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Confidentiality is the protection of personal information. It means keeping a client’s information between you and the client, and not telling others including co-workers, friends, family etc.

The types of information that is considered confidential can include –

  • name, date of birth, age, sex and address
  • current contact details of family, guardian etc
  • bank details
  • medical history or records
  • personal care issues
  • service records and file progress notes
  • individual personal plans
  • assessments or reports
  • guardianship orders
  • incoming and outgoing personal correspondence

Other information relating to ethic or radical origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, health or sexual lifestyle should also be considered confidential.

Adults have the right to determine what information they consider personal and confidential.

Examples of maintaining confidentiality include-

  • individual files are locked and secured
  • support workers do no tell other people what is in a clients file unless they have permission from the client
  • information about a client is not told to people who do not need to know
  • client’s medical details are not discussed without their consent
  • adult clients have the right to keep any information about themselves confidential, which includes that information being kept from family and friends

Importance of confidentiality

Confidentiality is important for several reasons. One of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.

One of the major purposes for obtaining a client’s consent before speaking to a third party (such as another agency or a family member/carer) is to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the client. Informed consent (obtaining personal information with the formal permission of the client or a person who has the legal authority to provide permission on behalf of the client) is considered essential in maintaining the privacy of the client.

It is important to keep your clients’ business as just that – their business. You should only discuss matters relating to your clients’ business with co-workers, and then only what needs to be discussed. Discussions should take place in the workplace and not be audible to other members of staff or the general public. You should never discuss clients’ business with family or friends.

Respect for client confidentiality and staff personal information should be a high priority for all community services to comply with legislation that governs disclosure of information. In this regard all organisations need to have policies and procedures that provide guidelines for workers. Appropriate worker behaviour can also be incorporated in a code of conduct.

To ensure confidentiality, workers should only access confidential information for work that is covered by their job description and the policies and procedures of the organisation. They should only disclose information to other parties where a client (or co-worker in relation to their personal information) has consented to the release of the information or where disclosure is required or mandated by legislation due to indications of risk of harm. Further workers need to ensure that any information that is collected is securely stored and disposed of.

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