Information disclosure Gateways with other government departments: Local Authorities: disclosures to Social Services about children at risk of harm
Social Service departments exist within all Local Authorities. One of their duties is to protect and promote the well-being of children. Where a child is thought to be at risk of significant harm, Social Services may make a request for information from HMRC.
Social Services request information relating to child benefit or guardian’s allowance
Paragraph 10A of Schedule 5 Tax Credit Act 2002 allows HMRC to disclose information relating to Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance (but not information relating to a person’s income) to Social Services where that information is needed to fulfil its statutory responsibilities under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to the welfare of a child. Such enquiries will generally be made where the Local Authority suspects that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.
Local Authorities should only request information from HMRC in a very small number of cases, ie where there are urgent concerns about a child or family who is missing and all other possible sources of information eg schools, health services etc have been exhausted.
Only the Child Benefit Office (CBO) may disclose this information
Offices other than CBO are not permitted to disclose this information to Social Services (see below).
Procedure to follow
The arrangement that HMRC has with Social Services is that CBO take responsibility for all disclosures to them of information which relates to the welfare of a child. This is most likely to be information relating to child benefit.
If you receive a request from a Social Services department for child benefit information you should pass the request to CBO Customer Relations Unit and provide the requestor with contact details for the Unit (see IDG80100).
If you receive a request for child benefit information and are unsure how to proceed, please contact CBO Customer Relations Unit
Social Services request information relating to tax credits
This guidance applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Requests in Scotland will come from the “Keeper of the Child Protection Register”, not directly from the local authority.
Proactive disclosures about “children at risk”
While visiting customer’s homes, HMRC staff may form an opinion that children are living in circumstances that give cause for concern. If you think that a child is in imminent danger you may disclose information to the police through the gateway provided by section 19 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA). See IDG50100 for further guidance on disclosing through the ATCSA gateway.
If there is no imminent danger, but you have concerns about the welfare of a child you must not disclose but should discuss the issue with an appropriate Grade 7. If you both agree that there is a strong case for disclosure, you should prepare a note setting out the details of the case and send this to your Data Guardian for further advice.
If you receive a request for tax credit information, or have any other query regarding disclosure your should contact your Data Guardian for advice.