Ipswich Women’s Shelter recognises the importance of maintaining client, staff and management confidentiality and is committed to protecting the privacy of all people associated with the service.
Staff routinely collect and use personal and sensitive information to ensure delivery of appropriate, timely and quality services to its clients.
IWS is in a position of trust and as such we seek to protect the confidentiality and privacy of all individuals who entrust their personal information to the organisation.
This policy seeks to identify how we manage and protect the information provided it us in accordance with both the Privacy Act and domestic violence sector standards.
- IWS policy “Consent to Release Information”
- National Privacy Legislation
- IWS policy Child Safety Concerns and Reporting
- Community Service Standards
- Service Delivery Policy
- IWS Policy Client Appointments
When collecting information, employees must explain the primary purpose for collecting that information from individuals. In most cases this is to ensure delivery of services that are tailored to the needs of the individual.
Types of personal information collected, use and storage- clients:
To enable delivery of services, the following types of personal information are routinely obtained:
- Name and previous address of client
- Health Status
- Relevant demographic and social information
- Name and contact details of person to contact in case of an emergency
- The frequency and type of service provided to clients
- Case notes of support work whilst engaged with the service
Storing client files:
- Client files are to be kept in a locked filing cabinet when not in use. Keys must not be left in the filing cabinet.
- Clients are not to be left unattended in the office or on the desk
- Files are not to be left in vehicles or taken home
Files may leave the office for a genuine work- related purpose. In these instances, carry the files in a secure fashion in a non-identifiable format and do not leave them unattended.
- If client files are taken out of the office, record this in the day book so that other staff knows where the file is. Return files to the office storage as soon as possible after use. Record in the day book that the file has been returned.
Disclosure of personal information to other service providers
- There are several instances under which IWS needs to provide personal information to other agencies:
- When IWS needs to provide another agency with information to enable services to be delivered to the client. The client’s consent must be sought prior to the release of information (see IWS policy “Consent to release Information”)
- The service is obligated to provide information under subpoena and the Privacy Act establishes guidelines for the release of information under these circumstances
- In all other situations, the release of personal information relating to the client may only occur with written consent of the client or legal guardian of the client
- The client has the right to withdraw consent to release personal information at any time. Ideally such communication would be in writing
IWS is obligated to report to various funding bodies and government departments that provide funding to the organisation
- These reports usually provide non-identifying information, and staff will routinely be required to provide this type of information to either the Management Committee or directly to the funding body/government department requesting the information. Non-identifying information cannot be linked directly back to an individual
- If staff receives any request to provide information that directly identifies individual clients they are to seek immediate guidance from the coordinator or IWS Management Committee PRIOR to providing any such information.
Legal requirements for release of information
The Privacy Act states that, in the absence of the consent of the person to whom the information refers to, or a person authorized to act on their behalf, information can only be released to another if:
- There is a statutory obligation to disclose certain information. (e.g subpoenas, warrants, coronial inquires, provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and Guardianship Act)
- The public interest requires the release of confidential information
- In all instances where either of the above apply, or appear to apply, staff will seek the immediate advice of the coordinator and/or the Chairperson of the IWS (who may seek legal advice) prior to releasing the requested information
- If the Chairperson is not available, then the coordinator must consult with another IWS Committee of Management Executive member (who may seek legal advice) prior to releasing the information.
Use of contractors/relief staff
- The IWS occasionally uses contractors who proved services to the shelter. IWS contractors are required to abide by the same confidentiality and privacy requirements as IWS employees and this must be clearly stated to the contractor.
Keeping information up to date and accurate
IWS makes every effort to keep personal information up to date and accurate
- This may mean that at times IWS staff will review the personal information held and request verification as to its accuracy
Breaches of Policy
Any material breach of this policy will be considered gross misconduct and may result in:
- Staff- termination of contract of service/ disciplinary action
- IWS Management Committee member- censure by the committee
- It shall be the responsibility of the Management Committee and Coordinator to ensure that the requirements of these procedures are complied with. This policy and these procedures shall be reviewed every year by the Manager, Management Committee and Staff Member to ensure that it continues to comply with relevant state or federal legislation or regulation.