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New child information sharing scheme for Victoria

On 27 September 2018, a new child information sharing scheme (the scheme) came into effect in Victoria. From this date, organisations and services prescribed as ‘information sharing entities’ or ‘restricted information sharing entities’ under the Child and Wellbeing Safety (Information Sharing) Regulations 2018 are permitted under the scheme to share personal and health information of Victorian children and young people up to 18 years of age for specific purposes.

The introduction of the Children Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2018 (the Amending Act) permits information sharing entities to share and collect personal information and health information about children, in order to improve early identification of risk to a child’s safety and wellbeing. The Amending Act provides a clear authority for information sharing entities to share information and request information from other entities, to assist them to support, and improve outcomes for children and families.

This new scheme is designed to make it clear to information sharing entities when they can and cannot share information, avoiding confusion and minimising incidences where vital information is not shared because of privacy concerns or a misunderstanding of the law. The scheme complements the family violence information sharing scheme introduced in early 2017. These information sharing reforms are complementary and will be applied in an integrated way.

In establishing the new scheme, the Amending Act makes a number of modifications to the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (PDP Act) and Health Privacy Principles (HPPs) under the Health Records Act 2001 (HR Act). It also provides additional exceptions to the IPPs and HPPs for information sharing entities sharing information under the scheme. For example, the scheme eliminates the requirement that information sharing entities collect personal or health information directly from the individual. The scheme also amends the requirement that information sharing entities take reasonable steps to notify individuals that their personal or health information has been collected from another information sharing entity, where this would be contrary to the promotion of the wellbeing or safety of a child. Exceptions such as these are designed to increase collaboration between services involved in supporting children and families, and promote earlier and more effective intervention and integrated service provision.

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner has co-published a guidance document along with the Office of the Health Complaints Commissioner following the introduction of the Amending Act. The guidance is a series of FAQs that explain the amendments to the PDP Act and the HR Act, and outline how an information sharing entity’s obligations under privacy law interact with the new child information sharing scheme. The FAQs can be downloaded here.

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