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1.3 Confidentiality and Information Sharing

Last Modified: 18-Jun-2020 Review Date: 01-Jun-2019

Purpose

​To provide guidance to residential care workers on the expected standards of confidentiality, professional integrity and judgement expected when disclosing or sharing information about another residential care worker or child.

Practice Requirements

  • ​​​​​Under s.237 of the Act, residential care workers must not, except with written authorisation from the Director General, publish information or material that identifies, or is likely to lead to the identification of a person who is, or was as a child: 
    • the subject of an investigation referred to in s.32(1)(d) 
    • the subject of a protection applicatio​n or a protection order under the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (or previous legislation) 
    • the subject of a responsible parenting order, or 
    • the responsible person under a responsible parenting order. 
  • Residential care workers must refer all requests for information to the manager, the district or the Crisis Care Unit (after hours). 
  • All files must be kept in a secure place when not in use. Locked cabinets must be used to store all personal documents and items to safeguard the privacy and security of confidential information. 
  • The manager is responsible for disposal of confidential information securely. 
  • When responding to phone queries, residential care workers must verify who they are speaking to. If there is any doubt, refer the matter to the district, the home’s manager or the Crisis Care Unit after hours. 
  • Residential care workers must not discuss personal details about a child in care without their permission, or in the hearing of another child. Conversations about children on the phone or in the home must always be discreet and not in the public domain. Residential care workers must be mindful that the sound of voices can carry within a home. 
  • Refer to Casework Practice Manual entry Mutual information exchange and working with agencies
  • Group homes must not create their own Facebook page without adhering to the Social Media in Casework Practice Policy. ​​

Procedures

  • Introduction
  • Photographs
  • Privacy and Social Networking
  • Introduction

    ​Each child has the right to confidentiality about their personal information. Information about any child living in the home must be secured in the staff office so that children in the home do not have ready access. This is particularly important in relation to health, family, sexualised behaviour, legal issues and any disclosures or allegations pending. 

    The principle of “need to know” guides the release or sharing of confidential information with third parties. This must be carried out in accordance with s.23 of the Act, and decisions to release information must be made in conjunction with the district. 

    Confidentiality may not be guaranteed in cases where: 

    • ​there is a clear possibility of harm; 
    • there is an agreement for information sharing across departments (for example, WA Police, Princess Margaret Hospital, Department of Corrective Services); and/or 
    • there are ethical reasons (such as the need to protect the child or any other person). 

    ​If in doubt, consult with the manager or the child’s case manager during office hours, the on-call manager or Crisis Care Unit after hours.​

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    Photographs

    ​​For safety reasons, children must not be identified in photographs as a child in the CEO’s care. Residential care workers should observe the following guidelines: 

    • A child must give permission to have their photo taken. 
    • Photos must not contain an identifiable background or signage (for example, a government vehicle or premises). 
    • Children in care should not be excluded from beneficial social experiences associated with photographs, video recording and other published media such as school photographs and sports club articles. 
    • In the instance where a residential care worker only has their personal mobile available, at the first possible opportunity they should download the photos a Department computer and permanently remove them from the personal mobile. A copy should be sent to the district and a copy given to the child. 
    • Consideration should be given to what is in the child’s best interests, and to any adverse consequences that may result through the publication of a photograph (for example, safety concerns for the child should their whereabouts become known). Consultation should occur with the manager before publication is allowed, if there is a concern. 
    • If a Residential Care worker becomes aware of any published information that identifies a child as being a child in care, inadvertently or otherwise, they must report this incident to their manager immediately. 

    For more information refer to Casework Practice Manual entry Identification of children​

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    Privacy and Social Networking

    ​Social networking websites and mobile phones have become popular tools for children to socialise with and share information. Children in care are a vulnerable group whose personal information should be safeguarded to prevent exposure to bullying, stalking or disclosure of their location. 

    Please refer to the Social Media in Casework Practice Policy for detailed information. 

    Children in care should be made aware of the importance of keeping their personal details private. This includes: 

    • ​not identifying themselves as a child in care 
    • not disclosing the names of residential care workers in their home 
    • not disclosing their full name address, or telephone numbers, and 
    • not disclosing what school or groups they attend (such as a sporting club).
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