an adult does not want their information shared?
Frontline workers and volunteers should always share safeguarding concerns in line with their organisation’s policy, usually with their line manager or safeguarding lead in the first instance, except in emergency situations. As long as it does not increase the risk to the adult, the member of staff should explain to them that it is their duty to share their concern with their manager. The safeguarding principle of proportionality should underpin decisions about sharing information without consent, and decisions should be on a case-by-case basis.
Adults may not give their consent to the sharing of safeguarding information for a number of reasons e.g., they may be frightened of reprisals, they may fear losing control, they may not trust social services or other partners or they may fear that their relationship with the abuser will be damaged. Reassurance and appropriate support along with gentle persuasion may help to change their view on whether it is best to share information.
If an adult refuses intervention to support them with a safeguarding concern, or requests that information about them is not shared with other safeguarding partners, their wishes should be respected. However, there are a number of circumstances where the practitioner can reasonably override such a decision, including:
- The adult lacks the mental capacity to make that decision – this must be properly explored and recorded in line with the Mental Capacity Act.
- Other adults or children are, or may be, at risk.
- Sharing the information could prevent a crime.
- The alleged abuser has care and support needs and may also be at risk .
- A serious crime has been committed.
- Staff are implicated.
- The adult has the mental capacity to make that decision but they may be under duress or being coerced.
- The risk is unreasonably high and meets the criteria for the a multi-agency risk assessment conference referral.
- A court order or other legal authority has requested the information.
If none of the above apply and the decision is not to share safeguarding information with other safeguarding partners, or not to intervene to safeguard the adult:
- Support the adult to weigh up the risks and benefits of different options.
- Ensure they are aware of the level of risk and possible outcomes.
- Offer to arrange for them to have an advocate or peer supporter.
- Offer support for them to build confidence and self-esteem if necessary.
- Agree on and record the level of risk the adult is taking.
- Record the reasons for not intervening or sharing information.
- Regularly review the situation.
- Try to build trust and use gentle persuasion to enable the adult to better protect themselves.
If it is necessary to share information outside the organisation:
- Explore the reasons for the adult’s objections – what are they worried about?
- Explain the concern and why you think it is important to share the information.
- Tell the adult who you would like to share the information with and why.
- Explain the benefits, to them or others, of sharing information – could they access better help and support?
- Discuss the consequences of not sharing the information – could someone come to harm?
- Reassure them that the information will not be shared with anyone who does not need to know.
- Reassure them that they are not alone and that support is available to them.
If the adult cannot be persuaded to give their consent then, unless it is considered dangerous to do so, it should be explained to them that the information will be shared without consent. The reasons should be given and recorded.
If it is not clear that information should be shared outside the organisation, a conversation can be had with safeguarding partners in the police or local authority without disclosing the identity of the adult in the first instance. They can then advise on whether full disclosure is necessary without the consent of the person concerned.
It is very important that the risk of sharing information is also considered. In some cases, such as domestic violence or hate crime, it is possible that sharing information could increase the risk to the adult. Safeguarding partners need to work jointly to provide advice, support and protection to the individual in order to minimise the possibility of worsening the relationship or triggering retribution from the abuser.
Domestic abuse cases should be assessed following the Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification (DASH RIC) risk assessment and referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference where appropriate. Cases of domestic abuse should also be referred to local specialist domestic abuse services.
2.9.4 How to improve communication and joint working
Safeguarding Adults Reviews frequently highlight failures between safeguarding partners (local authorities, General Practitioners and health, the police, housing, care providers) to communicate and work jointly. Such failures can lead to serious abuse and harm and in some cases, even death.
- Improve links between public protection forums: Safeguarding Adults Boards, (children and adults), multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs), multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPAs), health and wellbeing boards and community safety partnerships.
- Develop joint approaches to resolve concerns where the individual may not be eligible for social care support, for people who refuse support and those who self-neglect.
- Where appropriate, include partner agencies in enquiries, safeguarding meetings and investigations.
- Keep referring agencies informed of progress and outcomes.
- Monitor information-sharing practice.
Information on the General Data Protection Regulation
The Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) explains the provisions of the GDPR to help organisations comply with its requirements. It is for those who have day-to-day responsibility for data protection.
The website for the Information Commissioner's Office provides further information on relevant sections of the GDPR itself, along with other ICO resources and guidance as produced by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party.