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Information sharing framework to protect children


Hon Amy Adams
Minister of Justice
Hon Anne Tolley
Minister for Social Development
3 November 2016 Media Statement

Information sharing framework to protect children

Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley say that a comprehensive information sharing framework is to be created to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm, as part of the radical overhaul of care and protection.

The framework, a recommendation of the independent expert panel which reviewed the care system, will provide clarity and legal protection for agencies and professionals to share information if they have concerns about the immediate or long-term safety of a child or young person. It will also require them to share information if asked by other agencies, including the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, if a child’s safety is at risk, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.

This will support the Ministry to be proactive and take early, preventative action rather than simply respond to a crisis once a child has been harmed.

“The vulnerable children’s framework goes hand in hand with the proposed family violence information sharing provisions, which will have similar safeguards around the use of data and legal protection for agencies and professionals. The two regimes will work together to help identify and protect those who are most vulnerable in our society,” says Ms Adams.

“Feedback on our extensive family violence reforms was that safety must be the primary consideration. We don’t want people with concerns about vulnerable children worrying more about falling foul of privacy rules than preventing harm and abuse.”

“The safety and wellbeing of children must always come first, if we are serious about a new and truly child-centred operating model for care and protection,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Too often in the case of a child’s death or abuse we find that a lot of people held little bits of information which, if shared, could have prevented a tragedy.
Currently, many professionals and agencies default to not sharing information because of legal risks, or work in silos. They need to be given the confidence to come forward so that the new Ministry can see the whole picture of a child’s life, better assess the risks and take action to keep the child safe.”

The vulnerable children’s information framework will:
• move away from a passive regime where agencies have a discretion to exchange information, to a proactive regime where information should be exchanged unless there are compelling reasons not to

• remove the uncertainty, and any consequential liabilities, facing professionals over the information they can exchange through an extension of the immunity for good faith disclosure already provided in law

• set a clear expectation that any agency or person with responsibilities for the welfare and safety of children and young people can use and share personal information about a child or young person

• expand the powers of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, to compulsorily acquire information when performing statutory investigations or responses to reports of concern

• use a broad definition of the ‘child welfare and protection sector’ (the sector) for the purpose of information sharing that includes departments, Crown entities, district health boards, school boards, early learning services, government funded NGOs, health practitioners, carers, and children’s workers.

The start date for the framework is dependent on enabling legislation being passed in Parliament, and a Bill is scheduled to be introduced by the end of the year. This will also contain a principle that states a child or young person must be informed if their personal information is to be disclosed, and that their views will be taken into account.

The cost of implementing and operating the framework is being worked through as part of the Budget process. This includes training and guidance for agencies and professionals to embed the new ways of sharing information.

The relevant Cabinet paper can be found at:
http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/new-childrens-agency-established.html

ends

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