Charities fear information-sharing will lead to loss of clients’ trust

Voluntary sector organisations providing statutory services will be
required to share information about children under plans in the
Children Bill to develop databases, Sure Start minister Cathy
Ashton has confirmed.

However, voluntary agencies providing non-statutory services will
not be under any legal obligation to participate with new
information-sharing systems, Ashton conceded, although it was hoped
that they would do so on a voluntary basis.

“The purpose of having information on the database is so that all
practitioners involved with a child can work together to address
the child’s needs,” Baroness Ashton told peers during the second
reading of the bill last week.

“In that spirit, we hope that voluntary sector agencies will
provide their details when dealing with a child and contribute to
discussions about concerns according to their professional

“Our intention is to permit that through the clause [on
information-sharing]. There will be no requirement in law for them
to do so, expect of course when they are carrying out statutory
functions through a contract with a children’s service agency.”

Her comments followed concerns raised by Labour peer Baroness
Massey of Darwen about children being deterred from using voluntary
sector services if they thought their visit or anything they said
would not be confidential.

She said sexual health charities in particular were concerned that
if young people had fears about confidentiality this could lead to
a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies.

“The voluntary sector often has a different relationship with
clients from the statutory sector. It is important that that
relationship with young people is sensitive and known to be
confidential,” Baroness Massey told the House.

“We have a national sexual health strategy. That strategy must not
be undermined by lack of clarity in the bill. It is vital to give
careful thought about which agencies will be required to contribute
to the proposed databases and what information will be collected
and shared.”

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