PCU statement regarding confidentiality and safeguarding of children + adolescents in the workplace

Updated: Nov 30, 2019

Conflicts of working practice can arise around confidentiality and the safeguarding of children and adolescents in the workplace due to the different working practices of the organisation and the practitioner. Increased pressures to bypass the therapist’s confidentiality in the workplace can have the unintended impact of creating a therapy space that is unsafe for children and young people to open up about themselves. Consequently, this can make the therapeutic space a less useful one, and therefore one in which the work to keep the young person safe is compromised. We urge organisations to consider that, in terms of therapeutic work, keeping a child safe is not only about breaking confidentiality at times, but that conversely, keeping a child psychologically safe is about holding the confidentiality over time and building trust with a trusted counsellor/psychotherapist.

Confidentiality:Sometimes employers are unaware that counsellors and psychotherapists are required by their ethical bodies (BACP, UKCP, NCS, BPS)[1]and the law to protect the confidentiality of clients – adults and children. The child’s right to confidentiality regarding their treatment is written in law under Gillick[2], according to their ‘competency’.

Safeguarding:Counsellors and Psychotherapists are required by their ethical bodies to inform clients about reasonably foreseeable limitations of privacy or confidentiality in advance of their work together. For example, communications to ensure or enhance the quality of work in supervision or training, to protect a client or others from serious harm including safeguarding requirements, and when legally required or authorised to disclose. Organisations should have a safeguarding lead for the practitioner to report and discuss safeguarding concerns.

Balance:As the balance of confidentiality and safeguarding is complex and nuanced, and may require particular sensitivity to further issues of race, gender, disability, sexuality, identity, a counsellor or psychotherapist will often judge what is needed case by case, in discussion with their supervisor. A practitioner will need their workplace to help ensure that this balance can be upheld and respected.

PCU Executive Committee 2019

[1]BACP Ethical Framework (2018); UKCP Ethical Framework (2019)

[2]Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA AC 112 ((HL)) 1986

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