Responsible Data Sharing and Safeguarding Children

Thu 29th Feb 2024

Working with organisations in law enforcement, education and social services , the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ’Think, Check, Share’ campaign promotes safe data sharing for the purpose of safeguarding children.

The idea is that individuals working in positions that concern the welfare of children should be able to share a child’s personal data if they think the child is at serious risk of harm, without being prevented from doing so by data protection law. This applies to children up to the age of 18.

There have been concerns previously surrounding data protection law and how it can cause a delay in decision making and getting data released due to poor data sharing practice and lack of knowledge about how the UK GDPR enables data sharing.

The ICO’s campaign is a step in the right direction to make sure that children at serious risk or threat of harm, whether mental or physical, are not prevented from getting the help they need. It aims to raise awareness of the enabling role that data protection law plays in the safeguarding of children through the fair, proportionate, and lawful sharing of information in these circumstances.

In its 10-step guide to sharing information to safeguard children, the ICO explains how to share personal data lawfully in safeguarding circumstances. It reminds those working with children of the need to comply with data protection principles whilst also recognising that, in safeguarding emergencies there might not be time to adopt the usual practices, and that not sharing information can be more harmful for the child or children than sharing it.

Whilst the guide provides a very helpful structure, and includes several links to additional reading, reflecting the guidance in workplace policies, systems, and training will present challenges for many organisations.

Senior leaders, in particular, are directed by the ICO to ‘make sure everyone in their organisation has the required level of understanding of what to do to safeguard children’. This may include individuals who have little or no contact with children, such as some senior leaders themselves or cleaning and catering staff.

Some organisations will also find that implementing the guidance effectively requires more than updating policies and procedures, and training staff. Practical changes to systems may be necessary, as well as cultural changes to ensure that new practices are adopted by everyone.

In most circumstances, the ICO’s 10-step guide to sharing information to safeguard children will provide leaders and managers with a helpful tool for identifying what needs to be done and, most importantly, the barriers to change. Where barriers exist, I urge leaders and managers to seek the professional advice they need to ensure their organisations share data responsibly and effectively for the safeguarding of children.

For help and advice on this topic, or other data protection and employment issues, please contact Chris Cook by calling 01727 798089 or emailing chris.cook@salaw.com.

© SA LAW 2024

Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.

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