2.2 Effective Challenge and Escalation


Appeals about Child Protection Conferences Procedure

Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure


This chapter was updated in July 2015 and the title was changed from Professional disagreement.

1. Introduction

When working in the arena of safeguarding and child protection, it is inevitable that from time to time, there will be practitioner disagreement. Whilst this is understandable and generally acceptable, it is vital that such differences do not affect the outcomes for children and young people. Practitioner disagreement is only dysfunctional if not resolved in a constructive and timely fashion. This procedure, therefore, provides a process for resolving practitioner disagreements and ensuring there is effective challenge in the system. It also provides practitioners with advice and support to enable them to escalate concerns where disagreements are not resolved at a practitioner level.

Disagreements can arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working but are most likely to arise in relation to:

  • Thresholds into services;
  • Outcomes of assessments;
  • Decision making;
  • Roles and responsibilities of workers;
  • Service provision;
  • Information sharing and communication.

This procedure is applicable to all SCSP partner agencies. Agencies have designated safeguarding leads, whose role includes conflict resolution.

2. Principles of Effective Challenge and Escalation

The safety and wellbeing of individual children and young people is the paramount consideration in any effective challenge and escalation. Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership encourages effective challenge and all agencies across the partnership have agreed to work in a culture of genuine partnership working.

  • Effective challenge is a positive action. The SCSP audit process has shown that effective challenge has a positive impact on the the outcomes for children and young people;
  • Practitioners should take responsibility for their own cases and actions;
  • Any disagreements between agencies should be resolved as simply and quickly as possible;
  • Practitioners should respect the views of others, whatever their level of experience, the role they fulfil or agency they represent. They should be mindful of the difficulties that challenging more senior or experienced practitioners may present to others;
  • Practitioners and managers should always be prepared to review decisions and plans with an open mind;
  • Working together effectively depends on an open approach, reflective practice and honest relationships between agencies;
  • Working together effectively depends on resolving disagreements to the satisfaction of workers and agencies, with a genuine commitment to partnership;
  • Practitioner disagreements are reduced by clarity about roles and responsibilities, and airing and sharing problems in networking forums;
  • Attempts at problem resolution may leave a worker / agency believing that the child / young person remains likely to suffer significant harm. This person / agency has responsibility for communicating such concerns through their line management and safeguarding leads and ultimately where resolution has failed to the Chair of Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership.

3. Process of Effective Challenge and Escalation

The following stages are likely to be involved:

  • Identification of areas of agreement and disagreement;
  • 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;
  • Possible cause of the problem;
  • What needs to be achieved in order for it to be resolved.

The Flow Charts provide an outline of the process for effective challenge and escalation. Effective Challenge and Escalation flow chart (a): Quick decision required (flowchart) is for disagreements that need a quick resolution. Effective Challenge and Escalation flowchart (b): Non-urgent response (flow chart) is when an urgent response is not required.

The process of effective challenge should first involve workers consulting co-workers, to clarify their thinking and practice in the first instance.

In some voluntary, community or faith sector organisations, the role of senior manager as specified in the flow chart, may be undertaken by a member of the management committee.

The following should be considered when undergoing a process of effective challenge and escalation:

  • Initial attempts to resolve the problem should normally be between the people who disagree, unless the child / young person is at immediate risk;
  • Both sides 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 providing effective challenge, and some may need support from their managers;
  • If unresolved, the problem should be referred to the worker's own line manager or advisor (complainant agency), who will discuss the situation with their equivalent colleague in the other agency;
  • If the problem remains unresolved, the line manager (complainant agency) will refer up their agency line management structure. This may be the management committee if in a VCF sector organisation;
  • If the problem remains unresolved, consideration will be given to referring the matter to the Chair of Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership, who should offer a process of mediation through the SCSP Learning and Practice Improvement Group (LPIG);
  • 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.

4. Child Protection Conferences

As specified in Working Together to Safeguard Children - "Local authority social workers are responsible for deciding what action to take and how to proceed following section 47 enquiries.

If local authority children's social care decides not to proceed with a child protection conference then other professionals involved with the child and family have the right to request that local authority children's social care convene a conference, if they have serious concerns that a child's welfare may not be adequately safeguarded. As a last resort, the LSCB should have in place a quick and straightforward means of resolving differences of opinion."

Where agreement cannot be reached, Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership should be consulted. Every effort should be made to resolve the matter through discussion and explanation. Following this, where agreement cannot be reached a conference should be convened. Practitioner reasons for the final decision should be fully recorded on the child / young person's file.

5. Following Resolution

When the matter is satisfactorily resolved in relation to the particular child or young person, any general principles should be identified and referred to the SCSP for discussion to inform future learning.

To avoid similar practitioner disagreements arising again, amendments may be required to protocol and procedures.

It may also be helpful for individuals to debrief following some disagreements, in order to promote continuing good working relationships. Consultation with your safeguarding supervisor may assist with this process.