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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"BOTPA" strikes again!

This article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald about the health problems of children in foster care quotes a researcher into the issue as saying that NSW privacy laws inhibit the flow of health information to those who need it. But the Department of Community Services denies the legislation is an impediment in passing health information to foster carers. The President of Foster Care NSW responds to this by saying that practice in the field was erratic and some case workers cited privacy as a reason for withholding health histories.

Its hard to see how the legislation prevents sensible communication of information to authorised carers but its more than likely that confusion and uncertainty reigns in this field as it does in others. There have been plenty of suggestions that “BOTPA” (“because of the privacy act”) has become a common excuse for refusal of access to information, usually by those who don’t know the law, or don’t have available guidance on what it means and what should be done in particular circumstances.

NSW privacy laws are "fuzzy laws". They can only be made to work effectively where those who are required to implement them - often front line staff - have adequate resources available to assist them on a day to day basis. The responsibility rests with Privacy NSW and the responsible government agency in each case.

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