This study investigates a problem facing professionals working in public service agencies, in the current policy context of partnership working. This is the question of how to share personal service user information across agency boundaries, so that there is minimal risk of important information being ‘lost down the cracks' between agencies, while at the same time avoiding the risk of breaching confidentiality. This study aims to understand better the day to day difficulties faced by those grappling with this problem. This research contributes to the theoretical understanding of this challenge by proposing a new model of information sharing behaviour and a conceptual framework for analysing the multi-level influences on interagency information sharing. The research applies these innovations to a systemic analysis of information sharing in two case studies, both Sure Start Children's Centres. The findings confirm assumptions underlying the models proposed in the research. One is that an important dimension, missing from analyses of information sharing thus far, is the appropriateness of the sharing and withholding of the personal information of service users. Another is the complex nature of the interdependent influences on information sharing behaviour. The findings also suggest modifications to the conceptual framework, and implications for policy and practice. The research thus achieves its aim of providing a better understanding of the challenge of interagency information sharing and moves this under-researched topic forward in terms of social policy's theoretical knowledge base.

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