4. INFORMATION SHARING UNDER MAPPA
Why is sharing information important?
67. If sex offenders are to be successfully managed in the community under MAPPA then it is vital that agencies, including social housing providers, can and do share information. Detailed guidance on information sharing, the National Concordat on Sharing Information on Sex Offenders, protocols and issues such as the Data Protection Act 1998, information security and protective markings are set out in the MAPPA guidance.
68. The risk assessment process will identify any risks the offender presents and the Responsible Authorities will pass these on to the Link Officer where there is a need to know. If the Responsible Authorities decide there is not a need to know then they should recognise that the landlord cannot contribute to the Responsible Authorities' assessment and management of risk.
69. Local authorities and RSLs deal with confidential information on a day-to-day basis and should have in place processes which are sensitive to the privacy rights of all tenants. However, the offender may pose a risk to people working for, or contracted by, the local authority or RSL. This may include housing officers, maintenance officers, community wardens, concierges, sheltered housing staff, housing support staff, repair and maintenance contractors etc.
70. The passing on of relevant information will allow the Link Officer, with advice from the Responsible Authorities, to make sure that any meetings involving staff and the sex offender under MAPPA are conducted in a way that minimises risk. This may mean visiting the offender's house in pairs or only meeting in the office. This also has implications for repairs and maintenance services and these must be considered when minimising risk to staff. Housing officers, maintenance people etc. may be required to go through the SOLO in local authorities and Link Officers in RSLs to arrange access to the person or the property.
71. The MAPPA's fundamental purpose is public safety and the reduction of serious harm. The Responsible Authorities will be monitoring and managing the risks sex offenders under MAPPA may pose, with the protection of children, adults at risk of harm and others paramount. Social landlords must make sure that they do not tell other tenants about the offences. The police have the principal discretion on disclosure, although local authority social work can make disclosures in cases of child protection. Concerns should be discussed with the Responsible Authorities, including (if you're an RSL) the SOLO.
What is the National Concordat on Sharing Information on Sex Offenders?
72. To support the requirements under the 2005 Act for effective
information sharing and inter-agency working, key agencies launched
and signed a National Concordat on Sharing Information on Sex
Offenders in March 2005:
73. The Concordat is a set of overarching principles supported by standards on information sharing between key agencies involved in the management of sex offenders under MAPPA to maximise public safety. Agencies must use agreed definitions and follow agreed standards to develop detailed information sharing protocols.
What is a Memorandum of Understanding?
74. Section 10(5) of the 2005 Act says that the Responsible Authorities and the duty to co-operate agencies in each local authority area must together draw up "a memorandum setting out the ways in which they are to co-operate with each other". The MAPPA guidance sets out what each memorandum should cover, including issues such as disclosure of information and media handling strategies. The MAPPA guidance also provides a model form of memorandum for use locally.
75. The Memorandum sets out the fundamental principles of co-operation and is therefore the basis on which the Responsible Authorities and RSLs will work together. Each local authority area should then make sure that they have fulfilled this legal requirement and have in place agreed Memoranda of Understanding.
What are Information Sharing Protocols?
76. Information sharing protocols should be developed as part of the Memorandum of Understanding. Protocols set out in detail what information will be shared with whom. Guidance on the development and content of protocols is appended to the Concordat and discussions should take place with every RSL in the area to agree information sharing protocols. Guidance on the development and content of information sharing protocols can be found in the Scottish Executive Justice Department Circular 15/2005 issued in November 2005 to those agencies and bodies who signed the Concordat. The MAPPA also includes guidance on information sharing.
77. In the interests of confidentiality and public safety, including the safety of the sex offender, information sharing should always be carried out on a need to know basis. Formal protocol arrangements must be put in place for exchange of sensitive information under the National Concordat on sharing information and local arrangements. In the end, decisions on the sharing of information on sex offenders under MAPPA are a matter for the Responsible Authorities.
78. In order to deliver successful information sharing protocols the Responsible Authorities and RSLs in each area will have to enter into a dialogue. Every information sharing protocol has to take into account the needs of each of the parties to it and will therefore reflect local circumstances. An important part of the role of the SOLO is to take the lead in liaising with RSL colleagues.