Confidentiality Policy for Young People’s Support Groups
At Teenage Mental Health we abide by a strict confidentiality policy within our service. It is important to us that our clients can relax in knowing that Teenage Mental Health is a safe and a private place to express themselves and tell us about their experiences.
We offer our clients the highest level of confidentiality consistent with the law and the ethical framework of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Confidentiality within our service means that anything a client tells their counsellor is kept entirely private within the Teenage Mental Health team, subject to a few exceptions outlined below.
All our counsellors meet regularly with a professionally trained supervisor to ensure that their work is to the highest standard. Our supervisors are included within the confidentiality of the service.
1. Confidentiality within Teenage Mental Health
1.1 Teenage Mental Health offers confidentiality within its service. This means that information given will not go outside of the Teenage Mental Health team, unless it is deemed that the child is at risk of harm.
1.2 Teenage Mental Health offers its clients the highest level of confidentiality consistent with the law and the codes of ethics of the BACP. This protects a client from the voluntary disclosure of confidences without the client’s permission unless legally or professionally required to do so.
1.3 The respecting of client confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for keeping trust. The professional management of confidentiality requires the protection of personally identifiable and sensitive information from unauthorised disclosure.
1.4 All staff must be willing to be accountable to their patients and to their profession for their management of confidentiality in general and, particularly, for any disclosures made without their client’s consent.
1.5 The requirement to respect confidentiality is also obligatory upon all members of Teenage Mental Health staff and workers, whether paid or voluntary. It includes all office staff, fundraisers, educators, and trustees as well as face-to-face and helpline team members and those contributing in any other therapeutic or organisational capacity to our work with or without direct client contact.
1.6 The obligation to maintain confidentiality also continues after the counselling relationship has ended. Teenage Mental Health undertakes to ensure that all client records are kept secure so that only authorised persons can gain access to them.
1.7 All members and ex-members of Teenage Mental Health staff or volunteers, whether counsellors, trustees, paid workers, or volunteers are required to protect the anonymity of all individuals who have been or still are clients of our service. This includes an obligation to refrain from all verbal or written references by which our clients may be identified unless the client has given consent to do so.
1.8 The majority of our clients are children under the age of 18 who are accompanied to the centre by parents. Parents are welcome to wait outside the building during groups but are not permitted into group sessions with their children, unless the children specifically request it. All staff are still bound by confidentiality not to disclose anything to their attendees’ parents about the group. This is important to preserve the group as a safe space for children to express themselves without fear of their disclosures being relayed back to their parents and care givers.
2. Boundaries of Confidentiality within the Counselling Team
2.1 In a situation whereby two or more Teenage Mental Health staff are seeing different members of the same family or other close-knit relationships (e.g. a supporter and the survivor), it is best practice for the Teenage Mental Health staff not to talk to each other about their work with the linked individuals.
2.2 If it is thought to be therapeutically beneficial for all Teenage Mental Health staff to talk to each other about their work, then this should first be discussed with the member of staff’s supervisor and Teenage Mental Health’s Clinical Lead to agree what is appropriate to divulge and who will be best to communicate this information. For example, it may be best for the Clinical Lead to be the channel of communication between the staff.
3. Rights to Confidential Child Records
3.1 We do not hold records on children attending support groups other than parental/carer contact details and these are stored securely on site for period of 7 days then destroyed.
3.2 These details are not made available to any other parties unless express written informed consent is given by the child/parent/carer. If a safeguarding concern is raised these details will be shared with the relevant authorities to ensure protection of the child.
4. Exceptions to Confidentiality:
There are circumstances in which Teenage Mental Health cannot legally or ethically maintain confidentiality within the service. Wherever possible, Teenage Mental Health will make every attempt to communicate first with the child explaining the reasons for the need to pass on information and to whom this will be given. These exceptions are listed below and would qualify as areas of authorised disclosure:
4.1 Safeguarding Children: If information is disclosed that a child is at risk of immediate significant harm, Teenage Mental Health has a duty under the Children Act to pass on this information to the Social Services and Police. The safeguarding policy is available upon request.
4.2 Serious Harm: If planned serious harm to the life of self or another person is disclosed, we have a duty to pass this on to the appropriate authority (GP, Police, Ambulance service etc.) in order to do all that is possible to see the person protected.
4.3 Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults: If there is a serious risk of harm/abuse to a vulnerable adult, Teenage Mental Health has a duty of protection to such vulnerable adults. Information may need to be passed on to the appropriate agencies in order to protect vulnerable adults who could be at risk. See Teenage Mental Health’s Policy P11 Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults to understand how a ‘vulnerable adult’ is defined.
4.4 Offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1987: If information is given on any planned act of terrorism, Teenage Mental Health is, by law, obliged to report this to the Police without informing the person who gave the information.
4.5 Court Cases: In the event of a Court case, the Judge has power to subpoena a child attendance at our groups, or request that a report is provided as evidence for the case.
4.6 Drug Money Laundering: Teenage Mental Health has a duty to disclose any information given in regards the laundering of drug money.
4.7 Road Traffic Accidents: Teenage Mental Health does not have a duty to initiate disclosure of information known in regards road traffic accidents. However, if the Police contact us as part of such enquiries, we have a duty to pass on any information relevant to that road traffic accident.
4.8 Hearsay witness to murder: There is no legal requirement for Teenage Mental Health to initiate the disclosure of any information in which a client alleges being witness to or causing murder/manslaughter. However, it may well be appropriate for a staff member to encourage the client to disclose information to police. If the Police contact us as part of such enquiries, we would have a duty to pass on any relevant information about the alleged murder.
4.9 Complaints: If a member of staff is formally accused of wrongful conduct, then the need for them to divulge information about a child is recognised in order for the matter to be investigated. The breaking of confidentiality will be kept to a minimum, in consultation with advisors. The member of staff will continue to have regard for the wellbeing of the child.
5. Suicide and self-harm
From time to time a client may express a desire to end their life or practice self-harm.
5.1 We will make all reasonable efforts disclose this to the child’s parents or the authorities if this admission carries a risk of significant and immediate harm to the child.
5.2 Should an admission of intention to significantly self-harm or commit suicide be made by a child, Teenage Mental Health Safeguarding protocols will be immediately enacted, and appropriate referrals made.
5.3 We will never make referrals to the police or other health or social care services without attempting to inform the child and their parents/carer givers first. On occasion this will not be possible however all efforts will be made to do so.
5.4 We will never tell a parent/care giver of a child about admissions they may make of intention to self-harm or commit suicide without telling the child first. However should admissions be made by a child we will always inform the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of the child.