The Importance of Confidentiality and Data Protection for Home Based Childcare

When working in a childcare setting it is often inevitable to come across confidential information about children and families you are working with. Confidential information is personal information, which should not be shared with unauthorised person or organisations. It also means a childminder should never discuss a child with a friend or other parents. Most common information held by childcare practitioner are name, address, phone number, birth date, record of parent(s)’ and/or emergency contact details, the contact details of the child’s GP.

All these information is to be kept confidential as individual have the right to keep information of this type private. The purpose of the Data protection Act 1998 is to regulate the use of personal information by business and organisations. In a childcare setting, childcare providers such as childminders will need to comply with the Act as they are often required to deal with and keep a large amount of information on each child.

Therefore passing information to a third party without the parents consent is illegal. A court can prevent the disclosure of confidential information by injunction and where appreciate, award damages if unlawful disclosure has been made It is important to comply with the Data Protection principle when keeping children’s personal information that is covered by the act. The principle requires that personal information is: * processed fairly and lawfully.

* processed for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and not further processed in any way that is incompatible with the original purpose * adequate, relevant and not excessive * accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date * kept for no longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it is being used * processed in line with an individual’s rights * kept secure with appropriate technical and organisational measures taken to protect the information * not transferred outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

Moreover, childminders do not need to register with the Information commissioner as a data controller for data protection purposes: * If all childminding records are kept on paper * If personal information about the children and parents, details of payments and other administrative information on a computer are kept only for accounts and records purposes, the childminder does not need to notify the ICO. * More extensive records such as children’s health, behaviour or development on a computer can only be legally kept by getting permission from the ICO.

* Also, the ICO childminders will have to contact the ICO digital photograph of the children are in their care. There are specific circumstances when it is not possible to maintain confidentiality because permission has been given by law or it is in the interest of the child to do so. For example, the disclosure of certain information by a child, sharing on a “need to know” basis , outbreak of reputable illness and knowing about or suspecting child abuse.