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Children: Protection

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department is taking to (a) improve and (b) encourage information sharing between (i) local authorities, (ii) police forces, (iii) the Probation Service and (iv) NHS services when assessing risks to children. (304153)

The Government recognise the importance of effective and appropriate information sharing to help those who need additional services and in safeguarding and promoting their welfare. Information sharing between practitioners is an essential part of building a complete picture of the situation, being able to correctly assess the risks and in enabling effective early intervention to help improve outcomes for all.

While there is already much good practice in information sharing and growing evidence of increasing confidence among practitioners, we recognise that in some situations practitioners are still unsure when they can share information lawfully. The Government are continuing to work with partners across all sectors, to raise awareness of good information sharing practice and to promote the guidance and training materials that support it.

HM Government’s “Information Sharing: Guidance for Practitioners and Managers” which is for practitioners across children’s and adult’s services (including local authorities, police forces, the Probation Service and the NHS), was developed and published in October 2008 by a cross-Government team.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) led this work, in association with representatives of other Government Departments including Department of Health (DH), Cabinet Office, Home Office (HO) and Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The guidance, together with additional supporting materials, can be found on the DCSF website at:

www.dcsf.gov.uk/ecm/informationsharing

It explains when and how information can be shared legally and professionally, in order to achieve improved outcomes. It also advises how organisations should support practitioners to embed appropriate information sharing practices, including in national standards and codes of practice, where appropriate.

The National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (NSDU) was established in response to the recommendations made in Lord Laming’s “The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report (2009)” to provide a strong, co-ordinated strategic lead across four Departments (DCSF, MOJ, HO and DH). As part of its programme of activity, the unit is taking forward work to help embed good information sharing practice.

The Department has also developed a set of tools to make it easier for practitioners to work together and share information appropriately. These include ContactPoint, which is an online directory that provides a quick way for authorised practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) to help practitioners assess children and young people’s additional needs, develop a common understanding of those needs and how to work together to meet them, and National eCAF, which is currently in development and will be a secure IT system for storing and accessing information captured through the CAF.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what guidance his Department issues to local authorities on when to initiate child protection procedures. (304156)

Guidance to local authorities on when to initiate child protection procedures is contained within Chapter 5 of the statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children”. This is currently being revised in response to the recommendations made by Lord Laming in “The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report”.