Resolving Professional Differences

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.

AMENDMENT

In September 2021 this guidance was revised and updated throughout. It replaces a previous chapter entitled Conflict Resolution.

1. Disagreement at Referral and Enquiry Stage

Caption: Disagreement at Referral and Enquiry Stage
   

1.1

Professionals providing services to children and their families should work co-operatively across all agencies, using their skills and experience to make a robust contribution to safeguarding children and promoting their welfare within the framework of discussions, meetings, conferences and case management.

1.2

All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent and supported to escalate appropriately intra-agency and inter-agency concerns and disagreements about a child's wellbeing.

1.3

Concern or disagreement may arise over another professional's decisions, actions or lack of actions in relation to a referral, an assessment or an enquiry.

1.4

Professionals should attempt to resolve differences through discussion and/or meeting within a working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm (whichever is less).

1.5

If the professionals are unable to resolve differences within the timescale, their disagreement must be addressed by more experienced / more senior staff.

1.6

Most day-to-day inter-agency differences of opinion will require a local authority children's social care manager to liaise with their (first line manager) equivalent in the relevant agencies, e.g.:

  • A police detective sergeant;
  • A designated or named safeguarding child health professional;
  • Designated safeguarding lead in a school.

These first line managers should seek advice from their agency's designated safeguarding children professional.

1.7

If agreement cannot be reached following discussions between first line managers within a further working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm (whichever is less), the issue must be referred without delay through the line management to the equivalent of service manager / detective inspector / head teacher or other designated or named safeguarding children senior professional.

1.8

Alternatively (e.g. in health services), input may be sought directly from the designated or named safeguarding children doctor or nurse in preference to the use of line management.

1.9

The professionals involved in this process must contemporaneously record each intra- and inter-agency discussion they have, approve and date the record and place a copy on the child's file together with any other written communications and information.

2. Dissent Regarding the Implementation of a Protection Plan

Caption: Dissent Regarding the Implementation of a Protection Plan
   

2.1

Concern or disagreement may arise over another professional's decisions, actions or lack of actions in the implementation of the child protection plan, including the timing, quoracy or decision-making of core group meetings, progress of the plan or professional practice.

2.2

Professionals should attempt to resolve differences in line with the actions outlined above.

3. Where Professional Differences Remain

Caption: Where Professional Differences Remain
   

3.1

If professional differences remain unresolved, the matter must be referred to the heads of service for each agency involved.

3.2

In the unlikely event that the issue is not resolved by the steps described above and/or the discussions raise significant policy issues, the matter should be referred urgently to the LSCP for resolution. See also Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships Procedure, Monitoring and evaluation function.

3.3

Professionals in all agencies have a responsibility to act without delay to safeguard the child (e.g. by calling for a case to be allocated or for a strategy meeting / discussion, for a core group meeting or for a child protection conference or review conference).

3.4

Specialist regional facilities such as a specialist children's or cancer hospital or a psychiatric or other mother and baby unit, must have in place a protocol for resolving professional differences which sets out how differences will be managed, through the line managements of the specialist facility and the local authority children's social care or other service with responsibility for the child. This protocol should take into account the role of the local authority children's social care in the locality of the specialist service.