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QUB Nightline Policy

Confidentiality Policy 

This relates to Nightline’s collection and/or disclosure of a caller’s personal information. This confidentiality refers to the caller’s relationship with Nightline and not the volunteer who took the call. Thus, the policy here will refer to when to disclose information to sources outside of Nightline. Confidentiality is one of the 5 Pillars of Nightline and those using our service expect that what they share will not be spread outside the organisation.

3.9.1 Breaking confidentiality 

Whenever QUB Nightline need to break confidentiality, we will generally inform the caller of our obligation to do this. However, it may not always be appropriate to make the caller aware of this if there is a risk it could lead them or another to harm. In these circumstances we may elect not to inform them.  

Where practical, the President of QUB Nightline will be informed of the need to break confidentiality as soon as possible and disclose this information to the relevant third party themselves. However, this will not always be possible and volunteers on shift are trained to break confidentiality when required and disclose information to the relevant parties.

The President should also offer support to those breaking confidentiality, including a debrief by QUB counselling if requested. 

3.9.2 When can confidentiality be broken

Confidentiality can be broken due to the following subjects: crime, terrorism, suicide, court order, child abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual).  

3.9.3 Crime

If a caller shares any information relating to an arrestable offence that has been committed, then QUB Nightline will report this information to the police. This follows responsibilities under the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967. 

3.9.4 Terrorism

Nightline will report any information relating to acts of terrorism to the police. Terrorism involves or causes:

  • Serious violence against a person 
  • Serious damage to a property
  • Threat to a person’s life 
  • A serious risk to the health and safety of the public 
  • Serious interference or disruption to an electronic system 

3.9.5 Suicide 

Please see section 3.6 Suicide above for full details. 

3.9.6 Court Order 

If presented with a court order to disclose details of a specific call, QUB Nightline will comply and provide the requested information to the authorities

3.9.7 Child Abuse (Emotional, Physical or Sexual)

If a caller discloses any information that leads the volunteer to believe that a child is at risk of harm, QUB Nightline will report this information to the relevant authority (NSPCC).

If the risk of harm to the child is imminent, then QUB Nightline will immediately contact the police and pass on any relevant details that have been disclosed by the caller. 

3.9.8 Record Keeping 

QUB Nightline collected anonymised call data for the purposes of improving and tracking the usage of the service. This includes: 

  • The time the call started 
  • The date 
  • The duration of the call
  • A summary of the issues raised 

All data is anonymised, and personal data removed. Call records are never so detailed as to allow a caller to be identified from it.

3.6 Suicide 

Note: This procedure assumes “you” to be the volunteer taking the call.

If you believe a caller is either: in the process of ending their life, going to end their life in the imminent future (ie while still on the phone to you) or actively thinking about taking their own life. You should ask the caller their intentions. If they confirm any of the above scenarios, you MUST offer to ring the emergency services for them (999), by delivering the line such as, “Would you like me to call an ambulance?” 

If the caller agrees:

  • Keep the caller on the line and ask for relevant information, specifically location
  • Reassure caller
  • Get other volunteer in the room to ring 999
  • Keep the caller on the line until the emergency services arrive at the scene – the volunteer may need to stay on the line indefinitely if the caller is not responding
  • Be prepared to speak to the emergency services over the phone should the caller lose consciousness in order to pass on any information that may be relevant to them. 

If the caller denies the help of the emergency services you are not expected to ask for this information or pressure the caller for this information. HOWEVER if the caller gives you enough information for you to know their current location (e.g. location of bridge/ address of where they are) then we deem this to be IMPLICIT CONSENT to call the emergency services even if this is against their wishes. 

If the caller does not want you to ring the emergency services and you do not have enough information to do so, continue the conversation. It may be appropriate to ask the caller again later in the call if they would like you to contact the emergency services in case the caller has changed their mind.

One of the committee will be ‘on-call’ during shifts with their phone on and for active suicide calls volunteers MUST inform the ‘on-call’ volunteer as soon as they are able to, never delay contacting the emergency services to contact your On-Call. 

Other points regarding suicide 

  • You have no legal obligation to report a suicide attempt, unless it is an act of terrorism 
  • Our service is anonymous so we do not have any useful information to give the emergency services unless the caller has told you their location 
  • In the case where you have called the emergency services against your caller’s wishes, letting your caller know or not that the services are on their way is at your discretion
  • Suicide calls are particularly distressing. Debriefing and a proper break for the volunteer after a serious suicide call is important. A mandatory debrief with a QUB wellbeing counsellor is required before a volunteer takes another shift.