Balancing privacy with family, whānau involvement

It can seem hard to balance a strong rights orientation, especially the right to privacy, with a family, whānau inclusive approach.

This post looks at how your organisational policy and procedures can help.

Balancing privacy with family, whānau involvement

How can we respect a client’s right to privacy but engage meaningfully with their whānau? A conundrum recently noted by the Mental Health inquiry.

The right to privacy especially in the health and personal wellbeing area is regarded as sacrosanct. It is important to clients’ trust in social and health practitioners. It helps free people up to kōrero about the things they need to, and move on from whatever ails them.

But the problem with privacy is its individualistic focus. It can leave a person, the client, feeling lonely.

The right to privacy, tends to reinforce views of the client as an individual and separate being first, with their relationships coming second. It helps “protect” or separate the individual from their connections to the extent the client wants this. Whether family, whānau, hapū are involved or connected in with the client, depends on the client’s choice and their activation.

As noted by the Mental Health Inquiry and many other reports, this approach can mean that family and whānau are left out in the cold about what’s going on with their person and how they can meaningfully support them. It is unhelpful to the healing process in both the short and longer term.

Organisational policy and procedures

So how can organisational policy help organisations balance the right to privacy with involving family and whānau  in work with clients?

The evidence is clear: people want to connect, they need to (eg see Connection - the key to Healing and Resilience; Te Ōhāki: Whakawhanaungatanga Self-disclosure and information sharing is integral to this.

Organisational policies and procedures (eg referral, entry and planning policies) can help with requirements for:

  • early engagement and kōrero with the client about who they connect with and how, their whakapapa and turangawaewae
  • regular hui and other opportunities for mutual information sharing between client and family
  • opportunities for positive client, family, whānau, hapū interactions
  • whānau, hapū engagement and feedback in reviews and evaluations
  • family, whānau, hapū engagement in exit planning
  • when and how client information is shared by the organisation with others (eg with child protection matters).

So what about privacy? It’s still the client’s right but it’s not the starting point. The client’s rights to connectedness, whakawhanaungatanga, belonging and turangawaewae, are.

Contact the Policy Place if you want help with your organisational policies and procedures.

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