SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This document sets out the process to be followed when resolving differences of opinion between professionals working with children and families.
The Resolving Professional Differences Flowchart provides a visual summary of the process to be followed.
- Principles of Resolving Professional Differences
- Process of Resolving Professional Differences
When working in the arena of safeguarding children and young people, it is inevitable that at times there will be professional disagreement. Whilst this is accepted, it is vital that such differences do not affect the outcomes for children and young people or detract from ensuring that the child or young person is safeguarded.
Disagreements could 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 is applicable to all Safeguarding Children Partnership agencies, including the voluntary, community and the faith (VCF) sectors.
2. Principles of Resolving Professional Differences
The safety and wellbeing of individual children / young people is the paramount consideration in any professional disagreement. Professional disputes which obscure focus on the child / young person must be avoided.
It should be recognised that professional disagreement should not always be viewed negatively, in some situations it may improve outcomes for children and young people.
All professionals should take responsibility for their own cases, and their actions in relation to such case work.
Difficulties at practitioner / fieldworker level between agencies should be resolved as simply and quickly as possible.
All practitioners should respect the views of others, whatever their level of experience. They should also be mindful of the difficulties that challenging more senior or experienced practitioners may present to others.
Working together effectively depends on an open approach and honest relationships between agencies.
Working together effectively also depends on resolving disagreements to the satisfaction of workers and agencies, with a genuine commitment to partnership.
Professional disputes are reduced when there is clarity about roles and responsibilities, and problems are aired and shared in networking forums.Attempts at dispute resolution may leave one worker / agency believing that the child / young person remains at risk of Significant Harm. This person / agency has responsibility for communicating such concerns through line management to an equivalent manager in Children's Social Care.
3. Process of Resolving Professional Differences
The following stages are likely to be involved:
- Recognition that there is a disagreement over a significant issue in relation to the safety and wellbeing of a child / young person;
- Identification of the problem;
- Identifying the possible cause of the problem; and
- Exploring what needs to be achieved in order for it to be resolved.
Click here to view the Resolving Professional Differences Flowchart which provides an outline of the complete process involved in resolving differences.
These processes, however, are not set in stone. It should be remembered that certain steps of either process can be by-passed, if appropriate and with agreement of the professionals and managers involved.
It should also be remembered that the processes do not have to be completed as described below, as disagreements can be resolved at any stage.
The process of resolving professional differences should first involve workers consulting co-workers, to clarify their thinking and practice.
In some voluntary, community or faith sector organisations, the role of a senior manager, as specified in the flow chart above, may be undertaken by a member of the management committee.
The process below does not have to be followed in full. Disagreements can be resolved at any stage.
The following should be considered when resolving professional differences:
- Initial attempts to resolve the problem should normally be made between the people who disagree, unless the child / young person is at immediate risk;
- Both agencies should give clear reason/s for their safeguarding approach which should be put in writing, as per guidance from their line manager;
- It should be recognised that differences in status and / or experience may affect the confidence of some workers in resolving differences, and some may need support from their managers;
- If unresolved, the problem should be referred to the worker's own line manager or agency safeguarding lead (complainant agency), who will discuss the situation with their equivalent colleague in the other agency;
- If the problem remains unresolved, the line manager or agency safeguarding lead (complainant agency) will liaise with the relevant service Manager or refer up their agency line management structure. This may be the management committee if in a VCF sector organisation or Designated lead e.g. Designated Nurse who will liaise with the relevant Service Manager;
- If problem remains unresolved for other agencies, the matter should be referred to a Senior Manager in Children's Social Care;
- A clear record should be kept at all stages, by all parties. This must include written confirmation between the parties about an agreed outcome of the disagreement and how any outstanding issues will be pursued.
Timely action is paramount if there are concerns that a child or young person is at risk
Child Protection Conferences
As specified in the Child Protection Conferences Procedure, if a professional disagrees with a decision by Children's Social Care not to hold a Child Protection Conference about a child or young person, they have the right to request that such a conference is held if they have serious concerns that the child / young person may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded. Any such request should be made to the Social work Team Manager, and be supported by a Senior Manager or the Safeguarding lead in the complainant agency.
Every effort should be made to resolve the matter through discussion and explanation, but, where agreement cannot be reached, a conference should be convened. Professional reasons for the final decision should be fully recorded on the child / young person's file.
When the matter is satisfactorily resolved in relation to the particular child or young person, any general principles or learning should be identified and referred to the Policy, Procedures and Practice Development Sub-Committee.
To avoid similar professional conflicts arising again, amendments may be required to protocol and procedures.It may also be helpful for individuals to debrief following some disputes, in order to promote continuing good working relationships.