DfE Launches Consultation on Data Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Young People

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05 July, 2023

Bethany Paliga
Senior Associate

Earlier this month, the Department for Education (Dfe), announced that it was seeking views on the revision to its guidance "Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners Providing Safeguarding Services to Children, Young People, Parents and Carers".

This non-statutory guidance provides information sharing advice to organisations that work with children and young people in sectors including education. The Information Sharing Advice was last updated in July 2018 following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. More recently, the government has committed to revising the Information Sharing Advice to address concerns that there are legal impediments to sharing information.

A copy of the Draft Information Sharing Advice is available to view here

The Draft Information Sharing Advice

The Draft Information Sharing Advice sets out seven golden rules for sharing information. These are as follows:

  1. Protecting a young person from harm is more important than protecting their privacy, or the privacy of the person(s) responsible for their care and wellbeing or who might be causing them harm.
  2. Wherever it is practicable and safe to do so, engage with the young person and/or their carer(s), and explain who you intend to share information with, what information you will be sharing and why.
  3. You do not need consent to share personal information about a young person and/or members of their family if a young person is at risk or perceived risk of harm.
  4. Seek advice promptly whenever you are uncertain or do not fully understand the legal framework that supports information sharing.
  5. When sharing information, ensure you and the person or agency/organisation that receives the information take steps to protect the identities of any individuals (e.g., the child/young person, a carer, a neighbour, or a colleague) who might suffer harm if their details became known to an abuser or one of their associates.
  6. Only share relevant and accurate information with individuals or agencies/organisations that have a role in safeguarding the young person or providing their family with support, and only share the information they need to support the provision of their services.
  7. Record the reasons for your information sharing decision, irrespective of whether or not you decide to share information.

The draft advice makes it clear that data protection law does not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of young people. In fact, data protection law provides a framework which supports information sharing in that context. Additionally, the guidance confirms that consent is not usually the most appropriate way in which information can be shared under data protection law.

The draft advice goes on to provide a FAQ section on different areas of information sharing including how information should be shared and what to tell the people whose information has been shared.

Who Does the Draft Information Sharing Advice Apply To?

The advice is for organisations that work with children, young people, parents, carers and families, in sectors such as social care, education, health and justice. Therefore, it will be applicable to the FE sector as children is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years.

Information Sharing and the HE Sector

As we approach the end of term, it is usually around this time that the ICO issues guidance on sharing personal data in urgent situations for universities and colleges. This guidance reminds all those working within universities and colleges that they should not hesitate to share student personal data in order to prevent serious harm to the physical or mental well-being of a student in an emergency situation, or protect a life.

Similarly to the Draft Information Sharing Advice, the ICO guidance for universities and colleges confirms that data protection law allows organisations to share personal data in an urgent or emergency situation, including to help them prevent loss of life or serious physical, emotional or mental harm and the ICO will not penalise an organisation for acting in good faith and in the public interest in an urgent or emergency situation.

A copy of the latest version of the ICO guidance is available to view here.

Further Information

Whilst data protection concerns are understandable, the key points to takeaway from this guidance is that data protection law should not be used as a reason for not sharing information when it comes to safeguarding the physical and mental well-being of young people.

The DfE consultation is open until the 6th September 2023. The consultation details are available to view here.

For more information contact Bethany Paliga in our Education department via email or phone on 01254 222347. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Education department here

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