Promoting safety through sharing personal information

Promoting safety through sharing personal information

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Our recent submissions to government consultations on information sharing legislation have focused on ways we would like to see safety prioritised for survivors of family violence and children in an enhanced information-sharing regime.

We believe that safety-focused information sharing that develops better coordinated responses for children and families is best achieved through:

  • strong relationships and cooperation between organisations that work with a family
  • seeking consent from children and families before sharing their information. This builds the confidence people need to trust and engage with support services
  • keeping people informed about how their information is used, particularly in family violence situations where privacy can be particularly important to safety
  • sharing without consent as a last resort and only if necessary to ensure safety.

Enhancing safe information-sharing: family violence

Decisions about when information is shared should prioritise the safety of child and adult survivors of family violence and support them to better assess and manage family violence risk.

A family violence information sharing regime was created by new Victorian laws earlier this year. The Victorian government is now settling the guidelines for how these laws should work in practice.

In our submission on the draft family violence information sharing guidelines, we emphasise the importance of seeking consent from child and adult survivors of family violence before sharing their information.

This allows survivors to make the decisions that are best for their own safety. Knowing how their information will be shared gives families the confidence to engage with the support services they need.

It is also vital that all information-sharing laws deal thoroughly with the common challenge of misidentification of the primary aggressor in situations of family violence. While Victoria Police is committed to addressing this risk, many women are still incorrectly identified and treated as family violence perpetrators rather than as victim survivors.

We suggest ways of reducing the risks to these women when services are considering sharing information under the new regime.

We have also been working with Family Safety Victoria and others to help ensure that guidelines implementing the new family violence information-sharing regime are clear and easy for support workers to follow.

Read our submission

Enhancing safe information-sharing: children

The Victorian government has also said it will soon introduce new laws creating a child information sharing regime, including a proposed Child Link database of basic information about every Victorian child and the services they access.

The proposed child information sharing reform anticipates the recommendations on information sharing expected to be made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It aims to foster a similar cultural change to family violence information sharing, so that information is shared between services when a child is at risk of harm and when the sharing of information would promote child wellbeing or safety.

We have suggested that any new child information sharing regime should build on the work done in relation to information sharing in the family violence context.

At present, the proposed regime would allow for the sharing of children’s information without their consent in a broad range of situations. We recommend a preferred approach of aligning the child information sharing regime with the risk and safety-focused nature of the family violence information sharing regime.

We also recommend that children’s consent to information sharing be prioritised and that additional safeguards be included so that decisions about when to share information do not unintentionally deter families from engaging with support services.

We contributed to two submissions on the proposed child information sharing reforms. They emphasise the safeguards necessary to ensure that risks are managed when decisions to share information are made.

In relation to the proposed Child Link database, we requested more research and consultation to ensure necessary safeguards are in place before any implementation.

Read our submissions

You can read the following joint submissions on the Appropriate interventions for children and young people page:

  • The legal assistance sector child information sharing submission from Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, and Women’s Legal Service Victoria
  • The child information sharing submission from Domestic Violence Victoria, the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, No To Violence Men’s Referral Service, Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, Women’s Legal Service Victoria, the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, Berry Street and Victoria Legal Aid.

These policy collaborations follow a submission by Victoria Legal Aid in January 2017 to the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s first round of consultation on child safety and wellbeing information sharing. We also made a submission in January 2017 to the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s earlier consultation on child safety and wellbeing information sharing.

Client privilege protected under new laws

Privileged information is excluded from the family violence information sharing regime and we expect privilege will also be protected under any child information sharing law reform.

We also expect that most lawyers will not be included as prescribed information sharing entities in regulations under the new laws. Some lawyers who operate inside prescribed services may be covered.

Lawyers will need to understand the impact of the new laws when clients attend prescribed services and be ready to respond to questions that clients may ask about how their information will be shared by other services and how they can access that information.

Was this helpful?