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Homework Question - Information on Disclosing Warrants to Counsellors?

Discussion in 'Australian Law Students Forum' started by Sasha02, 5 March 2017.

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  1. Sasha02

    Sasha02 Member

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    Hello, I hope this is the right forum for this question?

    I'm studying community service/counselling. Is it ok to ask how we might deal with a situation where a client discloses they have warrants for driving under the influence of alcohol?

    This theoretical case also involves multiple issues such as risk of homelessness and the possibly of a serious mental illness. I'm wondering about ethical and legal requirements in a situation like this, and the first course of action as a community service worker/counsellor who also needs to look after the client.

    Also is this type of information available somewhere?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Lance

    Lance Well-Known Member

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    Hi Sasha,

    Great questions. I will ask you one first. Are community service workers/counsellors bound by medical in confidence? I guess if you are bound by medical in confidence requirements then it all depends on to what extent you are bound to not disclose information. If you are a doctor and a patient admits they are about to kill 100 people then you could argue its in the patients best interests to not kill 100 people so you could probably report them to keep them from being in that terrible event.

    Lawyers also have a Lawyer / client privileged however their paramount duty is to the court. I'm actually thinking a community service worker / counsellor might fall somewhere in between and I suspect their isn't any legislation.

    I'm happy to discuss further and do some research if you can just help with what type of client privilege you are talking about.
     
  3. Sasha02

    Sasha02 Member

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    Hi Lance, thanks for your reply.

    I will ask about medical in confidence as it may be something like our confidentiality policies. From what I've learned they're usually in line with organisational structure and legislation, and we can't disclose unless we have client's permission, or in extreme cases where we are subpoenaed for information by the court, or we have reasonable belief the client or other will be harmed, as you mentioned in the doctor's example.

    It also comes under duty of care and looking after the well-being of the client, and may need to be done before any necessary reporting. I will see what I can find about how medical in confidence may relate to what we do and let you know.

    Cheers.
     
  4. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Past warrants are already known about by authorities so no reporting of these is required.

    Is the issue about whether the client is still drinking and driving? Avoiding deliberate serious self harm and harm to others probably needs to be reported, however here the intent may not be deliberate.

    If he has never had an accident the risk of harm is then likely to be very low, unless the drinking problem is getting worse. Weigh that up against the utility of being able to get to counselling sessions/medical appointments if he is forced not to drive. Not everyone lives close to public transport.

    What professional body is involved, and what rules do they have about client confidentiality (eg AIPC, ACA, PACFA, others)?

    And what was said to the client about confidentiality at the beginning?
     
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  5. Sasha02

    Sasha02 Member

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    Hi Rod,

    Yes if the client is still drinking and driving, that could mean taking action to care for client and the public. The point about never having an accident is good to consider, and assessing current behaviour rather than assuming past behaviour is still happening, in the case example the warrants are current.

    The professional bodies have codes about the limits of confidentiality for preventing harm and being subpoenaed to disclose client information. Other than this we are bound by privacy laws. This is explained to the client in the beginning, and is the answer I've come back to. I wanted to be sure there wasn't other obligations to consider as well.
     
  6. Sasha02

    Sasha02 Member

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    Lance, I've spoken to my tutor who has 20 something years in community services and our priority is for the client's well being. The same rules of confidentiality apply with only reporting for reasonable belief of harm and when asked by law.

    I've had a look at medical in confidence and it looks very much like what we work with. In my hypothetical case, the client is frightened about what would happen if he went to the police, and due to mental health concerns we would need to go gently and gain trust to offer effective help.

    It's against our ethics to force anything and as I am told, going to the police without reasonable belief of harm is breaking confidentiality.
     
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