FAQs on keeping personal information confidential

I don't want the abuser to have any personal information about me or my children

There should not normally be any reason for the social worker to share any of your personal information (for example your new address) with the abuser, without your agreement. However, sometimes the social worker may not agree that your address needs to be kept confidential if they do not share your concerns about you and your child's safety or if they feel that the abuser is entitled to information about his children.

If you believe that sharing this information will put you or your children at risk, you should tell the social worker this and ask that any decision to give your personal information to the abuser without your agreement should be made at a managerial level. You should also ask the social worker to put in writing to you what information they plan to release, and why.

If there have been legal proceedings, there may be pieces of information the court has said the abuser cannot have (for example, your address) and then the social worker cannot release that information.

You can take further advice on this from a solicitor if you have one, Family Rights Group or Rights of Women or (see where to get further help).

I don't want personal information about me or my children to be shared with other professionals like the school or GP. Can I stop this happening?

Before the social worker discusses your child's situation with other professionals, e.g. your child's teacher, you should be asked if you agree, unless they think that asking you would place your child at risk of significant harm in which case they can share the information without your agreement.

Understandably, many parents find this difficult. It may help if you discuss with the social worker why they want to speak to certain people, and see if you can agree on how this will happen. For example, you may want to limit what information the social worker gives to the other person about your family. The social worker should talk to you about this and it is usually best if you co-operate as much as you can.

But it is also important to understand that in domestic violence situations, it may be necessary for professionals to share information about your family between themselves. This can happen even without your agreement if the social worker (or other professional) considers it necessary to protect you or your children. For example, your case may already have been referred to a MARAC (multi agency risk assessment conference). But, all of the agencies attending that conference will sign a confidentiality agreement, so that they cannot share that information with anyone else outside the meeting.

I don't want personal information about me or my children to be shared with our wider family. Can I stop this happening?

Members of your wider family do not normally have a right to information about your or your child's personal circumstances. However, if members of your wider family could offer you and your child more help and support and/or if they might be involved in caring for your child if you are unable to, the social worker may want to share information with them to see how they can help. In this situation, you should discuss with the social worker what information they would like to share, and if possible, reach an agreement with them about this.
If the social worker thinks that there is a risk that your child may need to live elsewhere, it will help the process if you can agree on who can be provided with information. The social worker may also suggest, for example, that a Family Group Conference be held, so that your wider family can be involved in making plans for the children. For more information on this, including information sharing at the conference, click here.

The abuser is not my child's father. What is my child's father's right to information about the situation?

Your child's father has a right to information about his child. Where there has been domestic violence in your new relationship, it is reasonable for him to have concerns about the safety of his children.

If the social worker considers your child to be at risk from the abuser and they believe that sharing information with the child's father will reduce this risk, they will be justified in sharing the information.

But, information should be limited to what is necessary – so it does not mean that the social worker should share all the information they have with the children's father, particularly if it relates to things that have happened a long time in the past.

You should discuss with your child's social worker what information they think should be shared and why. If you disagree, you should also ask the social worker to put in writing to you what information they plan to release, and why. If you are not happy with this, you can make a complaint.

Do I have a right to know about previous domestic violence offences my partner has been convicted of?

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – also known as Clare's Law –has recently been introduced in all police forces in England and Wales. This scheme is to enable you to make enquiries about your partner if you are worried that they may have been violent or abusive in the past.

If police checks show that your partner has a record of violent and/or abusive offences, or there is other information to indicate that you or your children may be at risk from your partner, the police will consider sharing this information with you.

The scheme aims to help you to make a more informed decision on whether to continue a relationship and provides help and support when making that choice.

You can make an application to police about your partner if you have a concern that they may harm you. The police force in your area can provide details about how to make the application – go to your nearest police station and ask about the scheme.