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5.7 Challenges by Professionals and Parents

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Last reviewed in July 2022 

Next review in July 2024


Child Protection Conference Professional Dissent Process


This protocol should be read in conjunction with the relevant Safeguarding Children Partnership Complaints Procedure, the Pan-Sussex Safeguarding Procedures: Resolution of Professional Disagreements .

In Brighton & Hove you can also refer to the Resolving Professional Differences Briefing.


Pan-Sussex Professional Difference Statement: It is acknowledged that when working in the arena of safeguarding, it is inevitable that from time to time there will be professional differences. This is a positive activity and a sign of good professional practice and effective multi-agency working. During this meeting practitioners, irrespective of their seniority are encouraged to say if they feel that decisions, practice, or actions do not effectively ensure the safety or well-being of the child/children.


About this dissent process

This dissent process is for professionals only and should not be confused with the rights of parents and children to complain about the service they have received from the Local Authority or any other agency working with their family. The dissent process is separate from the Pan Sussex Resolution of Professional Disagreement Procedure.


It is imperative that agencies work together to safeguard children. However, there may be occasions where an agency representative has concerns about the outcome of a Child Protection Conference and feel that threshold has or has not been met for a child or children to be on a Protection Plan.

These must be raised within 72 hours of the conference meeting.


All professionals should be clear about the distinction between personally disagreeing with the outcome of a Child Protection Conference and making a professional judgement to uphold that decision and formally dissenting; this is the process by which you ask for your view to be formally recorded in the minutes and taken further, in line with the formal dissent process set out below.


To dissent means that a professional disagrees so strongly with the Conference decision that they cannot have their professional name attributed to the decision.


Dissent Process

  1. The Child Protection Reviewing Officer will ensure Conference members understand the dissent process and will empower professionals to dissent if they do not agree with the decision that has been made.
  2. All dissents will be recorded formally within the Chair’s Summary and Plan and the Chair will notify their line manager immediately.
  3. The Head of Safeguarding and Review service will review the reports submitted to Conference, the Chairs summary and plan. They will communicate with the dissenting professional before deciding about whether to uphold the dissent and reconvene Conference.
  4. This decision will be made within 10 working days of the Conference. Any reconvened Conference will be held within 15 working days of the reviewing manager’s decision.
  5. In Brighton & Hove if the the dissenting professional  is unhappy with the reviewing managers decision, they should refer to the Resolving Professional Differences Briefing.
  6. All professionals who have dissented at a Child Protection Conference will need to discuss their reasons with their line manager / safeguarding leads.

Disagreement by Children, Young People and their families/carers/advocates


Parents and/or children may wish to make representations or complain. This could relate to the way the meeting was managed, the category of concern, or the decisions that were made as a result of the Conference.


All parties must be made aware that:

  • This complaints process cannot itself change the decision to have a Child Protection Plan; and
  • During the course of the complaints process, the decision made by the Conference stands.

The end result for a complainant will be either that

  • A Conference is re-convened under a different Conference Chair;
  • A Review Conference is brought forward; or
  • It confirms the status quo.

Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's ordinary complaints handling processes

Disagreement by Children, Young People and their families/carers/advocates Stage 1 - Exploration by Conference Chair and/or their Manager


The Conference Chair should inform their Manager that they have received the complaint.


Complaints made outside the 10 working days' time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the Conference Chair, be accepted.


The Conference Chair should meet with the complainant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint so as to:

  • Ensure the complainant sufficiently understands the child protection process;
  • Clarify the grounds for, and nature of, the complaint(s);
  • Establish the outcome desired by the complainant;
  • Ensure the complainant understands the scope and relevance of this complaints process with regard to their circumstances and any potential complaint against single agencies;
  • Gather relevant information.

At the meeting with the complainant, the Conference Chair should be accompanied by a colleague who can take minutes.


Within a further 10 working days, the Conference Chair should provide a written response to the complainant including notes of their meeting. This letter should include information on how to pursue concerns further if the complainant remains dissatisfied.


The response provided to the complainant should be copied to the Children's Social Care Complaints Manager.

Disagreement by Children, Young People and their families/carers/advocates Stage 2 - Formal Consideration


Staff involved in this meeting should  include the Reviewing Manager and / or Senior Manager for Child Protection Conferences and a note taker.

The Local Authority Complaints Officer should be kept informed of the progress of this complaint.


A Complaint Meeting at Stage 2 should be arranged and held within 28 days to attempt to resolve the areas of concern.


The Complaint Meeting should have access to and will consider:



The meeting should seek to address areas of dissatisfaction and to resolve matters where possible. Following the meeting the complainant should receive a letter to confirm what was agreed and to advise the complainant of their right to move to Stage 3 within 28 days, if they are still dissatisfied.


The Local Authority Complaints Officer should be informed of the outcome of Stage 2 and receive a copy of this letter where there are complaints which relate to issues outside the procedure or, the complainant has separate complaints which are being addressed through the Local Authority Complains Process or NHS Complaints. The Safeguarding Children Partnership Business Manager should also be informed if the complainant wishes to progress to an Appeal Panel.

Disagreement by Children, Young People and their families/carers/advocates Stage 3 - The Complaint and Appeal Panel


If, within 20 working days of days of receipt of the Stage 2 letter, the complainant notifies the Complaints Manager that they remain dissatisfied and specifies reasons, arrangements must be made to convene, within 20 working days, a panel of a minimum of 3 individuals from the Safeguarding Partnership or its sub-groups.


The Complaints Manager in liaison with the senior child protection manager will make arrangements for this meeting, and the representative of the agency least directly involved in the case will normally fulfil the role of Panel Chair.


The Panel membership should include at least two from amongst Safeguarding Investigations Unit, Children's Social Care, education and health agencies and the individuals should have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.


The Panel must be provided with the following documentation:

  • A formal request to convene;
  • A copy of the relevant conference record and the reports that were made available to the Conference;
  • Stage 1 meeting notes and correspondence;
  • A list of names, addresses and telephone numbers of the conference chair, all other professionals involved and the family concerned.

The Complaints Manager will liaise with the complainant throughout, and be available at the Panel, to advise on relevant processes.


The Panel should be convened within 20 working days of the receipt of the complainant's letter and consider whether:

  • Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly; and
  • If any decision in dispute follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented.

The Panel will:

  • Hear (either directly or in writing) from the complainant, the chair of the relevant Child Protection Conference and any other relevant person;
  • Consider written material;
  • Reach a decision;
  • Agree the content of their decision letter to the complainant.

The Panel chair should ensure that the Panel's conclusions should be put in writing to the complainant within 10 working days of its meeting and will:

  • Confirm membership of the Panel;
  • State the decision reached;
  • Provide concise information about how the decision was reached.

A recommendation must be made to re-convene the conference, under a different chair if:

  • Procedures / protocols relating to the conference were not correctly followed; or
  • The procedures / protocols were correctly followed but the decision of the conference was unreasonable.

If the Panel concludes that procedures relating to the conference were correctly followed and that the decision(s) reached were reasonable, it must confirm that the conclusions of the original conference stands and will be routinely reviewed when the Review Conference is held.


The Panel should also consider any specific concerns that may be relevant to communicate to agencies involved with the case and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any safeguarding partner agency.

Reconvened Conference


The Chair of a reconvened Child Protection Conference (Initial or Review) must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the Conference about the decisions reached by the Panel.


The Chair of a reconvened Child Protection Conference (Initial or Review) must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the Conference about the decisions reached by the Panel.


A distinction must be made by the Conference Chair between the need to discuss the conclusions of the Panel and the task of the Child Protection Conference, which is to consider the child(ren)'s current circumstances.

Further Challenge


No further internal processes exist in those cases where the Panel concludes that all relevant processes were followed and that the decisions which were made were reasonable.



A complainant who nonetheless remains dissatisfied may wish to pursue their grievances via the Ombudsman or a Judicial Review.


In what are likely to be very rare cases, where a re-convened Conference has been recommended, held and the complainant does not accept the outcome, the same Panel may (at the discretion of the Complaints Manager in liaison with the Senior Child Protection Manager) be asked to re-convene and review any remaining and clearly specified concerns.


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This page is correct as printed on Friday 12th of August 2022 04:50:18 AM please refer back to this website ( for updates.