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1.2.6 Resolving Professional Disagreements


The source document for this chapter was published in December 2017 and incorporated into this online manual in January 2018.


  1. Context
  2. Resolving Dissent and Disagreement within the Service
  3. Key Principles
  4. Recording

1. Context

1.1 This procedure is for use across the Children & Families Service in any situation where there is professional disagreement about an individual case within the local authority that cannot be simply resolved through discussion between the people concerned.
1.2 All staff have a professional and ethical responsibility towards the people they work with and nothing in this document should be interpreted as discouraging or preventing staff from utilising the Council's Whistleblowing Policy if they believe a decision is unethical or illegal.

A separate procedure dealing with dissent and disagreement between agencies is located on the LSCB website: 'Cambridgeshire Resolving Professionals Differences (Escalation) Policy'.

However, before progressing to formal escalation of a disagreement, the matter should be discussed with the Head of Service, Partnerships & Quality Assurance to discuss/agree next steps.

Further, the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Threshold Document 2017 refers to the above procedure in respect of a number of possible disagreements including around:

  • Thresholds;
  • Roles and responsibilities;
  • The need for action;
  • Communication.

2. Resolving Dissent and Disagreement within the Service

2.1 It is essential, in order that children, young people and their families can have confidence in CCC, that they experience service delivery and decision making as 'joined up' and there is a common approach by all staff, delivering a single, coordinated plan of work.

Positive discussion and consideration of various options is essential to best practice in all aspects of work with children and families. This will take place in a number of settings, including meetings which involve the family, in Team or Team meetings and in one to one discussions between colleagues or between a member of staff and their line manager and/or a more senior manager. At times a manager will make a decision, or a Panel will determine the next steps for a child or children, with which a member of staff does not agree.

There may also be times when a member of staff or service disagrees within another member of staff or service (for example a Family Worker disagreeing with a decision made by a Social Work Team).

3. Key Principles

3.1 In order to safeguard children, it is vital that there is open, honest, transparent and respectful communication between staff members, as well as with families and other professionals.
3.2 Anyone concerned about a particular decision must make their concerns known to the appropriate manager, and do so urgently where concerned that the decision might pose a risk to a child.
3.3 Where there is more than one service involved, a discussion should take place between the case responsible managers to determine an agreed way forward. Should this not prove possible, they should refer the matter to their managers for resolution.
3.4 Ultimately, the final decision will be made by a manager with line management responsibility for the case, in consultation with any other case holding manager where applicable.
3.5 Once a decision has been made it is important for all staff involved to work to implement this though, should circumstances change or significant new information come to light, this should be brought to the manager's attention for further consideration.

4. Recording


Where there is disagreement within the same part of a service, the worker and their manager should discuss the issue and agree what will be recorded on the child's file. This entry should include an outline of the consideration given to various courses of action and why one has been chosen over other possibilities.

Worker and manager must ensure that the record contains sufficient detail about the discussion that has taken place, prior to the record being signed off by the manager.
4.2 It is not appropriate for the disagreement between workers, or between a worker and their manager, to be entered onto the child's electronic record without the line manager's knowledge and approval. To make such a record without agreement could become a disciplinary matter.
4.3 Disagreement expressed during meetings at which the parents/child are present will be in the record of the meeting to which the parents/child have access, together with the final decision and plan. Wherever possible, representatives of the local authority should recognise and deal with differences of opinion before such meetings and arrive at an agreed local authority view on the issue in question.
4.4 Where there is disagreement across services, this will have been referred to the respective managers for resolution (see 3.3 above). In doing so, they will also agree what is to be recorded on the case files of both services and this should, again, include an outline of the issue, any options considered and how/why the agreed course of action has been determined.
4.5 In all situations, case plans continue to be under review and new information will be taken into account in future decision-making.