Safeguarding data sharing: consultation report and summary of responses

Consultation responses and analysis to our 2022 consultation on safeguarding data sharing.

1. Introduction

The Scottish Government is very much aware that Social Security Scotland supports some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Page 18 of Our Charter[1] outlines the commitment of Social Security Scotland to refer a client to other organisations, services or forms of help where we believe they could help improve a client's wellbeing or financial circumstances. This is particularly important when we understand how some clients need extra support in order to safely and fairly access Social Security Scotland's services.

However, there may also be instances when Social Security Scotland's interaction with clients presents situations where it becomes apparent an individual may be at risk of harm. To adequately support people in this situation, Social Security Scotland must have clear and robust processes in place.

At this juncture it is important to make a distinction between cases where an individual may be at a non-emergency risk of harm and cases where there is an immediate risk to life. Where a situation is presented where a direct risk to life is identified, a clear course of action already exists - Social Security Scotland will make an immediate call to Police Scotland. The question arises therefore in relation to situations where Social Security Scotland believes an individual may be at risk of harm.

There are several organisations who can help with situations of perceived neglect or abuse. For example, in non-emergency situations, reporting someone who is believed to be at risk of domestic abuse to the relevant Local Authority is advised. For non-emergency situations where a child is believed to be at risk of harm it is recommended concerns be raised via contacting the appropriate Local Authority social work department. The website recommends immediate danger be reported to police, that 101 be called where it is believed a crime has been committed, and a report made to the Local Authority where there are suspicions of neglect or abuse.

Where a Local Authority has reason to believe someone may be at risk of harm, there are various potential duties to investigate. They can only do this if they are made aware of concerns.

The Adult Support and Protection Act 2007 is intended to protect adults who are unable to safeguard their own interests, placing a duty on councils to make investigations and enquiries when approached with details of an identified risk of harm. In 2014, the Scottish Government published a Code of Practice which provided guidance to specific public bodies (such as health boards and the fire service) on processes to refer safeguarding concerns to the Local Authority. As Social Security Scotland came into being as an executive agency of the Scottish Government on 1 September 2018, it is not covered by the 2007 Act or the 2014 Code of Practice for third parties.

To that end, in addition to working with the Health and Social Care directorate in relation to updating the Code of Practice, Scottish Government launched a public consultation on 25 March 2022[2] to seek views to inform a formalised approach for Social Security Scotland to align its processes with other Government departments and report concerns of potential harm to Local Authority. This will allow the Local Authority to exercise any duties to investigate that they are under.



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