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CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY

STATEMENT OF CONFIDENTIALITY

The Council Tax Advisors is committed to providing a confidential advice service to its users. The organization believes that principles of confidentiality must be integrated across all aspects of the services we provide and management. The organization believes its users deserve the right to confidentiality to protect their interests and safeguard Council Tax Advisors’ services.

The following will be displayed in the waiting areas/interview room:

“Council Tax Advisors offers a confidential service – nothing you tell us will be shared with any other organization or individual without your expressed permission”.

An interview room can be made available upon request.

A statement of Council Tax Advisors’ commitment to confidentiality will be incorporated into all publicity materials.

DEFINITION OF CONFIDENTIALITY

The organization understands confidentiality to mean that no information regarding a service user shall be given directly or indirectly to any third party which is external to the staff and Coordinator, without that service user’s prior express consent to disclose such information.

The organization recognizes that all users should be able to access’s services in confidence and that no other person should ever know that they have used Council Tax Advisors’ services.

Staff informally discussing cases: All staff should ensure that no discussions relating to a user can take place outside of Council Tax Advisors’ premises. The Management Committee will not receive details of individual users or their case.

The organization recognizes that users need to feel secure in using Council Tax Advisors’ services and has confidential interview rooms so users can be sure that no one can overhear them.

The organization will not confirm the user’s presence in Council Tax Advisors or use of our services without first obtaining the user’s consent.

In line with Council Tax Advisors’ Child Protection Policy we will disclose any allegations or suspicions of child abuse to the Social Services.

STATISTICAL RECORDING AND CONFIDENTIALITY

Council Tax Advisors is committed to effective statistical recording of service users. The information enables us to monitor the take up of services, identify new developments, services and policy issues arising from advice services. The statistics enable us to apply to charitable trusts and the Local Authority for grant funding and thus provide the services that our users require.

The Coordinator shall ensure that all statistical records given to third parties, including the management committee shall be produced in anonymous form so that individuals cannot be identified.

Where case studies are used to illustrate services in the annual report the Coordinator will ensure they are presented in such a way that would make it impossible for an individual to be recognized.

CASE RECORDS

It is the Coordinator’s responsibility to ensure all case records are kept in locked filing cabinets. All case records must be locked away at the end of each working day. All information relating to service users will be left in locked drawers including notebooks, copies of correspondence, calculation sheets etc.

Case records will be kept for six years after the closure of the case after which they will be shredded.

EXPRESS CONSENT TO GIVE INFORMATION

It is the responsibility of the advice worker to ensure that where any action is agreed to be taken by the Council Tax Advisors on behalf of a client, that client must first sign an ‘Authorization to Act’ form. A copy of this must be placed in the client’s file.

The advice worker is responsible for checking with clients whether it is acceptable to call them at home or at work in relation to their case. Staff must make sure they make no reference to Council Tax Advisors when making telephone contact with clients.

The advice worker is responsible for checking with clients that it is acceptable to write to them at home or at work in relation to their case.

All details of express consent must be recorded on the case file.

BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY

The Management Committee recognizes that there may be occasions when an adviser feels they may need to breach confidentiality. Situations where this may occur include where a client divulges information about child abuse (see ‘Definition’ above), a conflict of interest or where a client’s information means that there are legal effects (see ‘Legal Framework’ below).

Council Tax Advisors recognizes that any breach of confidentiality may damage the reputation of Council Tax Advisors and its services and therefore has to be treated with seriousness and urgency.

On those occasions where an adviser feels confidentiality should be breached the following steps must be taken:

  • The adviser should raise the matter with the Coordinator immediately
  • The adviser must discuss with the Coordinator the issues involved in the case and explain why they feel confidentiality should be breached and what would be achieved by doing so. The Coordinator should keep written notes of the discussion.
  • The Coordinator is responsible for discussing with the adviser what options are available in each set of circumstances.
  • The Coordinator is responsible for making a decision on whether confidentiality should be breached. If the Coordinator decides that confidentiality is to be breached then they should take the following steps:
  • The Coordinator should contact the Chair of the Council Tax Advisors, or failing that the other official Council Tax Advisors members. The Coordinator should brief the Chair/Official on the full facts of the case, ensuring they do not breach confidentiality in doing so. The Coordinator should seek authorization to breach confidentiality from the Chair/Official Council Tax Advisors members.
  • If the Chair/ Council Tax Advisors members agree to breaching confidentiality a full report on the case should be made and any action agreed undertaken. The Director is responsible for ensuring all activities are actioned.
  • If the Chair/ Council Tax Advisors members do not agree to breach confidentiality then this is the final decision of Your Organization’s.
  • Under no circumstances should any breach of confidentiality be discussed with Council Tax Advisors’ Complaints Officer. This is to ensure that any future complaint arising from the breach of confidentiality can be carried out in an independent manner.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Council Tax Advisors will monitor this policy to ensure that it meets its legal requirements including the Data Protection Act, Child Protection Legislation, and Anti-terrorism Legislation Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Training will include these aspects and how each one should be dealt with.

ENSURING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE POLICY

All members of the management committee will receive a copy of the Confidentiality Policy. Current and new workers will be introduced to the Confidentiality Policy via induction and training. The policy will be reviewed annually and amendments should be proposed and agreed by the Council Tax Advisors.

Date Policy Written: 12th October 2013
Date of Review: 12th October 2013

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