10.2 Resolving Professional Disagreements
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This document is to assist and guide all practitioners working with children and young people in Norfolk in finding a resolution when they have a professional disagreement in relation to the safeguarding of children and young people. The process can also be used to raise challenges regarding cases that are felt to be progressing too slowly or not within an appropriate timeframe.
In May 2015, a slight amendment, adding a monitoring proforma to monitor the use of the policy.
Working with children and families can be difficult and complex. Safeguarding and child protection involves dealing with uncertainties and making important, complex decisions on the basis of incomplete information to demanding timelines in changing, often hostile and stressful circumstances. The repercussions of ill informed decisions or drift in cases can be extremely serious for the children and young people concerned.
Whilst the multi-agency nature of the work can bring benefits in terms of differing perspectives and experience, there may also be times when professionals disagree with decisions taken or actions planned. Resolution of those differences is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working to safeguarding children but can become dysfunctional if not resolved in a constructive and timely fashion. The end result may be less favourable outcomes for children. The aim of this policy is to describe a way of resolving professional disagreement, ensuring that the child or young person’s safety and welfare is the paramount consideration.
All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff members are supported and competent in reporting professional differences which may be impacting on the welfare or safety of a child. All agencies should demonstrate commitment to resolving differences, promote a respectful acceptance of differing viewpoints and acknowledge the positive role that challenge can play in the safeguarding of children. Workers who challenge decisions or actions, or who present a differing professional view, should not be criticised or disregarded.
Differing professional views or challenges to decisions made or actions taken can happen at any stage of the safeguarding process. Differences are more likely to occur in situations where:
- There is internal disagreement within an agency as to whether a concern should be referred to Children’s Services;
- There is disagreement regarding whether a child/family should receive a service or not;
- There are difficulties in effective communication, e.g. unavailability of staff, telephone messages not responded to, meetings not attended;
- A professional is concerned about the action or inaction of another professional in relation to a child protection or child welfare issue;
- Children’s Social Care and the Police place different interpretations on the need for single/joint agency response;
- There are differences with regards to an agency or individual practitioner recognising the need to share information;
- An agency/individual practitioner is concerned that there is drift in a case;
- There is a difference of opinion on the need to convene a child protection conference;
- There is a difference of opinion on a case being closed.
Whichever discipline you come from, if you re being questioned by another professional in respect of your assessment/opinion please consider and reflect upon the following questions:
- Would I react differently if these reports had come from a different source?
- What were my assumptions about this family and what, if any, is the hard evidence supporting them?
- Have I been clear with partner agencies about how I gathered, analysed and assessed the information I have?
- Have I asked other practitioners involved with the child how they made their assessment?
Stage 1: Practitioners should always attempt to resolve differences themselves through discussion with others involved within the case. It should however be recognised that a difference in status or experience may affect the confidence of some practitioners in pursuing this course of action. Under these circumstances the practitioner should request support from their line manager, head teacher or supervisor. If the difference remains unresolved, refer to Stage 2.
Stage 2: If practitioners are unable to resolve their differences through discussion they must refer to more experienced or senior members of staff, i.e. their immediate line manager, the head teacher (if this is not the senior designated professional), supervisor or named or designated professional within their agency. Senior members of staff should liaise with their equivalent/counterparts in the relevant agency, this should be the other practitioner’s line manager at this stage. If agreement cannot be reached between the line managers/senior members of staff, refer to Stage 3.
Stage 3: If the concerns remain unresolved at this stage, the senior member of staff or head teacher should seek advice from the Safeguarding Advisor or Designated Professional for their agency. Upon reviewing the case, it may be decided that the relevant Children’s Services Operational Manager should be informed of the concerns.
A professionals meeting should then be convened, chaired/facilitated by the Operational Manager.
Stage 4: If concerns still remain unresolved at this stage, or senior professionals are still concerned regarding the management of the case, the matter should be referred to the Chair of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board. A resolution panel will then be convened made up of senior representatives from the statutory or voluntary organisations within the NSCB. The Chair will advise on the appropriate membership of the panel.
A clear record should be kept at all stages by all parties. In particular this must include written confirmation between the parties about an agreed outcome of the disagreement and how any outstanding issues will be pursued.
Please enable us to monitor the use of this policy and outcomes of any resolution processes by completing the monitoring form attached at Appendix 1: Monitoring Proforma.