Confidentiality

This is the confidentiality policy we make clear to all prospective volunteers. Providing a confidential, anonymous service is something we take very seriously at Nightline, but there are certain cases in which confidentiality can or must be breached. 

LAST UPDATED: April 2022

Strict confidentiality is a key aspect of the service we offer here at Nightline, and it’s essential that all our volunteers appreciate the importance of adhering to this. All students should be able to feel that they can contact the service without any fear of their identity or content of their phone call going any further than our volunteer base. As a result, every Nightline volunteer is required to sign a confidentiality agreement during the initial training process in recognition of their understanding and acceptance of Nightline’s confidentiality policies. Confidentiality is expected to be upheld while you are a volunteer, and after you leave the service.

 

Confidentiality applies to a variety of areas within the service:

  • The nature and contents of calls taken/communications received; general outlines of calls and communications are recorded for auditing purposes, but are never shared with anyone outside of the service.

  • The identity or personal details of any callers/students getting in touch with the service.

  • The identity of fellow volunteers (members of the present Nightline Committee are excluded from this, as public faces of the service.)

  • Details surrounding the office, including its location.

  • Secure details such as log-in information for our email, Skype and IM services.

  • The contents of the preliminary training session.

Exeter Nightline does not, and will never, record or monitor calls. It is important for callers to appreciate however that we do have multiple volunteers on shift, but only the volunteer(s) taking the call will be able to hear the caller if the call is taking place over the phone. If the call is taking place over Instant Messenger, there is the possibility that more than one volunteer will have the ability to see the call. 

This is in accordance with the responsibilities we hold in relation to the Telecommunications Regulations Act 2000. In the case of email, IM, text and Skype, multiple volunteers on shift may input into a call to collaborate on the best response for the caller. Volunteers must declare if another volunteer is present in the call. Exeter Nightline recognises that caller confidentiality must be upheld by all inputting volunteers.

This confidentiality policy acknowledges the exceptional occasions volunteers may break confidentiality. This is when callers or concerned third parties mention the following:

  • Threats of terrorism: we are legally bound to report any information about planned or actual terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000. This should be done even if the volunteer considers the call a hoax.

 

  • Suspicions of suicide: including suicidal ideation and suicidal intentions. In the case of an attempted suicide, permission will be sought from the caller about their location. If the caller makes us aware of this information, at Exeter Nightline we feel morally obliged to take a note of this information and pass it on to the emergency services. Please find more details in our ‘Suicide Policy’

 

  • Calls with no meaningful dialogue: If the phone/IM goes silent once an imminent risk has been established, it’s important for the volunteer to stay on the line. ​If the location has been given.

 

  • Suspicions of immediate danger or harm to others: There are some situations where Exeter Student Nightline will choose to break confidentiality by reporting a crime to the authorities. These situations include crimes such as murder, violence, sexual offences, or other crimes that may bring harm to the caller or third parties. Exeter Student Nightline will break confidentiality if a caller explicitly states that they are in the process of committing a crime and/or have already committed a criminal act, or if a caller accuses a third party(ies) of committing a crime. The authorities we disclose this information to could include the Police​​, the University Safeguarding team, the Nightline Association, the NSPCC, and/or any appropriate authority deemed relevant to the specific situation.

 

  • Information relating to children or child abuse.

 

  • The caller specifically requested that confidentiality be broken: ie. they offer their location so Nightline can direct the Emergency Services to them.

 

  • Service Abuse: Exeter Student Nightlines may receive calls which abuse the service Nightline offer (for example where the caller aims to obtain sexual gratification or is overly aggressive to the Nightline volunteer). While there is no obligation (legal or otherwise) to do so, Exeter Student Nightline may choose in these circumstances to break confidentiality and share details of that caller with other Nightline's, with the police or with some other authority. This includes Abusive, Inappropriate or Manipulative calls (See Exeter NL Abuse of Service Policy 2021/22 for more details). This will be in line with our responsibilities under the General Data Protection Act (GDPR) as we will not exchange information from which the caller can be identified, such as name or email address.

If any of these specific scenarios are mentioned in calls or communications to the Nightline, the volunteer has a duty to report the details of these calls to the Co-presidents. They will then pass this information on to the appropriate party, whether that be Estate Patrol, the Anti-Terrorism Hotline, or the emergency services.

Confidentiality will also be broken in the following cases:

  • Following the issuance of a Court Order or Civil Procedure Rule.

  • If a Nightline volunteer is feeling distressed or disturbed after handling a difficult call, for the sake of volunteer welfare we would encourage them to discuss the call with a qualified counsellor at the Wellbeing Centre on campus. Although initially confidentiality would be breached, the contents of the counselling session would remain confidential.

Breaking confidentiality outside of these specific scenarios will be regarded as a gross misconduct, and will result in disciplinary action being taken in accordance with Exeter Nightline’s Discipline and Dismissal Policy. This may result in immediate dismissal. Copies and details of the Disciplinary Procedure Policy can be obtained from the General Co-ordinators.

It is also the responsibility of every volunteer to bring to the General Co-ordinators’ attention any evidence they see that confidentiality may have been breached. This includes breaches pertaining to details in calls and to details of the identities of current volunteers for Nightline.