Concerns Resolution

If you are the safeguarding leading for your organisation, please ensure that you disseminate and implement this policy throughout your organisation as per the following instructions. 

All partner agencies, organisations and clusters:

  • Ensure staff are made aware of the guidance via your internal communication channels
  • Make the Local Protocol available via your own websites with a link across to this page
  • Update in-house policies and procedures to reflect protocol
  • Update in-house training to reflect protocol.

When the above has been completed please update your Organisational Safeguarding Assessment to provide assurance that this local protocol has been disseminated and implemented.


What is this process? 

This process outlines the steps to be taken when there are disagreements between practitioners from differing agencies in relation to concerns about the safety and welfare of a child or young person, and / or action being taken to safeguard a child or young person.

Within this process the term “family” is used to describe parent / carers and family members such as siblings as well as extended family members.

The process does not replace the need to respond to significant safeguarding concerns immediately. The safety and wellbeing of the child, young person or unborn, is paramount, and should they be considered at risk of significant harm safeguarding processes should be followed. 

Why do we need this process? 

When working with practitioners from other agencies there will at times be differences of opinion with regards to how to respond to an identified concern about a child, young person or family. This process has been designed to guide practitioners in the steps that they should take when disagreements arise. 

Who is this aimed at? 

This process is aimed at practitioners working with or supporting children, young people and families either regularly or occasionally. These practitioners will come from a wide range of agencies both statutory and non-statutory. 

Please note that dissent or concerns in relation to Child Protection Conferences should follow the process outlined within Appendix 1

The key contact for comments about this policy is:

Professional Disagreement

When having conversations (and working) with practitioners from other agencies there will at times be differences of opinion with regards to how to respond to an identified concern about a child, young person or family.

Disagreements can be a sign of developing thinking, and the value of exchanging ideas from different perspectives should not be under-estimated. When there are disagreements between agencies, this should be recognised as potential for healthy debate. However, disagreements may disadvantage the child or family involved if they are not resolved constructively and in a timely manner. 

In order to support and challenge a clear process needs to be in place to ensure that all practitioners involved in multi-agency work understand the steps they should take when disagreements arise. This process should however be measured in its approach, to allow practitioners the opportunity to openly discuss their concerns with other practitioners. However, some disagreements, if they can’t be resolved, may need to be escalated up to first line managers (and beyond if appropriate) who should attempt to resolve the disagreement at the earliest opportunity. 

Throughout our work the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person is the primary concern, and professional disagreements must not obstruct this. If you feel that a practitioner or an agency is not acting in the best interests of the child, young person or family, you have a responsibility to respectfully challenge the practitioner or agency. Should you have a concern that a child is at risk of, or is suffering significant harm, this should be responded to using your own agencies safeguarding procedures.

Examples of disagreement (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • Differences in the handling or timeliness of the response to a referral / request for services between agencies
  • Disagreement on attendance at multi-agency meetings (Early Help, Child in Need, Child Protection, Child Looked After)
  • Differences in opinion with regards to a child’s plan
  • Concern about the action or inaction of another professional in relation to the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person
  • Information sharing concerns
  • Disagreement about the provision of services

It must be recognised that some of the disagreements maybe as a result of the safeguarding processes, availability of services, rather than individual safeguarding practice and as such wider escalation maybe required. Consideration should be given to escalation to stage 4 of the process, but this would not replace the need for professionals to continue to seek a solution to the disagreement, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the child/children/young person.   

Principles of concerns resolution

When trying to resolve disagreements practitioners should always work within the following principles:

  • The safety and wellbeing of the child or young person is paramount, and should they be considered to be at risk of significant harm safeguarding procedures should be followed. 
  • Keeping the child, young person and their family at the centre of all professional discussions
  • Timely, responsive and focused conversations about which approach should be undertaken
  • Ensuring that the right conversations are had with the right people at the right time, taking place face to face where possible
  • A restorative approach which includes appropriate challenge 
  • A timely response 
  • Undertaking a solution focus approach 
  • Concerns, actions, responses, outcomes and rationale for decisions made must be agreed and recorded, including how these will be shared, when and by whom. 

The following multi-agency working principles should also be adhered to:

  • Be committed to developing trusted relationships – this will rely on openness, honesty and high quality communication with each other and with the children, young people and  families we work with.
  • Aim to understand each other – we will check out our understanding of each other’s language and meaning when necessary; this can be especially relevant due to the use of jargon or service specific terminology. We will also challenge and rethink language that is oppressive, discriminatory or blaming; seeing language as dynamic rather than static.
  • Adopt restorative and strengths based approaches – as practitioners, we will give high support and high challenge to each other to enable strength based, solution focused and restorative approaches to working effectively with children, young people and their families.
  • When it gets hard, we will try harder – instead of withdrawing from each other when situations are complex and hard to navigate, as practitioners and agencies we will try even harder to find common ground, support each other and align ourselves for a coordinated approach.
  • Share information about our own roles, agencies and statutory responsibilities - we are committed to supporting others to understand our particular roles and statutory responsibilities.   
  • Do what we say we will do – we will follow up on actions agreed in meetings and provide regular updates so that everyone knows what is going on to help with the coordination of the child’s care and support.
  • Model the attitudes and behaviours we hope that children and families experience - as practitioners, we adopt the principles of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.

Resolving Concerns 

The following identify different ways in which practitioners can seek to resolve concerns in a restorative way (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Restorative conversation
  • Facilitated restorative conversation
  • Rethink Formulation
  • Restorative conference
  • Round table discussion
  • Multi-agency supervision

Concerns Resolution Process

The following process should be followed by practitioners when raising a concern related to an ongoing professional disagreement. There may be times when concerns should be escalated straight to the Head of Service level dependent on the immediacy / seriousness of the issue, and therefore in some circumstances it is not always appropriate to apply this process in a linea way.

Time scales not exceeding 10 working days should be agreed for each stage taking into consideration risk to the child.

Stage 1: Practitioner to Practitioner

 Immediately discuss with colleagues and own agency designated lead for safeguarding to clarify thinking and practice.

  • Attempt to resolve any disagreements with the practitioner face to face before initiating the further/additional stages of the process. This could include using any of the identified ways listed above. 
  • A clear written record should be kept and shared with everyone involved, this should include a clear evidence based reason for the disagreement.

Should disagreements be in relation to processes whereby there is a Lead Professional / IRO / Chair of multi-agency meeting they should be informed in writing for information and monitoring.

Where a resolution is reached this should be clearly recorded and shared with everyone involved including the agreed points of resolution, any next steps and the rationale for the decisions made, with a clear agreement regarding how and when this will be achieved and by whom. 

Stage 2: Line manager to Line manager

If after following Stage 1 the disagreement remains, discuss with your designated lead for safeguarding and immediately refer this to your line manager, for them to discuss with the line manager of the other practitioner[1].

Line managers may consider utilising any of the identified approaches listed above to facilitate the resolution.

They should do this within an agreed timescale with the practitioner raising the concern, and a timescale for response from the other line manager should also be agreed. Where possible this should not exceed 10 working days between stages. 

The principles of recording as outlined in Stage 1 should be followed both during the process and at the point of resolution.

*For agencies where there is no line manager (e.g. self-employed, single person organisation etc.) professional bodies, funders, commissioners or trustees should be contacted. 

Stage 3a: Head of Service / Senior Manager to Head of Service / Senior Manager

If agreement cannot be reached following discussions between first line managers the issues related to the disagreement must be referred without delay through the line management structure to the equivalent of Head of Service, again with agreed timescales for responses.

Where possible this should not exceed 10 working days between stages 

The principles of recording as outlined in Stage 1 should be followed both during the process and at the point of resolution.

Stage 3b: Director/Assistant Director to Director/Assistant Director

If professional disagreements remain unresolved, each Head of Service / senior manager will raise the disagreement within a further 2 working days at Director / Assistant Director level within their own agency or within health the Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children.

The Director / Assistant Director (or within health the Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children) of the complainant agency will then write to the Director / Assistant Director (or within health the Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children) of the receiving agency and meet to achieve a final resolution.

The principles of recording as outlined in Stage 1 should be followed both during the process and at the point of resolution.

Stage 4: Exceptional Circumstances

If the disagreement cannot be resolved within the 3 stage process set out above, or is related to a safeguarding process in Leeds, this should be referred to the LSCP Executive ( using the template in Appendix 2.

 The safety and wellbeing of the child/young person is central to the decisions made.

If at any stage the process is halted for any reason such as sickness, meetings being cancelled etc the agency with the concern should record why the process has been halted and ensure that the process is resumed as soon as possible, seeking line management support if required. It may be that in cases of sickness a different person needs to take over the process. Every effort should be made by all parties to ensure that the process does not drift.

Things for Consideration

  • Appropriate timescales for passing on, and responding to, concerns should be agreed for each stage (ideally within 10 working days). These should take into consideration any potential risk to the child and need for provision of services. Any changes or requests for extensions to timescales should be agreed and recorded
  • Where a meeting is convened to discuss the professional disagreement consideration needs to be given as to whether it is appropriate for families to attend and this should be communicated with all involved. When these meetings are called they remain the responsibility of the agency who calls the meeting to take the lead on inviting appropriate professionals and administrate the meeting
  • Clear agreed written records should be kept and shared with everyone at all stages, which must include written confirmation between the parties about agreed resolutions, next steps and the proposed follow-up of any outstanding issues. Feedback should be given at every stage to the practitioner who raised the original professional disagreement 
  • If throughout the process you feel that a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm, you are responsible for communicating your concerns to your immediate line manager and / or your organisation’s designated lead for child protection and contacting Duty and Advice in line with your own agencies safeguarding policies or the child’s social worker if they have one
  • Practitioners should continue to use their agency procedures in conjunction with this document
  • Practitioners should consider the use of processes such as restorative circles and Rethink Formulation to support this process as appropriate
  • Practitioners and managers should at all stages consider the wellbeing of the practitioners involved. Consideration should be given to what internal and external support can be accessed, including supervision, wellbeing and occupational health services. 
  • The NSPCC Whistleblowing Helpline for practitioners (further details can be found on the NSPCC Website) is not intended to replace existing processes to resolve disputes or the local LADO arrangements.


CSWS Duty & Advice 0113 3760336 (option 2)

CSWS Emergency Duty Team (EDT)  0113 5350600


Appendix 1: Child Protection Conferences

Need for Child Protection Conferences

The decision whether or not to convene a Child Protection Conference rests with Children’s Social Work Services.  However, those professionals and agencies who are most involved with the child and family, and those who have taken part in a section 47 Enquiry have the right to request that Childrens Social Work Services convene a Child Protection Conference if they have serious concerns that a child’s welfare may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded. This should be done through a restorative conversation with the appropriate area team manager, and following discussion with your agencies safeguarding lead.

Where there remain differences of view over the necessity for a conference with a specific child, every effort should be made to resolve them through restorative conversations and an explanation of CSWS decision.  The resolution process outlined above would then be initiated by the individual agency or professional as necessary.

Dissent at Child Protection Conferences

If a Child Protection Conference Chair is unable to achieve a consensus as to the need for a Child Protection plan, they should follow the West Yorkshire procedure for Initial Child Protection Conferences section 14, Dissent from the Conference Decision. They will make a decision and note any dissenting views. This will include the situation where there is no majority view and where the Conference Chair exercises their decision making powers as set out in the West Yorkshire procedure for Initial Child Protection Conferences section 13.4, The Decision Making Process.

Appendix 2: Professional Concerns Resolution Process; Stage 4 LSCP Notifications Form

Practitioners should request a notifications form from: and return the completed form for the attention of the LSCP Business Manager.

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