FACT SHEET – Psychologists : Request for information under the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA)
Psychologists are bound by the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics (2007) (Code). One of the most important obligations within the code is to safeguard the information provided to the psychologist by a client and to maintain their confidentiality.
However, the Code allows that there are limits to confidentiality. For example, a psychologist is permitted to disclose confidential information obtained in the course of their professional services with the consent of the client.
A psychologist is also permitted to disclose confidential information where there is a legal obligation to do so.
Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA)
The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) (Act) is designed to protect children and young people from harm and gives certain powers to the child protection officers within Department of Child Protection to request information to manage any risk to a child or young person.
Section 152 of the Act, allows a person or body within a prescribed list to share information or documents with the Department to assist the Department to manage any risk to a child or young person.
The Department may provide a written request under section 152 of the Act to a psychologist, requesting information or documents about a client who is the caregiver for a child, in circumstances where there is concern about the client’s ability to care for the child.
Section 152 does not require the requested information to be provided to the Department, therefore the psychologist does not have a legal obligation to do so.
In those circumstances, the documents or information may only be provided with the consent of the client.
However, section 150 of the Act allows a child protection officer to require a person or body to provide them with information or documents as specified in a written notice. If a written notice is provided under section 150, the recipient is requirement to provide the information and or documents requested within the specific period in the notice.
Failure to comply with the notice is an offence, punishable by up to 1 years’ imprisonment for an individual.
A request pursuant to section 150 of the Act imposes a legal obligation on the psychologist to comply. Accordingly, the psychologist is permitted to disclose the confidential information even in the absence of consent from the client.
Even in a situation where the psychologist is required to disclose the client’s confidential information, it is advisable to explain to the client that the request has been received and that there is a requirement for the information to be provided. This may avoid complaints from clients in relation to the provision of their information.
If you have any questions or require specific advice in relation to your professional obligations, please contact Gilchrist Connell.