Escalating a concern or resolving professional differences – advice for practitioners

What to do when you are concerned about a decision or practice in a case involving a child or young person.

The MSCB has adopted the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership (GMSP) Escalation Policy which can be found in the greatermanchesterscb.proceduresonline.com and this is supported by the MSCB escalation flow chart.

This policy has been developed by the Greater Manchester Local Safeguarding Children Boards (GM LSCB) to be used when resolving professional disagreements in relation to the safeguarding needs of children and young people, because disagreements over the handling of concerns can impact negatively on positive working relationships and consequently on the ability to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is a responsibility shared by all agencies. Whilst the local authority is allocated a ‘lead’ role in coordinating responses to risk, or causes, of significant harm to children, effective intervention is dependent upon inter-agency planning and multi-agency service responses.

Constructive challenge amongst colleagues within agencies and between agencies provides a healthy approach to planning to keep children safe. However, sometimes an issue cannot be resolved and protocol/procedures are needed to escalate concerns, while keeping the focus of concern on the child and their needs.

All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff are supported and know how to appropriately escalate and resolve inter-agency concerns and disagreements about a child or young person’s wellbeing and the response to safeguarding needs.

These principles are not designed to replace the statutory complaints processes established within individual partner agencies.

See also our resource relating to whistleblowing and the MSB complaints protocol.

Resolving professional differences

Differences of opinion, concerns and issues can arise for practitioners at work and it is important they are resolved as effectively and swiftly as possible.

Having different professional perspectives within safeguarding practice is a sign of a healthy and well-functioning partnership. These differences of opinion are usually resolved by discussion and negotiation between the practitioners concerned. It is essential that where differences of opinion arise they do not adversely affect the outcomes for children, young people or adults and are resolved in a constructive and timely manner.

Differences could arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working as well as within single agency working. Differences are most likely to arise in relation to:

  • criteria for referrals
  • outcomes of assessments
  • roles and responsibilities of workers
  • service provision
  • timeliness of interventions
  • information sharing and communication.

If you have difference of opinion with another practitioner, remember:

  • professional differences and disagreements can help us find better ways improve outcomes for children, adults and families;
  • all professionals are responsible for their own cases and their actions in relation to case work;
  • differences and disagreements should be resolved as simply and quickly as possible, in the first instance by individual practitioners and /or their line managers;
  • all practitioners should respect the views of others whatever the level of experience – remember that challenging more senior or experienced practitioners can be hard;
  • expect to be challenged; working together effectively depends on an open approach and honest relationships between agencies;
  • professional differences are reduced by clarity about roles and responsibilities and the ability to discuss and share problems in networking forums.

Escalating professional differences

If a professional cannot resolve the difference themselves, they should escalate to their manager, who may escalate to a more senior level if necessary.

If agencies have been unable to resolve the issue themselves it may be necessary to escalate to the MSAB or MSCB for multi-agency discussion.

What to do when you are concerned about a decision or practice in a case involving a child, young person or adult with care & support needs
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and adults is a responsibility shared by all agencies. Whilst the Local Authority is usually allocated a ‘lead’ role in coordinating responses to risk, or causes, of significant harm, effective intervention is dependent upon inter-agency planning and multi-agency service responses.

Constructive challenge among colleagues within agencies and between agencies provides a healthy approach to planning to keep children and adults safe. However, sometimes an issue cannot be resolved and protocol/procedures are needed to escalate concerns, while keeping the focus of concern on the child or adult and their needs.

All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff are supported and know how to appropriately escalate and resolve inter agency concerns and disagreements about a child or adult’s wellbeing and the response to safeguarding needs.

There will always be differences of professional opinion. However, practitioners and agencies have a responsibility to challenge when it is believed that other agencies are failing to recognise child maltreatment and/or their response leaves children at risk of significant harm..

Effective working together depends on resolving disagreements to the satisfaction of practitioners and agencies and a belief in a genuine partnership and joint working to safeguard everyone.

Problem resolution is an integral part of professional cooperation; professional disagreement is only dysfunctional if not resolved in a constructive and timely fashion.

At no time must professional disagreement detract from ensuring a child or adult is safeguarded; their welfare and safety must remain paramount throughout.

Attempts at problem resolution may leave one practitioner/agency believing that child or adult may be at risk of significant harm. If that is the case, this person/agency has responsibility for communicating such concerns through agreed procedures on the same working day.

Where such disagreements arise between practitioners in the same agency, they should use that agency’s own procedures for their resolution.

Escalating and Resolving Disagreements

When there is recognition that there is a disagreement over a significant issue, which potentially impacts on the safety and welfare of a child or adult, the respective practitioners must identify explicitly what the problem is and have absolute clarity about the nature of the disagreement and what the respective workers aim to achieve.

A clear record must be kept at all stages, by all parties, in particular this must include written confirmation between the parties about an agreed outcome of the disagreements and how any outstanding issues will be pursued.

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