Information sharing for service coordination
Information sharing is a key part of collaboration. Organisations can make informed decisions about how services can best meet a family’s needs.
Setting the scene in NSW: our legal framework
Child safety, welfare and wellbeing is at the centre of information sharing practice. Information sharing is a key part of collaboration as it allows organisations to work together and make informed decisions, including how services can best meet a family’s needs.
Information sharing by consent
Sharing personal information about children and their families must be lawful, which means either gaining consent, or working within relevant legislation. Information sharing by consent, where possible, is important to meaningful work with families to facilitate change. Consent may be obtained verbally or in writing; however, you should not seek consent if doing so might compromise the safety of a child or any other person.
For more information visit the NSW Information and Privacy Commission
Using the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to share information
Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection Act) 1998 (the Care Act) facilitates the sharing of information that relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children in NSW. Chapter 16A of the NSW Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 applies to children (0-15 years), young people (16 or 17 years) or a class of children or young people. The term children has been used here for ease of reading.
Chapter 16A was introduced following the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW. It is designed to promote child safety and wellbeing through simpler and more comprehensive information sharing across the sector.
Chapter 16A highlights the critical need for interagency collaboration, and the paramount importance of the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children. Consent is not required to share information using Chapter 16A. Chapter 16A empowers agencies and practitioners to share information under certain conditions. A provision of any other Act or law that prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information does not operate to prevent the provision of information under Chapter 16A (section 245H).
Section 245G provides protection from liability for persons who share information in accordance with Chapter 16A. This include protection from any civil, criminal or disciplinary action.
You do not need to have made a child protection report to share information using Chapter 16A (with the exception of unborn children, as per section 245B of the Care Act).
Questions about the use of Chapter 16A.
Who can use Chapter 16A to share information?
Organisations that are ‘prescribed bodies’ can share information using Chapter 16A. A prescribed body is an agency or organisation that has responsibility for the provision of services to children. Prescribed bodies are outlined in section 248(6) of the Care Act, and Clause 8 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012 (Care Regulation) and include:
- NSW Police
- public service agencies or public authorities
- private and public schools, and TAFE establishments
- health care providers
- OOHC providers
- organisations that have direct responsibility for, or direct supervision of, the provision of health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services or law enforcement, wholly or partly to children or their parent/s.
The Exchanging Information and Coordination of Services with Private Health Professionals factsheet provides clarity on which health professionals are included under 16A.
Information can only be shared between prescribed bodies. You cannot share information with an organisation that is not a prescribed body.
What information can be requested or provided under Chapter 16A?
To provide (section 245C) or request (section 245D) information it must relate to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a particular child or class of children. The information must be for the purposes of assisting a prescribed body to:
- make any decision, assessment or plan or to initiate or conduct any investigation, or to provide any service, relating to the safety and welfare of the child or class of children, or
- manage any risk to the child or class of children that might arise in the prescribed body’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.
Does a prescribed body need to request information for it to be provided?
No, section 245C (2) provides that information may be provided under Chapter 16A regardless of whether a request has been made. This means that prescribed bodies in NSW can proactively share information if the requirements of Chapter 16A are met.
Can you share information about an unborn child under Chapter 16A?
Under section 245B of the Care Act you can only share information about safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns for an unborn child and their family if a report has been made to the Child Protection Helpline or where a referral has been made to a Child Wellbeing Unit about the unborn child.
Can a prescribed body refuse to provide information?
There are some circumstances where a prescribed body can refuse to provide information, including that the provision of the information would prejudice care proceedings or endanger a person’s life or physical safety. If a prescribed body refuses to provide information it must provide the requesting agency with written reasons for refusing the request (section 245D(4)).
What restrictions are there on the use of information provided under Chapter 16A?
Any information provided under Chapter 16A must not be used for any purpose that is not associated with the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or class of children to whom the information relates (section 245F).
Can information be provided to other states and territories under Chapter 16A?
NSW prescribed bodies can share information with the statutory child protection bodies in other Australian jurisdictions listed in Clause 8(2)(g)-(m) of the Care Regulation. However, it does not require agencies outside of NSW to provide information to a prescribed body in NSW upon request, though a request can be made.
Are there any other information sharing provisions within the Care Act?
Section 248 of the Care Act empowers the Secretary of DCJ to:
- Direct a prescribed body to provide information to the Department.
- Provide a prescribed body with information.
Section 231V allows DCJ to share information with statutory child protection bodies in other Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand.
Other information sharing schemes
There are a number of other pieces of legislation in NSW that contain information sharing provisions for specific purposes. These include but are not limited to:
- The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 allows members of the public to access government information held by DCJ and other government departments, including information relating to DCJ’s child protection role.
- The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 allows the Children’s Guardian and relevant organisations to share information related to the Children’s Guardian’s functions, including the Reportable Conduct Scheme.
- The Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 provides the legal framework for the working with children’s check scheme to access criminal history and certain workplace records to determine if a person is suited to working with children.
The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 allows information to be shared about domestic violence victims and perpetrators in certain circumstances.
Community Corrections (Corrective Services) is an important source of information and assistance where there are current orders and criminal charges in relation to domestic violence and/or other relevant offences. Find out how offenders are managed in the community