Working together means bringing each professional and practitioner’s information, skills and expertise to the table to help vulnerable children, families and whānau. It’s about getting the full picture for the child and working together with other agencies to get them the help and support they need.
One agency or organisation only holds part of the bigger picture about the child and family’s circumstances. Their needs to not exist in isolation – families are often involved with many services and have histories with many agencies and organisations.
This is essential to fully understanding the family’s circumstances. It enables practitioners to then properly address the child’s unmet needs by assessing, planning, implementing services and reviewing progress.
The Privacy Act 1993 allows for and facilitates sharing information and working together with the family/whānau. The best way to put this into practice is to talk with the child (depending on age), their family/whānau and develop a common understanding of their expectations when it comes sharing information.
The family will want to know what information you are sharing, with whom and why. Be clear about which agencies and organisations you will want to share information with and respect their wishes about which agencies they want to be involved.
It is important to share information for a specific purpose. Working together effectively means sharing the relevant information with the right people. Sharing large amounts of information with minimal analysis can often be a hindrance rather than a help.
For example, sending a copy of all the information held on a family can be a burden for the other practitioner to interpret and analyse. When sharing information with another agency about a child or family/whānau, consider making a summary of the relevant concerns or issues, or having a discussion with the other agency or organisation involved.
Professionals and practitioners working together need to consider a number of things when sharing information:
Generally, practitioners do share information and work together. However, there are instances of practice where sharing information can be challenging.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has made it clear that individuals should not be concerned about sharing information about vulnerable children. Any information about a current or future danger to a child needs to be shared between the appropriate agencies.
Staff should be supported and encouraged to work together and share information about vulnerable children in a way that addresses the welfare and best interests of a vulnerable child.
Children’s Teams work with the agreement of the family/whānau to assess the unmet needs of vulnerable children and ensure services are provided to meet those needs. Agencies working in a Children’s Teams come together as the Children’s Team Panel and share information to assess a family and determine whether or not the Children’s Team would be the most appropriate response to meet the unmet needs of the family/whānau.
Once accepted a Lead Professional is assigned as the main contact person for the family/whānau. When the Lead Professional first engages with the family, they discuss with them what will happen with their personal information, who will see it and gain agreement for it to be shared for the purpose of assessing the family/whānau and developing, reviewing and implementing a Child’s Plan.
The Lead Professional then works together and shares information with other practitioners and professionals involved with the family to implement the Child’s Plan. Throughout the Children’s Team process information is shared between practitioners and professionals involved in the Child’s Plan and senior professionals and practitioners on the Children’s Team Panel.
The Lead Professional will re-visit this conversation throughout the Children’s Team approach and act on a “no surprises” approach.