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Families Minister Scott Fielding announced the proclamation of The Protecting Children (Information Sharing) Act and its regulation on Sept. 15.

This new legislation allows provincial government departments, organizations and others who provide services to at-risk and vulnerable children to collect, use and share personal information (including personal health information) about supported children, their parents and legal guardians.

“Every second counts when a child’s health or safety is at risk, and that’s why our government is following through on our commitment to remove barriers to share information,” Fielding said during an event at Specialized Services for Children and Youth on Notre Dame Avenue on Sept. 15. “Service providers can now share critical information and speak openly so vulnerable children receive the help they need in a timely, co-ordinated manner.”

Fielding noted the act covers government departments, provincially funded organizations and others that are approved to provide services to at-risk and supported children. All are authorized to share information, including personal health information. The minister noted personal information can only be shared without consent when it is in the child’s best interests.

“Many supported children face complex challenges and struggle with more than one issue,” said Fielding. “This initiative will allow providers to collaborate and create a comprehensive plan to address the varied needs of each child, whether it involve treatment for substance abuse, protection from domestic violence or a targeted education plan while in foster care.”

The term “supported children” is defined under the legislation as children who in the care of, or connected with:
• child and family services,
• youth justice,
• mental health and addictions services,
• disability services,
• individual education plans in the school system, and
• victim support and family conciliation services.

“We are very supportive of this new act and are confident it will help us, as agencies, ensure children are receiving what they need to keep them safe and to help them thrive,” said John Leggat, president and CEO, St.Amant. “For too long, privacy regulations have prevented organizations from sharing information in the best interests of the children we are protecting. This act is going to help us do our jobs better and is ultimately a win for the children we support.”

Fielding noted the act helps create an environment where service providers are able to collaborate and better share critical information to protect the safety and well-being of children. The authority to share information is in addition to terms under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and The Personal Health Information Act.

The Manitoba government introduced the act in June 2016 in response to a key recommendation made by commissioner Ted Hughes in the inquiry report on the death of Phoenix Sinclair.

The province has developed a new public website to support service providers and trustees, who will have new authority under this act, as well as information for parents and legal guardians of supported children and can be found at www.manitoba.ca/informationsharingact.