Resolution of Professional Disagreements - Escalation Policy

This procedure is intended to resolve disagreements that happen between different agencies in work relating to the safety of children. These disagreements may happen when following the Child Protection Guidance. However, this procedure does not replace any other Child Protection Guidance.

If there is reason to believe that a child or young person is at risk of serious harm then the Multi-Agency Support Hub (MASH) or the Police must be informed.  Their contact details are:

If there is reason to believe that compulsory intervention may be necessary to ensure the provision of adequate care, protection, guidance or control for a child, then a referral to the Children's Convenor may be made.  Alternatively if it is an emergency, you must call the Police on 999.

This procedure is written to resolve disagreements which may occur across agencies, when working on child protection.  It is expected that each agency will have its own internal policies to cover internal disagreements.  These internal policies will direct individuals, when in disagreement about the safety of a child, to make contact with either the MASH or the Police.  Discussion about the appropriateness of making a referral will then be discussed with the agency that has been contacted.

When to follow this procedure:

Disagreements could arise in a number of areas, but are most likely to arise around:

All workers should feel able to challenge decision-making and to see this as their right and responsibility in order to promote the best multi-agency child protection practice. This procedure provides workers with the means to raise concerns they have about decisions made by other professionals or agencies by:

  1. Avoiding professional disputes that put children at risk or obscure the focus on the child.
  2. Resolving the difficulties within and between agencies quickly and openly.
  3. Identifying problem areas in working together where there is a lack of clarity and to promote the resolution via amendment to protocols and procedures.

Effective working together depends on an open approach and honest relationships between agencies.  Problem resolution is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working in protecting children.

The safety of individual children is the paramount consideration in any professional disagreement and any unresolved issues should be addressed with due consideration to the potential risks that might exist for the child.  It is also crucial that any disagreement is resolved as quickly as possible and scrutiny is applied to the issues raised in order to consider the potential risks identified.

Resolution should be sought within the shortest timescale possible to ensure the child is protected. Disagreements should be resolved at the lowest possible stage; however, if a child is thought to be at risk of immediate harm, discretion should be used as to which stage is initiated.

Record Keeping

At all stages of the process, actions and decisions must be recorded in writing and shared with relevant personnel, to include the worker who raised the initial concern.  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.

Stages of the procedure

Stage One   

Any worker who feels that a decision is not safe or is inappropriate should initially consult their line manager and/or the designated child protection officer (or equivalent) to clarify their thinking in order to identify the problem; to be specific as to what the disagreement is about; and what they aim to achieve.  The line manager and/or designated child protection officer will continue to provide support to the concerned worker and oversee the disagreement until a satisfactory resolution is achieved.


Stage Two   

Initial attempts should be taken to resolve the problem at the lowest possible level. This would normally be between the people who disagree. It should be recognised that differences in status and/or experience may affect the confidence of some workers to pursue this unsupported.


Stage Three

If the problem is not resolved at stage two, the concerned worker will discuss further with their manager and/or child protection designated officer (or equivalent) within their own agency.  The manager or child protection designated officer will then raise the concerns with the equivalent manager or child protection designated officer in the other agency.


Stage Four  

If the problem is not resolved at stage three, the manager or child protection designated officer who is supporting the concerned worker will report to their agency representative on the ISCP (where this is a different person) who will meet with the agency representative on the ISCP who represents the  agency with whom there is a disagreement.  These two senior managers must attempt to resolve the professional differences through discussion.


Stage Five  

If it has not been possible to resolve the professional differences within the agencies concerned, the chair of the ISCP Learning and Improvement sub-committee should be informed.  This is through contacting the ISCP Business Manager on tel: 223845 or email: The chair of the ISCP Learning and Improvement sub-committee will identify three members of the Learning and Improvement sub-committee (including the agencies concerned in the professional disagreement).  These members will then form the Learning and Improvement Resolution Panel.

  • The panel will receive representations from those concerned in the professional differences and make a decision as to the next course of action, resolving the professional differences concerned.
  • The decision of the panel is binding on all those agencies concerned.
  • The ISCP Learning and Improvement sub-committee will ensure a brief report of the issues and decisions made is submitted to the ISCP on an annual basis.


Stage Six    

In the unlikely event that the Learning and Improvement Resolution Panel is unable to resolve the professional differences, the matter may be referred to the ISCP for further guidance on how to proceed.  It is expected that the need to refer to the ISCP will only be necessary on rare occasions.



It may be useful for individuals to debrief following some disputes in order to promote continuing good working relationships.


A tool designed to enable your service to record the agreed outcome of the use of the professional disagreements procedure, and to aid the ISCP to monitor its use can be found below.

word icon Resolution of professional disagreements - audit tool [124kb]