FusionHR recently held two GDPR briefing sessions for schools. The sessions were a great opportunity to discuss together in an open forum what we’ve all learnt so far and also highlighted a few issues and concerns, particularly around sharing pupil data.
One area requiring some clarification was GDPR and Safeguarding. Ben made it clear that GDPR does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Lawful and secure information sharing between schools, Children’s Social Care, and other local agencies, is essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need. The Data Protection Toolkit for Schools clarifies the situation.
The Data Protection Act 2018 introduced ‘safeguarding’ as a reason to be able to process sensitive, personal information, even without consent (DPA, Part 2,18; Schedule 8, 4)
When Designated Safeguarding Leads in schools are considering whether, or not, to share safeguarding information (especially with other agencies) it is considered best practice for them to record who they are sharing that information with and for what reason. If they have taken a decision not to seek consent from the data subject and/or parent/carer that should also be recorded within the safeguarding file.
All relevant information can be shared without consent if to gain consent would place a child at risk. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of promoting the welfare and protecting the safety of children. As with all data sharing, appropriate organisational and technical safeguards should still be in place.
The Working Together on Safeguarding Children statutory guidance states the following:
- Effective sharing of information is essential for early identification of need, assessment, and service provision to keep children safe.
- All professionals responsible for children should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care (e.g. they are being supported as a child in need or have a child protection plan). You should be alert to sharing important information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may affect the child’s safety or welfare.
- Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child has gone missing, when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk, or in relation to children in the secure estate where there may be multiple local authorities involved in a child’s care.
- Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children, which must always be the paramount concern. To ensure effective safeguarding arrangements:
- you should have arrangements in place that set out clearly the processes and the principles for sharing information. The arrangement should cover how information will be shared within your own organisation/agency; and with others who may be involved in a child’s life
- all professionals responsible for children should not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keeping a child safe. If a member of staff has concerns about a child’s welfare and considers that they may be a child in need or that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, then they should share the information with the local authority’s childrens social care and/or the police. Staff should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one school to another, due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost.
- you should aim to gain consent to share information, but you should be mindful of situations where to do so would place a child at increased risk of harm. Information may be shared without consent if you have good reasons to do so, and believe that the sharing the information will enhance the safeguarding of a child in a timely manner. When decisions are made to share or withhold information, you should record who has been given the information and why.
If you need support for safeguarding or you’re looking to outsource the DPO role, please get in touch. Give our team a call on 01924 827869.