The Family Support Centre (FSC), Shirley recognises that it has a duty of care towards all people who access its services. Some people today are victims of neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse and the welfare of every person in our care is of the utmost importance. Clients come in good faith to share their concerns in a safe and confidential environment. Confidentiality is defined as an agreement between persons to keep information secret, protecting information from unauthorized persons.
The aim of this policy is to ensure trained advisers, and anyone else involved in the work of the centre, adopt working practices which respect the confidentiality of each individual they come into contact with through the centre.
Monitoring and Review
This policy will be reviewed every three years, the next review date being July 2021.
This policy is considered with and relates to the Safeguarding Policy as well as the Data Protection Policy. The welfare, safety and dignity of clients are at the heart of the work of the centre. Certain circumstance may cause a necessary breach in confidentiality, and a relevant and appropriate sharing of evidence. The overriding consideration must be the best interests of the client. Therefore, absolute confidentiality cannot, and should not, be promised to any client. It is essential the principles of the confidentiality policy are made crystal clear to new clients.
Scope of the policy
The work of the centre includes working with adults, vulnerable adults and young people. The term staff includes all those working as volunteers.
The centre is committed at every level and in all aspects of its services, to provide a confidential service to all clients. The security of personal information is covered in the separate Data Protection Policy. This applies to adults and young people receiving individual counselling and adults and in group situations such as Divorce Care or Marriage Enrichment.
All those who work within the centre (receptionists, advisers, team leaders, trustees) sign a statement of confidentiality that no information is disclosed outside the centre. No information is shared outside the centre unless there are exceptional circumstances. (Please see the section about exceptional circumstances below.) Within the centre there is a relationship of trust, and all information is held within the organisation.
It is our usual practice that a client is seen by a pair of advisers, so then confidentiality is between the client and those two advisers. Personal information is not shared outside the room. Any discussion between the pair of advisers working together will be purposeful, sensitive and respectful.
A new client may divulge personal information to a receptionist on the telephone or in the reception area. It is important that the receptionist is aware of the broad issue the client is facing, to allocate the client to the most expert and available adviser/s. It is also important for the receptionist to respect the client’s confidentiality, and only pass on information about the broad issue to the relevant adviser/s or team leader.
In order to provide the best service to clients, it may be necessary for those advisers to have a conversation with a supervisor, or team leader. The adviser/s will discuss the relevant information without disclosing the identity of the client.
In a group situation, such as a Divorce Care course, the advisors make the boundaries of confidentiality within that context crystal clear to clients.
Information will not be shared with family members of the client. Clients under 16 years of age are not required to have parental consent to use the services of the centre. However, in the first instance, we should encourage younger clients to discuss issues with a parent or carer. Should they be unwilling to seek help and support from a parent or carer, advisers should be confident that the young person is Gillick competent. (Please see Appendix 1)
Conflict of interest
Where a client is known to a volunteer, it is the responsibility of the volunteer to disclose that knowledge to the team leader. The team leader can then determine the most suitable adviser/s for the client to meet with. The client and the adviser may both agree they are happy to meet together. The client is responsible in the first instance for knowing that a family member/ friend works at the centre. The display of photographs of the team in the reception area will help ensure clients have information about who volunteers at the centre.
The Family Support Centre is a Christian organisation. The team participates in monthly team meetings where clients may be prayed for or where reflective learning may take place. The protection of anonymity of clients is ensured by the team leader/s at all times during the meetings and personal information is not disclosed.
Exceptional circumstances where it may be necessary to breach a client’s confidentiality
When the services of another agency would be helpful, the adviser will explain the need for a referral to the client and ask his or her permission. Information about a client will only be passed to another agency with the full consent of the client. The client has the right to withhold consent unless there are exceptional circumstances. In certain circumstances, the centre reserves the right to breach the confidentiality of a client. These include:
- where the client is felt to be at risk of seriously harming themselves or others
- where there is reasonable evidence to suggest a child under 18 years of age or a vulnerable adult is at risk, or is suffering from significant harm
- where the client gives information, which indicates a possible terrorist attack, or we have a concern about possible radicalisation as part of the ‘Prevent’ strategy
- where the centre is instructed by a court to reveal information (including limited circumstances by the police, acting on the authority of a court)
Procedures to follow in the above exceptional circumstances
In all exceptional cases a decision to breach the client’s confidentiality and lawfully share information must be made in consultation with a supervisor or team leader. In the case of a safeguarding concern, the safeguarding officer must be reported to who will take the matter further. (see Safeguarding Policy) In making the decision to share information, staff need to consider their legal obligations. Every exceptional case must be judged by the professional facts. Where there is clear risk of significant harm to a client, or to others, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. If it is necessary to breach confidentiality every effort will be made to discuss this with the client, unless the supervisor or team leader decides this is inadvisable. The client will be encouraged to contact the relevant authority or organisation where possible. If the client is unwilling to take action, the supervisor or team leader will contact the relevant authority or organisation. The adviser will make detailed notes of any incidents and all action taken will be recorded.
Staff awareness and training
All staff will be trained and competent to receive confidential information, and practise the above procedures. On appointment staff will be required to sign a statement that they will adhere to the centre’s codes of practice and procedures. New staff will have a programme of induction where they are made clearly aware of their role and responsibilities, in line with this and other policies. When there are updates to policies and procedures, the manager or team leader will be responsible for ensuring staff are made fully aware of any new procedures and practices. If necessary, staff will be trained in new procedures and practices.
The security of information we hold for clients, volunteers and others such as donors and supporters of the centre, is covered in the separate Data Protection Policy.
This policy was approved on the 11th July 2018 by the Team Leaders and Trustees of the Family Support Centre Shirley
Appendix 1 Gillick Competency:
Gillick Competency and Fraser Guidelines refer to a legal case which looked specifically at whether doctors should be able to give contraceptive advice or treatment to under 16-year-olds without parental consent. But since then, they have been more widely used to help assess whether a child has the maturity to make their own decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions. Fraser Guidelines are used specifically to decide if a child can consent to contraceptive or sexual health advice and guidance whereas Gillick Competence is concerned with determining a child’s capacity to consent to any medical treatment or intervention. For most purposes of the centre the use of Gillick Competency is most appropriate.
In summary, if a child understands the advice and is showing sufficient maturity to understand what is involved and you cannot persuade them to involve their parent/carer and you are confident that they have not been coerced and that intervention will be in their best interests, then they can give consent and you can proceed. The decision-making process must be recorded/documented.
1. Has the young person explicitly requested that you do not tell their parents/carers about the common assessment and any services that they are receiving?
2. Have you done everything you can to persuade the young person to involve their parent/s/carer/s?
3. Have you documented clearly why the young person does not want you to inform their parent/s /carer/s?
4. Can the young person understand the advice/information they have been given and has sufficient maturity to understand what is involved and what the implications are? Can they comprehend and retain information relating to the common assessment and the services, especially the consequences of having or not having the assessment and services in question? Can they communicate their decision and reasons for it? Is this a rational decision based on their own religious belief or value system? Is the young person making the decision based on a perception of reality?
5. Are you confident that the young person is making the decision for themselves and not being coerced or influenced by another person?
6. Are you confident that you are safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the young person?
7. Without the service(s), would the young person’s physical or emotional health be likely to suffer? (if applicable)
8. Would the young persons’ best interests require that the common assessment is done and the identified services and support provided without parental consent?