Kinds of Situation When Confidentiality Protocols Must Be Breached

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Adults who work with children and young people will come to know most of the personal information like date of birth, address and contact details and also sensitive information like behavioural issues, some medical information, family background, whether parents are divorcing and so on. It is the responsibility of the adult to keep this information confidential. They must protect the identity of the child they work with and that of their families and carers.

They must do everything in their power to protect the privacy of every child and adult. This can be done by keeping their personal information safe and secure. They can pass it on those who have authorised and legitimate reason to have the information only after they have permission from their parents and carers. This involves parents signing a consent form. If parents refuse permission then the school would not able to pass on the information even if it involves a behavioural specialist working with a child who has special needs. There is a legislation to protect this right and there are severe consequences for those who breach it.

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However there are certain circumstances in which an adult can pass on the information to the relevant authority without permission. If you become aware of information which led you to a genuine suspicion that a child is being abused at home, then it would it be right for the responsible adult to pass on the information. The general rule is that if you believe a child to be at a significant risk of harm then you should pass on personal information to those who would be able to prevent harm. Every setting will have policies and procedures that must be followed in these circumstances.

Sometimes private and personal information needs to be shared so that people can access services. In some circumstances disclosure of personal information is required by law. For example, John and rishi are friends. Rishi has told John that he hates his dad as he beats him up and has warned him that if he discloses this to others he will lock him up in a dark room. John is worried about his friend and tells this to his mother. His mother informs this to the teacher. One day when children were changing into their PE uniforms, the teacher notices some bruises on his back. When she asked rishi about this he keeps quiet.

In this case the teacher should inform the head teacher about this incident and if may involve the police if necessary. Adults working with children should be careful if taking photographs of children for displays or for any magazine. Parental permission should be taken before giving their photographs for any publication or media. But If they are approached by a police for some investigation then their photographs should be given even if there is no parental permission for this. You must use your professional judgement to decide whether to share or not, and what information is appropriate to share.

Base your information sharing decisions considering the safety and well-being of others who may be affected by their actions. If you decide to share an information then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose. If you not sure of how to deal with the situation then seek advice from your supervisor or from a professional body. Before sharing the information check why the other person wants the information, what is the result they are trying to achieve and could the aims be achieved without sharing the information. You should be open about what information needs to be shared and why.

However, it may not be appropriate to seek consent to this sharing in case if informing them is likely to hamper the prevention of a serious crime, or put a child/adult at risk of harm. The circumstances where seeking permission is not necessary would be: * Place a child at risk of harm; or * Place an adult at risk of serious harm; or * Prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime ; or * Lead to unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of serious harm. Confidential information can be shared if there is sufficient public interest.

The question of whether there is a sufficient public interest must be judged by the practitioner on the facts of each case. In deciding about information sharing, you must weigh up what might happen if the information is shared against what might happen if it is not, and make a decision based on professional judgement. Information should be shared appropriately and securely, taking care of the following points:

  • Only share what is necessary to achieve the purpose, distinguishing clearly between fact and opinion.
  • Share only with the person who really needs to know the information. Make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Understand the limits of any consent given and especially if the information has been provided by a third party.
  • Check who will see the information and share the information in a secure way. For example, confirm the identity of the person you are talking to; ensure a conversation or phone call cannot be overheard; use secure email; ensure that the intended person will be on hand to receive a fax.
  • Establish with the recipient whether they intend to pass it on to other people and ensure that they understand the limits of any consent that has been given. Inform the person to whom the information relates that you are sharing the information, if it is safe to do so, and if you have not already told them that their information may be shared.
  • Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it-whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.


  1. Burnham, Lousie and Baker, Brenda. ”Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools Level 3 Diploma“: Essex, Heinemann, 2011.

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Kinds of Situation When Confidentiality Protocols Must Be Breached. (2016, Nov 25). Retrieved from

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