According to the latest Cabinet papers, we can expect stage one of the legislative changes to be introduced to Parliament next week, ready for implementation in July 2012.
I’ve blogged previously about the DPB work testing requirements, touched on the loss of the TIA for higher level studies, and Metiria has blogged about incentivising contraception which we previously hoped had been taken off the table, but is now back there in black and white.
The latest papers give us detail about these changes. I’ll try to touch on some of the perhaps lesser acknowledged aspects of the reform. I’m focusing this post on the information sharing aspects of the Youth Package.
The changes will enable PHOs, educational institutions, and police to share information with private agencies contracted to Work and Income to provide “wrap around services” to young people. The Cabinet paper notes that there wasn’t time to adequately consult the Privacy Commissioner, who, I suggest, could be expected to have concerns about the changes.
Having been involved in youth health work for quite a few years, I find it concerning to see PHOs on the list of agencies subject to these proposed provisions. Youth Health services have been set up around the country in response to research that showed young people were not accessing services for a range of reasons, including concerns about confidentiality.
The Cabinet papers do not itemise the information that may be shared. They mention referring young people for family planning advice to get long term contraceptive devices or medication, they mention sanctions for young people whose ‘recreational’ alcohol and drug use creates a barrier to getting work, and they also mention mental health concerns as another barrier to employment.
We have doctor patient confidentiality for several reasons. If people delay treatment, for fear of censure or exposure, problems can compound. Many health issues are connected to social taboos, and this makes confidentiality even more important. I doubt doctors and other health professionals will be comfortable sharing information about a patient without the patient’s explicit consent, and I’m not yet sure what this will mean for the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights that guarantees the right to respect and privacy. The NZ Medical Association Code of Ethics also notes:
Protect the patient’s private information throughout his/her lifetime and following death unless there are overriding considerations in terms of public interest or patient safety.
If we have reached the point as a country that complying with employment readiness criteria is considered of such public interest that it overrides the right to privacy, maybe we should just start encouraging our young people to move to Australia.
Oh, actually, the state of the respective New Zealand and Australian economies is doing that anyway.