INFORMATION WHICH MAY BE CONSIDERED CONFIDENTIAL OR SENSITIVE
Peace of Mind will receive information, which will be recorded on the case file, which may be:
Information which one of the parents seeks to be kept confidential from the other
Information which a third person seeks to be kept confidential from one or both or the parents
Notes about visits and other interactions which may be important for the services supervision purposes but contentious from the point of view of one or both of the parents
Information which may be hurtful or harmful to another person
Information which both parents wish to keep confidential generally
confidential from some other person or body
CONSIDERATIONS IN RELATION TO CONFIDENTIALITY
There are a number of considerations regarding confidentiality and Peace of Mind STANDARDS:
Information on the services file, and all information relating to the parents or the child obtained in the course of operating the service, should be considered confidential and kept confidential apart from the limited circumstances listed (see: limits to confidentiality below)
The file, and the information on it, belongs to Peace of Mind not to the parents. Where the service can but is not obliged to release information, Peace of Mind aim to independently determine whether to release the information on a case by case basis
Freedom of Information legislation is based on the principle that information relating to a person may only be released to that person. Peace of Mind aim to obtain advice about the impact of federal and local FOI legislation upon Peace of Mind operations
while the service needs to have sufficient and accurate information for risk assessment and supervision purposes, parents may be reluctant to be frank with the service if the information may not be kept confidential, and particularly if the information may be used in legal proceedings in relation to the child
On the other hand, the fact that information about how visits have proceeded may be accessible to the court may assist in ensuring compliance with the services rules ie. the parents or the relevant parent may be on their best behaviour. Parents may be less inclined to cooperate if the information is inaccessible to the court
Information on the services file and the factual observations of the supervisors may be relevant and of assistance to a court in determining the best interests of the child
Peace of Mind will not seek to protect a person where the service has reason to believe that the person has committed a criminal offence in relation to the child or another person. Additionally, Peace of Mind supervised contact service will not obstruct an investigation by action or inaction. Peace of Mind has an obligation to promote the welfare of the child and consistent with this is the position that Peace of Mind will report suspected child abuse whether or not they are under a legal obligation to report
Where a vulnerable person provides their address and contact details to the service on the basis that it is to be kept confidential from another person, or generally, for safety reasons, every effort will be made to ensure that the information is kept confidential and secure
LIMITS TO CONFIDENTIALITY
Legal limitations – Peace of Mind will have no general immunity from subpoenas, conversely, this does not mean that the information must be automatically disclosed to the court or to the parents. The question of subpoenas is dealt with below. While Peace of Mind can require each parent to give an undertaking that they will not subpoena the services file or subpoena a worker to give evidence, this is not legally binding, a subpoena can be issued even though the undertaking has been given. In any event a subpoena can be issued at the instigation of a non-parent eg. The Independent Children’s Lawyer.
Recommended limitations- The following are recommended exceptions to client confidentiality. In each instance it is recommended that the service require, as a condition of the use of the service, that each parent sign an irrevocable authority for the service to release information to avoid any possible misunderstandings or repercussions. In each instance, only information which is directly relevant should be disclosed. That is:
reporting suspected child abuse: whether or not the service is under a duty to report, suspected child abuse should be reported to the relevant authorities.
reporting criminal acts eg. an assault which occurs during service use and in the presence of supervisors should be reported to the police
assisting police investigations in relation to other criminal acts
providing information to the Independent Children’s Lawyer
Joint request by the parents for the release of information: the service should independently determine whether to provide the relevant information
Where the service has concerns about the welfare of the child in the context of service use the concerns may be raised with the parents, the relevant parent and/or the Independent Children’s Lawyer.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
This section intends to establish additional and specific standards for the delivery of services where there are allegations of child sexual abuse and/or family violence. Reference is also made to supervision where there are investigations or findings regarding child sexual abuse and/or family violence.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Peace of Mind have strict policies and procedures for the supervision of cases where there are allegations of child sexual abuse, for the safety of all those involved in the supervision in question. Any Peace of Mind staff member supervising where there are allegations of sexual abuse will have completed specific training in child sexual abuse, its effect on children and the behaviours of those who sexually abuse children.
Peace of Mind aims to provide due consideration to suspending service if an allegation of sexual abuse becomes subject to a formal investigation. A court order that supervision continues may influence this consideration, but it is again noted that Peace of Mind is not bound by a court order. Any supervision that does take place where there are allegations or investigations regarding child sexual abuse aim to be undertaken at the highest level of supervision.
Peace of Mind have strict policies and procedures for the supervision of cases where there are allegations or findings of family violence. These policies and procedures provide for the safety of all those involved in the supervision in question.
Peace of Mind have developed and implemented a plan for the safe arrival and departure of children and vulnerable parents, this is to ensure that no contact or interaction occurs between parents due to their use of the service.
Any supervision that takes place where there are allegations or findings of family violence aim to undertaken at the highest level of supervision.
Peace of Mind cannot be made or ordered to prepare a report in relation to visits although the services file may be subpoenaed and workers may be subpoenaed to give evidence in court. Case notes are written for ALL visits and are only available if subpoenaed to the courts. No party is able to see these otherwise.
Peace of Mind services consider that the primary purpose is to provide supervised visiting services. The preparation of reports is resource intensive and Peace of Mind services assess the capacity we have to provide reports without this impacting upon the quality of service provided.
It is also recognised that Peace of Mind reports can be significant in that they may provide information which is relevant to a court or some other body in relation to a decision which is of importance to the child or some other person. Reports provided to the courts are of an observational nature and opinion only provided when it is tendered by those formally qualified to provide such opinion. These are at an additional cost.
POST INCIDENT REVIEW
If there is a significant incident involving the use of the Peace of Mind, then the service may immediately institute a post incident review.
Peace of Mind services have a critical incident reporting format, including pro-forma documentation to be completed, a process for responding to the lodging of these documents.
Peace of Mind also see critical incident occurrences and management as a further opportunity to review service policies, procedures and performance.
6-12 MONTH EVALUATIVE REPORTS
A 6-12 month evaluative report is one which expresses opinions or gives assessments eg. about: the need for ongoing supervision; the appropriate frequency of visits; whether visits are in the interest of the child.
Evaluative reports may include or purport to include, a professional assessment about the causes of behaviour, the ramifications of certain occurrences for the child etc. It will generally be inappropriate for Peace of Mind to provide evaluative or professional opinion reports on visits or broader questions because:
The provision of an evaluative report is inconsistent with the services role and function in relation to visits
The provision of evaluative reports may lead to the service being used primarily for assessment and legal/tactical purposes rather than supervision
Peace of Mind only see part of the story in a structured environment and this will be too limited to validate any attempt at broad evaluation
Peace of Mind staff have a variety of backgrounds and experience. Courts are generally prepared to accept professional opinion (including evaluation) evidence only from those who have appropriate professional qualifications and experience. Inappropriate attempts to provide evaluative reports will adversely affect the credibility of Peace of Mind.
It would only be fair to provide evaluative reports, given all of the above considerations, if those using the service were informed prior to commencing using Peace of Mind that it is the service’s practice to do so. These reports can be requested at anytime at an additional cost quoted at time of request.
Peace of Mind may be requested to provide a report by one or both of the parents or by the Independent Children’s Lawyer. Peace of Mind will determine whether the service has the resources to provide a report and whether it is appropriate to do so. Where the service determines that a report should be provided it may be limited to a factual account.
Factual reports recount basic details eg what time visit was scheduled for, what time each parent arrived, how many times the service was used, who attended visits.
Peace of Mind require that the both parents sign a pro forma agreement sheet which defines their obligations in relation to service use. This is done in order to ensure that each of the parties is aware of the rules and that the rules apply equally to both of them.
These are most commonly referred to as a Service Agreement or Parent Agreement. The key task for Peace of Mind is to ensure that the rules are explained and fully understood by both parties. The signing of the agreement symbolises that there has been agreement to all of the terms within the document. This form is part of intake paperwork.
It is recommended that each party be given a pro forma which summarises the rules for Peace of Mind service and provides Peace of Minds phone number.