Confidentiality

Effective date: September 30, 2011

Revised January 2018

Relevant Legislation:

See Definitions.

Intent:

A statement respecting confidentiality is signed by every staff person working at LOFT Community Services. It is extremely important to respect the confidentiality of LOFT’s service users.

Definitions:

Confidential information can be any personal data of a private nature, (e.g. SIN #, address, medications), or information that an individual chooses not to disclose to the general public in open social discussions, or expressly wishes to keep private. (This definition may be further defined upon passage of provincial privacy legislation).

Policy:

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

Staff and consumers of LOFT Community Services have an expectation for privacy and the discrete controlled use of, and access to, personal information. This is a legal requirement and essential to the LOFT’s credibility as a caring and compassionate organization. Confidential information can be any personal data of a private nature, (e.g. SIN #, address, medications), or information that an individual chooses not to disclose to the general public in open social discussions, or expressly wishes to keep private. (This definition may be further defined upon passage of provincial privacy legislation). LOFT Community Services as an organization also has the right, and in some cases the obligation, to keep some business, financial, strategic and donor information confidential. This is especially true where misuse or disclosure in an inappropriate setting could damage LOFT’s reputation within the community, its relationship with other Agencies, with funders and donors.

Any information, the disclosure of which could humiliate, marginalize, stigmatize or damage an individual (client, staff, volunteer, or student) or which he/she requests remain confidential, should be protected. Examples include: marital status and history, psychiatric and medical conditions, employment and income status and sexual orientation. This extends to the person’s name and contact information in any context where sensitive information is discussed.

Familiarization with the requirements of this confidentiality policy should form part of the orientation for all new directors, staff, volunteers and students. It should also become a part of the regular program service delivery reviews.

 

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

The onus on management and staff is to protect and safeguard personal and sensitive business information in a systematic way. There is also a general duty to use good judgment and discretion in casually discussing items not explicitly designated as confidential, but which a reasonable person would see as not appropriate for public conversation.

The expectation of privacy and security of information can be safeguarded through a range of operational practices such as:

• Intake, counselling and case consultation discussions are conducted in a private area.

• Confidential files are kept in a secure room or office, in locked file cabinets when not actually in use by staff.

• No files other than that of the client at hand are open or visible during a counselling session.

• Personal information is only exchanged with other staff as part of legitimate program or service related discussions or as a necessary aspect of supervision. It is never disclosed as part of casual social conversation. Gossip about staff members or clients is never allowed.

• There are clear program guidelines which enumerate the limited reasons or occasions when disclosure is necessary.

• There are clear conditions and a requirement to seek client consent before information can be disclosed in confidence to another agency for referral or added service arrangements. In such instances, the prior approval of the relevant supervisor may be needed.

 

 

 

ACCESS

All client records are the confidential property of LOFT Community Services. Any demand for release by the police, courts or other mandated bodies, without the prior written consent of the client, shall be referred to the Services Director for review and approval. No records may be removed without her/his express authorization.

Information necessary for emergency medical treatment and contact persons must be obtained from the client by staff on the understanding it will only be disclosed by them if the client is unconscious or otherwise unable to provide it themselves. Such information, with safeguards for keeping it secure from general view, must be stored where other staff on duty can readily access it for emergencies.

Any and all pictures, images or reference to clients or staff used publicly must have the prior approval of those in the image through a signed consent and release form, (see Appendix 1).

 

STAFF INFORMATION

Personnel files and formal, personnel discussions shall be subject to equal protection and limitation of access, discussion, disclosure and reporting as applied to client records. This means:

• Supervision and especially disciplinary discussions shall always be conducted in a private area.

• Official files should be kept in secure cabinets in the supervisor’s office. Only the affected individual’s file should be open and visible at any time.

• Files kept by Human Resources will only be accessed by authorized personnel and only for required personnel management and employment purposes.

• Personal information should never be discussed in open, informal settings. It can however, be used as part of regular one-on-one supervisory sessions.

• Performance review, disciplinary and other evaluative records should always be discussed between supervisor and employee before being entered in his/her file. No information of a blaming or praising nature should ever be filed without the employee being aware and able to view it.

• Demands for disclosure by the police, the courts or other mandated bodies will be referred to Human Resources and require express written permission before their release. Only the specific information requested will be released.

• Staff has the right to access and view their own file upon request to Human Resources.

 

BUSINESS INFORMATION

As a complex multi-service organization, LOFT Community Services receives support from a broad range of public and private sources. Generally, much of this information is a matter of public record and is published in the annual report. However, the Board, Chief Executive Officer and/or senior managers may on occasion declare some business or financial information to be closely held and not revealed outside of specified contexts. All Program Directors and staff are expected to comply with any such restrictions and should report any unauthorized disclosures which come to their attention. Staff will be informed when such information is listed as confidential. Premature, incomplete or unauthorized disclosure of some business (non-monetary) or financial information could damage a relationship with a funding or regulatory body and could result in the curtailment of support.

Protocols and security measures are installed to ensure privacy of e-mail and voicemail communications. Data base access will have features built in that restrict access to designated individuals and will be periodically reviewed to ensure “need to know” use.

An exception to a demand for confidentiality may be when a Program Director or staff member becomes aware that information is being withheld for what appears to be fraudulent, unethical or criminal reasons. In such instances, staff is obligated to report their suspicions to a higher authority within the LOFT, for investigation. Such investigations themselves should be confidential until resolved and the reporting individual(s) should be protected from any negative consequences for their allegations, if honestly laid and without malice.

PENALTIES

Failure to adhere to this policy and to maintain all confidential materials in a secure safe manner will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination

 

Procedures:

See program manual.