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Resolving Inter-agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The Purpose of this guidance is to provide a clear mechanism for the timely resolution of inter agency disagreements in the best interest of children and families.

It is designed to work alongside, and support, existing individual agency procedures and escalation policies and should be used in conjunction with Hull Safeguarding Children Board Guidelines and Procedures.


Contents

1. Purpose of this Guidance
2. Introduction
3. Reducing the Likelihood of Inter Agency Disagreements
4. Stage 1 - Defining the Disagreement
5. Stage 2 - Resolving Disagreements at the Right Level
6. Stage 3 - Escalating Concerns
7. Stage 4 - Hull Safeguarding Children Board Oversight
8.

Hull Safeguarding Children Board Mediation

9. Learning Lessons
10. HSCB Resolving Inter Agency disagreements proforma
11. Related Processes
12. Contacts
  Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma (see Documents Library)
  Further Information
  Amendments to this Chapter

1. Purpose of this Guidance

The purpose of this guidance is to provide a clear mechanism for the timely resolution of inter agency disagreements in the best interest of children, young people and families.

It is designed to work alongside and support existing individual agency procedures, whistleblowing and escalation policies and should be used in conjunction with Hull Safeguarding Children Board Guidelines and Procedures.


2. Introduction

Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single professional can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.

In order that organisations and practitioners collaborate effectively, it is vital that every individual working with children and families is aware of the role that they have to play and the role of other professionals. In addition, effective safeguarding requires clear local arrangements for collaboration between professionals and agencies. (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015)

Protecting children will always be an area of work where there may be differences of opinion about the best course of action. These differences can encourage further exploration and healthy discussion about what is best for each child and can therefore contribute to better outcomes for children. It is important that all those working with children and families feel able to air their views and constructively challenge the decisions and actions, or lack of actions of others.

Where there is a conflict of interest, decisions should be made in the child’s best interests (Working Together to Safeguard 2015)

All agencies and services should promote a culture which encourages constructive challenge within and between organisations; acknowledging the important role that challenge can play in safeguarding children.

Different professional perspectives are healthy and their expression should be encouraged and always given serious consideration.

Early recognition of, and a shared commitment across agencies to deal with interagency disagreements is key. All agencies must adopt a proactive approach towards problem solving which enables professional disagreements to be resolved as quickly

The aim should be to resolve disagreements at practitioner level between organisations whenever this is possible; where this is not possible, the disagreement should be escalated to the next level of management until a resolution is achieved.

Disagreements should not be left unresolved.

During any disagreement between individuals or organisations, practitioners must remain child and family focused. The safety of individual children remains the paramount consideration.

Inter agency disagreements may arise for a number of different reasons such as:

  • A lack of clarity about roles;
  • Difference in professional or organisational philosophy;
  • Different expectations about priorities and ways of working;
  • Communication failures;
  • The views of a relevant agency not being considered in decision making;
  • The child / family does not meet the eligibility criteria for the service requested; there has been an assessment completed which suggests that the child and family do not meet the threshold for intervention of a particular service;
  • There is a concern about the response of a key agency to a reported concern;
  • When an agency does not agree with a decision made by another; and
  • Where services and support require funding or commissioning arrangements.


3. Reducing the Likelihood of Inter Agency Disagreements

Transparency, openness and a willingness to understand and respect individual agency views are core aspects of a safe multi agency / inter agency safeguarding service.

Effective communication requires a culture of listening to and engaging in dialogue within and across agencies. It is essential that all communication is as accurate and complete as possible and clearly recorded, in line with individual agency procedures.

Accuracy is key; without it effective decisions cannot be made and equally, inaccurate accounts can lead to children remaining unsafe, or to the possibility of wrongful actions being taken that effect children and adults.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015)

Effective professional supervision can play a critical role in ensuring a clear focus on a child’s welfare. Supervision should support professionals to reflect critically on the impact of their decisions on the child and their family

Some agencies may find it beneficial to have a nominated manager within their own organisation for dealing with inter agency disagreements, who has received training in this area and is skilled in conflict resolution.

Good preparation and planning will ensure that disagreements are kept to a minimum. The Hull Safeguarding Children Board guidance on Effective Communication, Consent and Information Sharing Procedure provides advice and guidance on preparation when planning to contact another agency.

Hull Safeguarding Children Board Threshold of Need Guidance and Framework has been designed to inform and assist decision making.


4. Stage 1 - Defining the Disagreement

Professionals involved should first define what the disagreement is about, and every effort should be made to resolve them through discussion and negotiation. It is important that all parties involved have sufficient information so as to resolve disagreements at the earliest opportunity.

Written records of all discussions should be kept.

Disagreements within inter / multi agency meetings such as Team Around the Family Meetings, Early Help Action Meetings (EHAM), Child Protection Conferences, Looked After Children Reviews, Strategy Meetings, Core Group Meetings, and other Multi Agency Meetings should be recorded by each respective agency and within the meeting minutes.

Disagreement about whether a child should be made subject to a Child Protection Plan at an Initial Child Protection Conference, or continue to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan at a Review Child Protection Conference should be explicitly noted by the Chair during the meeting and clearly recorded in the Conference record.

Attempts at disagreement resolution may leave one professional / agency believing that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. This professional / agency has responsibility for communicating such concerns. See Contacts and Referrals with Children’s Social Care Procedure.

At no time must professional disagreement detract from ensuring a child is safeguarded. The child's welfare and safety must remain paramount throughout.


5. Stage 2 - Resolving Disagreements at the Right Level

Where an inter agency disagreement cannot be resolved by the individuals concerned, they should immediately notify their first-line manager, supervisor or safeguarding lead, who should ascertain the specific circumstances of the disagreement.

Where a disagreement needs to be resolved quickly in order to safeguard a child’s welfare and for any reason there is not a direct line manager available, careful consideration should be given as to whether involving the next tier of the management structure would be appropriate to help progress the disagreement further.

There is an expectation that in order to attempt resolution of any disagreement at this stage, contact should occur between the line manager and their counterpart from each agency concerned. This should happen within a timely manner, reflecting the needs and circumstances of the individual child.

The purpose of this contact between line managers should be to review the available information and attempt to resolve the disagreement. A clear record of all conversations and decision making should be kept by all parties. This should include the nature of the disagreement(s) and how any outstanding issues will be pursued.

Where necessary, reaching a resolution may involve a meeting between the professionals involved. Any agreed plan arising from this contact should be fed back immediately to the operational staff involved, confirmed in writing between agencies and include a date for review.

Where there are professional disagreements between front line staff and their immediate manager, the named professional responsible for safeguarding within their agency or a more senior manager should be informed and asked to provide consultation and advice.

At no time must professional disagreement detract from ensuring a child is safeguarded. The child's welfare and safety must remain paramount throughout.

Below are some examples of agency counterparts who may be involved with this stage of the resolution process. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Social Worker / Family Practitioner – Team Manager;
  • Early Years – Safeguarding Officer;
  • Community Midwife – Named Midwife or Named Nurse;
  • Hospital Nursing Staff, School Nurse and Health Visitor – Named Nurse;
  • Hospital Doctor – Named Doctor or Designated Doctor;
  • General Practitioner – Named Doctor or Designated Doctor;
  • Community Mental Health Team – Lead Nurse for Safeguarding;
  • Staff in schools – Child Protection Co-ordinator;
  • Humberside Police – Protecting Vulnerable People Unit Detective Inspector;
  • NSPCC – Service Manager;
  • Community Rehabilitation Company or Humberside Probation Trust– Senior Probation Officer with Safeguarding responsibility; and
  • Voluntary and Community Sector – Senior Officer.

Where professional disagreements remain unresolved following discussions between first line managers, the disagreement must be referred to a more senior manager for each agency involved without delay.

These discussions, which are not part of a formal complaints process, are to ensure that there is appropriate management oversight of the decision making process; that the child is safe from harm; and that professional disagreements about one case do not adversely affect inter-agency relationships.

Written records of all discussions and decisions should be kept.


6. Stage 3 - Escalating Concerns

If a disagreement cannot be resolved at line management level then the matter must be referred up through each tier of the agency’s line management structure without delay, up to an Assistant Head of Service or their counterpart within the other organisation concerned. The designated safeguarding lead for all organisations should always be informed before a concern has escalated to this level.

Senior managers are responsible for convening a professional consultation meeting in relation to specific children to try and resolve issues of disagreement when first line practitioners and managers have been unable to resolve them.

It may be worth considering involving a professional who is independent of the case to help facilitate a resolution. This should be undertaken in a timely manner to safeguard the child.

Should an agency think that there could be lessons to be learned from the resolution of the disagreement at a multi agency organisational level, then consideration should be given as to whether a copy of the resolution should be sent on the proforma provided to Hull Safeguarding Children Board for oversight. All information that could identify the child or family should be removed.

A written record must be made of the key areas of discussion, disagreement, outcomes and actions. This will be retained on the child’s case file.

Written records of all discussions should be kept.


7. Stage 4 - Hull Safeguarding Children Board Oversight

If the disagreement can not be resolved at Stage 3 then then it needs to be escalated to the Hull Safeguarding Children Board member for the agencies concerned.

In situations where HSCB Members have become involved in resolving disagreements there is an expectation that members will come to a resolution.

Hull Safeguarding Children Board has a role in scrutinising local safeguarding arrangements. Details of any disagreement and resolution reaching Stage 4 of the process should be recorded on the proforma at Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma (see Documents Library), with any information which could identify the child or family removed.


8. Hull Safeguarding Children Board Mediation

In the unlikely circumstances where a disagreement remains unresolved at HSCB Member level then it can be referred to the HSCB Independent Chair using the proforma at Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma (see Documents Library), who will offer an appointment for mediation. The meeting will be minuted and a record kept. This would include the methodology used in resolving the disagreement and the outcome / resolution.


9. Learning Lessons

Consideration should be given as to whether lessons can be learned from the process of disagreement resolution either on a single or inter agency level. For example:

  • Identification of training need;
  • Commissioning need;
  • New agency practice guidance; or
  • New Hull Safeguarding Children Board practice guidance.

Where an agency / agencies think that there could be lessons to be learned on a multi agency level following the resolution of a disagreement beyond line management level, the Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma should be completed, including details of the resolution and a copy sent to Hull Safeguarding Children Board for consideration for multi agency learning.

All information that could identify the child or family should be removed.


10. HSCB Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma

Agencies may choose to use the HSCB resolving inter agency disagreements proforma (see Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma (in Documents Library) at any stage of the escalation process in order to support clear and accurate recording. Where the disagreement relates to an individual child, records should be kept with the child’s file.

It is the responsibility of individual agencies to maintain accurate records and ensure that confidential information is stored appropriately and securely. It is essential that professionals work within their individual agency arrangements for recording information and any local information sharing procedures that are in place.


11. Related processes

Please follow the link below for more information and guidance about the resolution processes in relation to Child Protection Conferences.

Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision.

  • Whistleblowing advice line for professionals

The Home Office Commissioned, NSPCC co-ordinated advice line can be accessed anonymously by anyone who is concerned about how workplace child protection issues are being handled in their own or another organisation.

Telephone: 0800 028 0285 nspcc.org.uk


12. Contacts

Children’s Social Care (Local Authority)

Early Help and Safeguarding Hub (EHASH) (01482) 448 879
Immediate Help Team (out of hours) (01482) 300 304
Local Authority Designated Officer  (01482) 790 933
Police Protecting Vulnerable People Unit 101
Hull Safeguarding Children Board (01482) 379 090
Named Nurse Safeguarding Children City Health Care Partnership (01482) 617 875
Named Nurse Safeguarding Hull & East Yorkshire  
Hospital Trust (HEYHT) (01482) 674 589
Named Nurse Safeguarding Children Humber  
NHS Foundation Trust (HNHSFT) (01482) 335 810


Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma

Click here to view Appendix 1: Hull Safeguarding Children Board Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Proforma (Please see the Documents Library).


Further Information

Amendments to this Chapter

This guidance, which was originally written in 2012 has been reviewed and updated as required to ensure to continues to reflect best practice locally in resolving professional disagreements.

End.