Government announces information sharing framework

Wed 09 Nov 2016

As part of the ongoing reforms to child protection, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have announced proposed ...

As part of the ongoing reforms to child protection, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have announced proposed legislation to create an information sharing framework.

The information sharing framework would provide guidance for organisations and professionals to share information if they have concerns about the immediate or long-term safety of a child. 

Important aspects of the approach include: encouraging sharing information proactively, protecting professionals if they share information in 'good faith', and giving the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, the power to require information sharing.

The Beehive media release states: "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 Question and Answer section of the Beehive release states:

"The new legislation will enable any individual who has functions associated with the objectives of the Act (i.e. the welfare and safety of children and young people) to use and share personal information for that purpose, confidently. As long as they act in good faith they will have immunity from civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings for information disclosures. This will enable information to flow between those who need to know it.

There will be a new presumption that child welfare and protection agencies and professionals have an obligation to share personal information about a child or young person, when requested by another protection agency or professional, unless there are good grounds for not doing so.

The new legislation will extend the coverage of section 66 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 Act so that the new Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki will be able to obtain information from a broader range of agencies and people. It will be able to seek and obtain information about the child and their family for the purpose of deciding on the action it should take to a respond to a report of concern about a child."

Justice Minister Amy Adams said "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." The likely shape of the family violence legislative reforms was announced in September 2016.
More detailed information is available in the recently released Cabinet Paper, Information sharing: creating a new framework for timely and consistent information exchange and Cabinet Minute of Decision.

The proposed changes are part of wider reforms to Child Youth and Family (see also further reforms). A bill including the framework is expected to be introduced this year.

A Ministry of Health news article states "It is likely that current practices and procedures for sharing information will need to be updated and the Ministry is keen to work with the sector to co-design the implementation approach. If you or your organisation would like to be part of information sessions or workshops to discuss the change approach, please email Māni Tuki at the Ministry of Health to register your interest:"

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has previously said that the law currently protects professionals who share information when they are concerned about a child's safety: "Agencies should not be concerned about breaking privacy laws when it comes to vulnerable children. They should already be sharing information and not be waiting for the law reform to take effect."

Earlier this year, the Privacy Commissioner published a guide for multi-agency teamsSharing personal information of families and vulnerable children: A guide for inter-disciplinary groups (2016).

For more information about of the reforms to child protection, see the Ministry of Social Development webpages Investing in New Zealand’s Children and Their Families and Investing in Children Programme.

Previous related NZFVC stories

MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies

New Privacy Commissioner guidance on information sharing

Approved Information Sharing Agreement (AISA) signed


Privacy Act not a barrier to helping at-risk children, says commission, Marlborough Express, 19.10.2016

Shameful child abuse record prompts protection for officials sharing info about at-risk children, One News, 17.08.2016

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