SEFTON SCP Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Online Manual

    17 Escalating Concerns

    Last updated 14/03/2022

    ‘Professional Disagreement Must Not Affect Outcomes for Children & Young People’


    Dispute Resolution is a term used to describe the process of resolving disputes or disagreement between parties. When working with children and their families’ professional disagreement can be positive as challenge allows for review and can foster creative ways of working.

    Disagreements can however impact negatively on positive working relationships and consequently on the ability to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Disagreements therefore always require resolution.

    SEFTON SCP’s Multi-Agency Procedure for Escalating Professional Safeguarding Concerns is expected to be used frequently, between front-line staff, line managers and senior managers (steps 1 and 2), to resolve professional disagreements before escalation to Sefton SCP representatives (Steps 3 & 4) is required.

    When working in the arena of safeguarding children and young people it is inevitable that, at times, there will be disagreement between professionals. Whilst this is accepted it is vital that such differences do not affect outcomes for children and young people or detract from ensuring that the child or young person is safeguarded.

    Disagreements can arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working, as well as within single-agency working, but are most likely to arise in relation to:

    • Criteria for referrals;
    • Outcomes of assessments;
    • Roles and responsibilities of workers;
    • Service provision;
    • Information sharing and communication.

    This procedure aims to ensure that professional disagreement is resolved, to an agreed position, which supports the effective safeguarding of a child or young person and is applicable to all Safeguarding Children agencies. This includes the voluntary, community and the faith (VCF) sectors.

    What is Escalation?

    Escalation is a process of formally challenging a decision made by another professional, group or organisation. Escalation procedures ensure that all professionals have a quick and straightforward means of resolving professional differences in order to safeguard the welfare of children and young people.

    Escalation & Working Together

    Effective working together depends on an open approach, clarity of roles and responsibilities and genuine, and honest, relationships between agencies. Escalation is a means of resolving professional differences and as such is an integral part of joint working to safeguard children.

    Effective Challenge is Encouraged by Sefton SCP

    Sefton SCP encourages effective challenge to support effective safeguarding. All agencies across the partnership have agreed to work in a culture of genuine partnership working and have committed to the following principles;

    The Safety & Wellbeing of Children & Young People Must Remain the Paramount Consideration

    The safety and wellbeing of children and young people must be the paramount consideration in any professional disagreement. Professional disputes which obscure the focus on the child or young person must be avoided.

    Unresolved Significant Harm Concern

    Attempts at dispute resolution may leave one professional, or agency, believing that the child / young person remains at risk of significant harm. This professional, or agency, has responsibility for communicating such concerns, through their line management, to an equivalent manager in Children's Social Care.

    Escalation for Resolution is a Positive Action

    Escalation of professional disagreement should not be viewed as a negative action. Professionals must know that escalation is undertaken so that outcomes for children and young people are improved.

    All Professionals Must Take Responsibility

    All professionals should take responsibility for their own cases as well as their actions, taken or otherwise, in relation to safeguarding children and young people.  

    Simple & Quick Resolution

    Difficulties between agencies at practitioner or front-line worker level should be resolved as simply and as quickly as possible. (See Appendix 1 for logging concerns)

    Respect the Views of Others

    All practitioners should respect the views of others irrespective of their seniority or level of experience. They should also be mindful of the difficulties that challenging more senior or experienced practitioners may present to others.

    Working Together

    Working together effectively depends on resolving disagreements to the satisfaction of professionals and agencies through a genuine commitment to partnership working. Working together effectively depends on an open approach and honest relationship between agencies.

    Airing & Sharing 

    Professional disputes are reduced when there is clarity about roles and responsibilities and problems are aired and shared appropriately in relevant network forums.

    Open Mind

    Practitioners and managers should always be prepared to review decisions and plans with an open mind remembering at all times that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.

    See separate flowchart for escalating concerns step by step