In the wake of Michael Gove’s epiphany over public bodies and the awkward regulations surrounding information sharing, especially in relation to social care and children (see our recent post on what Gove had to say about his experience hunting down data), comes a brand new consultation, which started yesterday.
“Data Sharing Between Public Bodies”, is a consultation set up by The Law Commission, and seeks to, “establish whether these perceived obstacles are embedded in practice or culture, or whether they are to do with the substance of the law or how it is written.”
The Law Commission website goes on to say, that, “Public bodies report that they cannot always share the data they need to share and, as a result, miss out on opportunities to provide better services to citizens. At the same time, it is accepted that there is a need to ensure that the security of data and privacy of individuals are not put at risk.”
This consultation is part of a Law Commission project of the same name, which was launched in April of this year, and is designed to examine whether the law as it stands has created unhelpful obstacles to data sharing or necessary ones.
We think the events of the last few decades speak for themselves, but we take the view that it’s not just the law at fault – it’s the public bodies who also break it, by not following specific legislation which is designed to ensure data is shared under the right conditions.
And then there is data sharing between public bodies and individuals – an equally interesting proposition and one we feel merits its own consultation. Ask anyone who has tried to get their own personal files from social services, only to be denied them, or those who have attempted Freedom of Information requests only to be told that information is too expensive to procure. Will cost, ultimately, be the excuse which our public bodies will use to sweep under the carpet, the clear legal and ethical problems before us?
Nevertheless, this consultation will focus on the law’s part in the efficiency of data sharing and will focus on the following issues:
- Is there a problem with the law – does the law itself erect barriers that unduly restrict data sharing between public bodies?
- Is the law is too complex and hard to understand – has a lack of clarity in the law led public bodies to develop cultures that prevent lawful data sharing? Is data sharing just too difficult?
- Is there is a simply a gap in education, guidance and advice?
Data Sharing Between Public Bodies runs until 16th December, 2013. We’ll be very interested to see what the results are for this. You can check out the consultation paper, here.