Child Information Sharing Scheme now applies to you!
A top priority for all schools is to keep children safe and to support their health and wellbeing. This aim is achieved through a variety of mechanisms, one of which involves the sharing of relevant information between authorised organisations to promote and support the wellbeing and safety of all Victorian children and families.
The Victorian Government first introduced the Child Information Sharing (CIS) Scheme on 3 September 2018 to allow for information sharing between authorised and trained professionals specifically to promote children’s wellbeing and safety. The CIS Scheme facilities services working together to identify needs and risks, promote earlier and more effective intervention and integrated service provision, and improve outcomes for children and families.
Recent legislative changes have come into effect which authorise additional organisations and services to participate in the CIS Scheme. Importantly, as of 19 April 2021, the CIS Scheme now applies to all Victorian schools, including Catholic schools. It is therefore important to ensure that you are aware of your obligations, including in relation to the scope of and thresholds for sharing information.
Information Sharing Entities
Information can only be shared by and with organisations prescribed as Information Sharing Entities (ISEs). Importantly for present purposes, prescribed ISEs include Government schools and non-Government schools (independent and Catholic). This means that your school is obliged to comply with the CIS Scheme. Other ISEs include, but are not limited to: police, local general practitioners, hospitals, child protection, kindergartens, maternal and child health services etc.
CIS Scheme: Who is covered?
When can you share information under the CIS Scheme?
The sharing of information under the CIS Scheme is only permitted if a three-step test is satisfied:
- An ISE can request or disclose information about any person for the purpose of promoting the wellbeing or safety of a child or group of children.
- The disclosing ISE must reasonably believe that sharing the information may assist the receiving ISE to carry out one or more of the following activities:
- Making a decision, an assessment or a plan relating to a child or group of children;
- Initiating or conducting an investigation relating to a child or group of children;
- Providing a service relating to a child or group of children;
- Managing any risk to a child or group of children.
- The information being disclosed or requested is not known to be excluded information and is not restricted from sharing by another law. Secrecy and confidentiality restrictions on information sharing created by other laws continue to apply unless expressly overridden by the CIS Scheme.
Excluded information is any information that, if shared, could be reasonably expected to:
- Endanger a person’s life or result in physical injury;
- Prejudice the investigation of a breach or possible breach of the law or prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law – including police investigations;
- Prejudice a coronial inquest or inquiry;
- Prejudice the fair trial of a person or the impartial adjudication of a particular case;
- Disclose the contents of a document, or a communication, that is of such a nature that the contents of the document, or the communication, would be privileged from production in legal proceedings on the ground of legal professional privilege or client legal privilege;
- Disclose or enable a person to ascertain the identity of a confidential source of information in relation to the enforcement or administration of the law;
- Contravene a court order or a provision made by or under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act or any other Act that: – prohibits or restricts, or authorises a court or tribunal to prohibit or restrict, the publication or other disclosure of information for or in connection with any proceeding or – requires or authorises a court or tribunal to close any proceeding to the public; and
- Be contrary to the public interest.
If the three-step test threshold is met
- Can share proactively with other ISE’s;
- Can request information form another ISE; and
- Must respond to requests for information from another ISE and provide relevant information.
ISE’s do not require consent from any person to share relevant information with other ISE’s. However, there is a preference for ISE’s to seek and take into account the views of children and family members about information sharing if appropriate, safe and reasonable to do so.
ISE’s should respond to a request from another ISE in a timely manner and must provide relevant information if the legal requirements of the CIS Scheme are met. If a request for information is declined, written reasons for doing so must be provided to the requesting ISE.
Importantly, an ISE is protected if they share information in good faith after using reasonable care when exercising their professional judgment about whether the threshold for sharing is met, what information to share and with whom to share it.
How can Brennan Law Partners assist?
It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with your duties under the CIS Scheme to ensure that you are best positioned to respond to a request for information and/or make a request for information yourself. It is imperative you understand when you can and when you can’t share information as inappropriate disclosure of confidential information can have significant consequences.
If you need assistance with responding to or making a request for information, contact us today or call the VACPSP Hotline at any time.
We also recommend that you review your currently policies and procedures to account for the Child Information Sharing scheme, to ensure that you are compliant.
If you have any questions regarding any information in this BLP Brief, we welcome you to contact us at any time.