The government’s proposals to introduce separate information-sharing procedures for health professionals could “seriously undermine” the child protection system it was warned last week.
The British Association of Social Workers said that the proposals would allow health professionals to opt out of sharing information and was based on an incorrect assumption they were in a “unique position”.
Government guidance, for which the consultation period closed last week, suggests a two-tier approach to disclosing information on children and young people for health professionals.
Under the proposals, health staff who have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being harmed as a result of abuse or neglect can contact other professionals for more information, but will not be required to disclose the nature of their concerns. They can then combine this new information with their own and decide whether the child is, or could be, in danger.
BASW, which made the comments in its response to the consultation, said that all professionals should follow the same protocols on information sharing.
It added that any disclosure of information should be on a need to know basis and if health professionals refused to tell other agencies the nature of their concerns this would prevent those agencies from being able to assess whether they should disclose the information.
Meanwhile, the Association of Lawyers for Children cautioned that any new information-sharing procedures would only be effective if staff fully understood them, and were properly trained and managed. “A disturbing theme of many serious case reviews and other inquiries is that the critical deficiency lay, not in the failure of the child protection system, but in a failure of professionals in day-to-day contact with the child to recognise the need for safeguarding and to pass on information,” it said in its response to the guidance consultation.
Cross Government Guidance – Sharing Information on Children and Young People from: www.dfes.gov.uk