Module 11: young people and drugs - issues for workers: facilitator's guide

6.3 Confidentiality and the law

Page last updated: 2004

The law generally requires workers to protect the confidential information of their clients. The Commonwealth Privacy Act, 1988 and the Privacy and Personal Information Act, 1998 (NSW) strengthen this protection. This legislation states that an individual's personal and family history cannot be divulged to other organisations without their consent, and that these records must be kept in a secure place.

Other laws prevent disclosure of a person's HIV status. In most cases you mustn't reveal that someone is HIV positive without their permission.

A young person who knows that they are HIV positive or has AIDS is obliged to disclose their status if they are:

  • planning to have sex with someone
  • donating blood
They do not have to tell anyone else.

There are other laws that actually require workers to break confidentiality.

You must inform the police if someone tells you they have committed a serious crime or if they intend to commit a serious crime.

You also have a duty to warn that someone may be harmed. If someone tells you that they intend to assault another person, you have a duty of care to tell that person, even if you don't know them.

Task - reading/group activity
Answers
Summary

Task - reading/group activity

Read the scenarios in your Learner's Workbook and write down what you think the worker should do in each case. Discuss your responses in small groups. Top of page

Case study 1

Peter is a 17-year-old client in your detox centre. He is in a relationship with Robyn, a 16 year old girl who occasionally comes to the centre to attend support groups. During a routine medical check-up, Peter discovers that he has herpes. He reveals this to you in a counselling session and says that he has not told anyone else. You are concerned that he might be having unprotected sex with Robyn.

Case study 2

You are working in a rehabilitation program for young people. Mandy is a 15-year-old girl who discloses to you that she was raped six months ago. The man who raped her is still part of her social network. Mandy does not want you to tell anyone because she is afraid that he might retaliate

Case study 3

Jim is a 13-year-old client who has been seeing you for drug and alcohol counselling. He discloses to you that he is currently homeless and has been sleeping rough in the park.

Case study 4

Anton is a 15-year-old client at a Youth Drop-In Centre. One night he casually discloses to you that he recently witnessed the severe bashing of a shop assistant during a robbery of a jewelry store. You are aware that the police have not solved this crime.

Answers

Case study 1

You would be breaching confidentiality if you told Robyn about Peter's condition without his permission. Your responsibility is to educate Peter about the transmission of herpes and explore the advantages and disadvantages of telling his partner. You might also use the support group as another avenue of discussing safe sex.

Case study 2

To be consistent with the child protection legislation, you are required to notify Community Services against Mandy's wishes. Workers from Community Services do not interview the alleged perpetrator. Their role is to interview the young person to confirm there is a case of sexual abuse before referring the matter to the police who would then investigate. Unless the perpetrator is charged, they would not be told the identity of the accuser.

Even with this information, Mandy might still be worried that the perpetrator will guess who accused him. She can tell the interviewers as little or as much as she chooses. You might help her by exploring the advantages or disadvantages of giving information.

Case study 3

Unless you can resolve Jim's situation quickly, for example by referring him to a refuge, you must also report his case to Community Services. Children who are homeless are considered to be 'at risk' and you are mandated to report this situation.

Case study 4

All people (except clergy, medical practitioners and legal advisers) are required to give the police any information they may have about a serious crime including arson, murder, assault and sexual assault. Top of page

Summary

Overhead transparency

  • 'Duty of care' requires workers to keep clients, themselves and other workers safe from harm, where possible

  • Young people with AOD issues are particularly at risk and this can result in conflicts of interest for workers who must balance the rights of young people against the need to protect them from harm

  • A wide range of legislation impacts on the lives of young people and can vary from state to state.

  • In most states, child protection legislation requires workers to report situations where children and young people are at risk.