Confidentiality Policy

Ballynafeigh Advice Centre & The Five Areas Advice Project

Ballynafeigh Advice Centre is committed to providing a confidential advice service to its users.  The business of every user will be treated with respect and in confidence.  We also understand this to mean that any information held by the Advice Centre or any of its projects may not be disclosed to a third party in any form that might identify the user without their express permission.  (Where confidentiality has to be breached the proper organisational procedure will be applied.)

The Centre identifies the boundaries of confidentiality to be defined in practical terms as a set of relationships between:

  • The service user and the adviser
  • The adviser and other members of the advice team (including support workers, paid and unpaid advice staff and volunteer solicitors)
  • The advice team and the Advice Team leader
  • The advice team and reception staff (allowing sufficient information for reception workers to deal with appointments, drop-in services and home visits).  The exchange of information in this case will be minimal and no discussion either formal or informal will be undertaken regarding the content of any case or enquiry unless the user chooses to do so.

Information, enquiries and cases may be discussed within these boundaries but the express permission of the service user must be secured before any discussion can take place or any information be divulged outside of this set of relationships. 

Service users must not be identified to, or details of specific cases discussed with, the Management Committee of Ballynafeigh Community Development Association, the Co-ordinator of BCDA.

Members of the Advice Project Steering Group or staff of other projects within BCDA unless the express permission of the service user is secured.

It is the responsibility of all staff to ensure that no discussions relating to an individual service user’s business can occur outside of the defined limits of the boundaries of confidence.  Ballynafeigh Advice Centre will not confirm a user’s presence in the centre or use of the centre without permission.

The Centre recognises that users will need to feel secure in using the Advice service and so all interviews will take place in a confidential interview space.

Case Recording and statistics

Ballynafeigh Advice Centre is committed too effective statistical recording of enquiries and service users to enable the monitoring of service take up and to identify policy issues arising from the advice service.

It is the responsibility of The Advice Team Leader to ensure that all statistical records given to third parties (e.g. funders, membership organisations or local authorities etc.) will be produced in anonymous form.

All case records will be kept in a secure environment and access will be limited within the previously defined boundaries of confidentiality.

It is the responsibility of advice workers to ensure that where any action agreed to be taken on behalf of a service user by the centre, the user must firstly sign an authorisation form.  A copy must be place in the user’s file.

Advice Workers must receive prior consent to contact a service user, either by telephone, e-mail, letter or other means.  All consents must be recorded in the case file.

Breaches of Confidentiality

Circumstances where confidentiality may have to be breached are treated with utmost seriousness. 

Where a member of the Advice team feels that confidentiality should be breached, the following procedure will be applied –

  • The worker will raise the matter with the Advice Team leader immediately
  • The worker must discuss with the Team Leader the issues involved in the case and explain why they feel confidentiality should be breached and what would be achieved by breaching confidentiality. The Team Leader will take a written note of this discussion.  The note will be agreed, dated and signed by both Team Leader and worker
  • The Team Leader will discuss with the worker the options that can be applied in each circumstance
  • The Team Leader will decide if confidentiality is to be breached.  If it is decided that confidentiality will not be breached the Team Leader will produce a written note outlining the circumstances and reasons for the decision.  A copy will be placed in the service users case file.

If the Advice Team Leader decides that confidentiality should be breached then the following procedure will be applied –

  • The Team Leader will contact the Co-ordinator of BCDA at the soonest possible instance.  The Co-ordinator will be briefed on the facts of the case, without the identity of the service user being divulged, and ensuring that no breach of confidentiality occurs at this point. The Team Leader should seek authorisation from the Co-ordinator to breach confidentiality.
  • If the Co-ordinator decides that confidentiality should not be breached then the Co-ordinator will produce a note outlining the reasons for this decision. A copy will be placed in the service users case file.  No further action will be taken.
  • If the Co-ordinator authorises a breach of confidentiality this authority should be given in writing
  • The service user must be informed in writing, at this point, of the intention to breach confidentiality and a copy of the authorisation must be forwarded to the service user.  A copy of this policy must also be provided.
  • A full written report of the circumstances and procedures applied with all supporting documentation and including a record of any agreed course of action must be prepared by the Team Leader.  It is the responsibility of the Team Leader to ensure that the agreed action is taken.

Should the service user submit a complaint regarding the breach of confidentiality then this complaint will be dealt with directly by the chairperson of the Management Committee and any other person[s] delegated by the chair.  Complaints are dealt with separately under the organisation’s Complaints Procedure.

Ensuring the effectiveness of the policy.

All Management Committee Members will receive a copy of the policy and staff will be introduced to the policy through training.  The policy will be reviewed annually by the Advice Team Leader and any amendments or alterations will be proposed and agreed by the Management Committee.