Working with and sharing information with other services

Consultation is the act of sharing information to obtain the perspective of another practitioner.  It is not a referral to another service unless, during the consultation, it is decided that a referral would be the best course of action. Consultation may take different forms, from a telephone call to a series of meetings between two or more practitioners. Consultation is best undertaken by speaking to each other and not just by email.

Whenever consultation takes place, it is important that practitioners follow the principles of information sharing, parental consent and confidentiality. If the consultation is internal (between practitioners in the same organisation) practitioners should ensure that they follow their own agency’s procedures for information sharing.

If the consultation is external (between practitioners from different organisations) you should use the flowchart (below) to decide whether information should be shared. In most cases, unless the child would be at significant risk, the child and their family should give consent to the consultation taking place and where appropriate, be given the opportunity to be involved.

Principles of consultation:

  • Should be open to all agencies who work with children, young people and their families
  • Should take place when there is a clear benefit to the child or young person and their family
  • An important tool in helping agencies and practitioners work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people
  • A two-way process that demonstrates an acknowledgement of different but equally valid knowledge and expertise
  • Be able to explain to the family why you feel it would be helpful to consult with other agencies. Families should whenever possible be aware of, give consent to, and be involved in consultations and also be informed of outcomes and decisions taken as a result
  • Information should be shared in the spirit of openness, transparency and honesty between practitioners, the child and their family; however it is important that you have due regard for the principles of confidentiality and parental consent
  • All consultations should be recorded to ensure clarity and allow you to evidence any decisions that have been made

A Team Around the Family approach to involve agencies working alongside children and families provides an opportunity for practitioners to share information and consult with each other.

“Information can be shared legally without consent, if a practitioner is unable to, cannot be reasonably expected to gain consent from the individual, or if to gain consent could place a child at risk.” Information Sharing Guidance July 2018

Those who know the family through working with them will be invited to Child in Need Meetings, Child Protection Conferences and Strategy Discussions (where necessary). 

Practitioners invited to these meetings should be identifying support and services that their agency can provide for the child and family to recommend at the meeting and if they are unable to attend, send a written report and a representative who can discuss what support the agency can give.

Flowchart of when and how to share information

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