Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information Policy
1 Policy statement
1.1 It is PDF’s policy that all information relating to users of any of the services provided is respected as confidential information.
1.2 When a potential users contacts PDF or when we contact them personal information will be exchanged and recorded. Additionally there are professional staff from other organisations working with PDF who may be providing personal information relating to users of our services. This information is judged as confidential information and maintaining confidentiality is very important to the parent or carer or child. (It is a legal duty under Data Protection Act)
1.3 Within your working or volunteering environment you may well be dealing with sensitive information and it is your responsibility to ensure that you use the information with care. PDF offers a confidential service, and no personal information about users should be divulged to, or discussed with, anyone outside the service without the express permission of the enquirer, user concerned. Such permission should be received in writing (including email) and retained for future reference if required.
1.4 Some of our processes encourage the users to provide us with written confirmation, however the necessary documentation is not always returned and on occasions it is felt the sharing of information with a third party would be beneficial to the users. On these rare occasions it is acceptable to verbally ask over the telephone and if permission is given the information can be divulged. In these circumstances the telephone conversation must be recorded in writing, signed and dated. Such permission must be regarded as exceptional and only used for the particular purpose/occasion authorised. It cannot be used as a blanket permission to continue to divulge confidential information.
2 Exceptions where you can disclose information
2.1 There are a few exceptions to when you can disclose information to others, regardless of whether the user has consented or not. These exceptions are where you have concerns about a person’s welfare, for example:
- if there is an indication of abuse of a child
- where there are indications of self-harm by a child
- where a child or the client/caller is at risk of serious harm
2.2 In these situations the process outlined in the Safeguarding Policy should be adhered to.
2.3 There may be a circumstance in which you are required by law to disclose information about a possible crime that has been committed or there is a suspicion of child abuse, then in these cases you should not inform the adult concerned that you are going to breach his or her confidence. Instead you should seek support from your manger, contacting him/her at home if necessary, who will investigate the case urgently and with your help deal with the matter. If no senior member of at PDF is available, and the case is urgent, you should contact Social Services Duty Team. In each circumstance you will need to document the breach of confidentiality and include date, time, contacts and what information was disclosed.
3 Believed ‘right to know’
3.1 In a care environment there may be a number of people who believe they have a ‘right to know’ confidential information about a user of our services. These people may be estranged parents or partners or other relatives. Information should not be shared with other family members, including the other parent, or with any other third party.
3.2 If you receive information from a third party eg. The local authority, heath or social care, you should check whether the information is given in confidence; if it is the confidence should be respected subject to the disclosure exceptions above; if the information is not given in confidence it should only be shared with the legal guardian(s).
4 Passing on confidential information where needed
4.1 There are three ways of passing on information:
- in writing through letters and notes
- electronically through email or file sharing
4.2 It is very important that you take great care in case you breach confidentiality. When talking on the phone or with your colleagues in PDF think about who is around you who may be able to overhear what you say.
4.3 If you are delivering notes or other confidential information it should be placed in a sealed envelope to prevent other people from reading the information in transit. Also make sure that the envelope is labelled with the recipient’s name to ensure it is delivered to the correct person. It may be that should the recipient not be available, then someone else may open the envelope on their behalf. The envelope should be marked ‘Confidential/Addressee only’ to indicate that this should not happen.
4.4 Reasonable precautions should be taken to ensure that confidential documents are not left in general view. Due regard should also be taken in respect of confidential information displayed on computer screens.
4.5 Staff should be particularly mindful of confidentiality when handling electronically stored information and adhere to the IT Use policy. Emails should be treated like a postcard therefore insecure.
5 Destruction of old confidential information
5.1 When confidential records are no longer required they should be destroyed as confidential waste, and shredded.
5.2 Electronic media should be disposed of in line with PDF IT Policy.
6 Data Protection Act
6.1 All confidential records are governed by the Data Protection Act 1998. PDF is registered under the Act and any parent may ask to receive a report of the personal information held about them. Such a request should always be addressed to the PDF Principal Officer who will be responsible for taking action. Should any personal information be found to be inaccurate this will be corrected by PDF without delay.