Confidentiality Policy and Cookies

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is important to the National Stalking Helpline because we aim to build a trusting relationship with all our callers.  We will not share information with third parties except in specific situations in which we are required to by law or there is a potential risk of harm to the service user or others. Confidentiality is between a service user and the National Stalking Helpline, not an individual Helpline operator.

Purpose of Confidentiality policy

  • We have a confidentiality policy to enable callers to the National Stalking Helpline to make informed decisions about any information they disclose to us.
  • The policy enables us to always offer a consistent service

Instances in which we would break confidentiality without consent are listed below.

  • If the caller or third party is at high or immediate risk of serious physical harm or death including suicide or self harm
  • If we receive information that a child is currently being abused or neglected.
  • If we receive a court order to do so.
  • If we are instructed to by the police
  • When a Helpline user threatens Helpline staff or Helpline Associates working on behalf of the Helpline or makes Helpline staff or Helpline Associates working on behalf of the Helpline feel threatened
  • When a Helpline user tries to prevent the Helpline being used effectively to support others.
  • If we receive information about terrorist activities or a bomb threat

In many of the cases listed the most appropriate response would be to contact the emergency services. If contacting emergency services does not seem suitable a decision to break confidentiality will be reconsidered.  Wherever possible a caller will be informed of our consideration about passing details to third parties, we will always attempt to collect information openly and honestly.

Confidentiality in practice

The following applies to all callers to the helpline:

  • Confidentiality refers to all means of communication including e-mail and letter
  • All service users have the right to use a pseudonym or remain completely anonymous when they call us.
  • If a service user requests resources or literature to be sent to them, we will keep their address for only as long as it takes to send the information, after which the address details will be destroyed.
  • The telephone number the service user is calling from will not be displayed when we receive your call.
  • Certain senior Helpline staff do have the ability to access service users’ telephone number (unless 141 is used prior to making the call); however they will not record or retain it without your express permission, for example, if you give us your consent to participate in our quality of service evaluation (see below).
  • Itemized billing may raise the phone number on a bill.
  • We do not retain any contact information without your express consent nor do we pass it on to third parties without express consent unless one the above listed conditions occurs.
  • All Helpline staff will sign a confidentiality agreement stating they will adhere to the above rules before being able to view any information or take any calls.
  • The National Stalking Helpline will investigate any complaint about breach of confidentiality; please see our complaints policy for further details.

Record Keeping

  • We do retain certain statistical details for information and accountability purposes. This data will always be retained anonymously.
  • It is important to retain anonymous data to help us to develop the service or campaign to improve the situation for those with who are being stalked or harassed. Individuals cannot be identified from these records.
  • Any specific identifiable examples of an individual case will not be quoted as a media or campaign tool without express consent.
    • We will only retain a service user’s surname, address, e-mail address or telephone number with express permission unless one of the above listed instances occurs.
    • Any information that is retained electronically will be securely filed and password protected; any hard copies of information relating to service users will be kept in securely locked files.
    • There are three circumstances in which our records would contain personal details these are

1) If a service user has given their consent to participate in our quality of service evaluation (see below)

2) If a service user has logged a complaint against the Helpline in which case details personal details are retained for six months.

3) If a service user discloses ongoing child abuse in which case personal details would be retained for twelve months

For more details about both the above circumstances please see our Complaints and Child Protection Policies respectively.

Monitoring

  • The Helpline does not record any calls without firstly informing the caller.
  • Occasionally to ensure a high level of service another staff member may listen in to the call. However this will only be done in exceptional circumstances or for training purposes. If a caller asks whether the call is being listened to the Helpline staff will always answer openly and honestly.

Quality of service evaluation

The Helpline is committed to evaluating its service to find out whether callers are satisfied with the support we offer, to understand the impact the service has had on callers’ experiences and to identify how the service might be improved.

Therefore, we will, from time to time, ask callers for their consent to contact them at a later date to seek their feedback on the service we have provided. In order to do this, we ask that you give us your consent to retain your contact details only for is as long as necessary to make contact with you to seek your feedback. Any feedback you give us will be anonymised.

We may use the information you give us in research or to explain to third parties, such as bodies that fund the Helpline, the impact that the service has but this will never be attributed to you as an individual, nor will any information be supplied about your individual case that could compromise your anonymity.

Data protection and access to information

The helpline manages all data in accordance with the Data Protection Policy of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline. If a service user wishes to know whether the Helpline is holding or processing any of their current personal information they must submit the request in writing with as much detail as possible about their use of the service, including dates and times. There may be a small fee associated with locating this data, as permitted by the Data Protection Act.

What do we do when considering breaching confidentiality?

  • When a Helpline operator feels they have been given information that falls into a category as listed in our exceptions to confidentiality list they will firstly consult with the Helpline Manager or Director who will use all available information to make an assessment about the extent to which the disclosed information meets the outlined clauses.
  • If the Helpline operator and the Director/Helpline Manager need further input another member of Helpline staff may be contacted and consulted. Any ‘off-duty’ staff contacted are obliged to disclose if they have recently consumed alcohol and whether they are able to currently make a sound judgement.
  • If the decision is made to call the emergency services then all available information will be passed to them along with the name and number of the Helpline staff member for further consultation.
  • A written report of the incident which led to a breach in confidentiality and subsequent discussions and decisions will then be made. This will be kept for six months after which any identifying information on the caller will be destroyed and an anonymous report retained.
  • Any incident that involved the breaking of confidentiality will be reviewed by a Helpline manager or senior colleague who was not involved in the initial process to ensure correct procedures have been adhered

Unauthorised breaches of confidentiality

It is understood by all Helpline staff that any deliberate or reckless unauthorised disclosure of identifying information about current or former callers is a serious offence and will be dealt with via disciplinary measures.

Visitors to the Helpline

All visitors to the Helpline offices will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

A copy of this confidentiality policy can be sent on request. A copy can also be sent in large print if required.

This policy was reviewed on 19/05/2015

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