7.2 Resolving Professional Differences

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This policy was last reviewed in July 2022

Date of next review July 2025


Dissent at Referral and Enquiry Stage


The Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures Group recommend the following statement is read out at all relevant meetings:

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.


Professionals providing services to children and their families should work co-operatively across all agencies, using their skills and experience to make a robust contribution to safeguarding children and promoting their welfare within the framework of discussions, meetings, conferences and case management.


All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent and supported to escalate appropriately intra-agency and inter-agency concerns and disagreements about a child's wellbeing.

Concern or disagreement may arise over another professional's decisions, actions or lack of actions about a referral, an assessment or an enquiry.


Professionals should attempt to resolve differences through discussion and/or meeting within a time scale, which is acceptable to both of them, usually within a working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm (whichever is less).

Each Safeguarding Children Partnership has a forum that reviews (intending to improve) joint working practice in respect of inter-agency child protection processes. The forums afford an opportunity for safeguarding managers across the partnership to have open and honest conversations about what is and isn’t working. Practitioners are encouraged to share any cases where there are early concerns about the effectiveness of multi-agency working.  You can refer a case here - Contact Us 


Most day-to-day inter-agency differences of opinion will  require a Children's Social Care Manager to liaise  with their  (first line manager) equivalent in the relevant agency, e.g.:

  • A detective sergeant
  • A designated safeguarding children health professional
  • Designated safeguarding children teacher.

These first-line managers should seek advice from their agency's designated safeguarding children professional.


If agreement cannot be reached following discussions between the above 'first line' managers, within a further working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm (whichever is less), the issue must be referred without delay through the line management to the equivalent of service manager/detective inspector/headteacher,  or other designated safeguarding children senior professional.


Alternatively (e.g. in health services), input may be sought directly from the designated safeguarding children doctor or nurse in preference to line management.


The professionals involved in this conflict resolution process must contemporaneously record each intra- and inter-agency discussion they have, approve and date the record and place a copy on the child's file together with any other written communications and information.


Dissent with decision to call a Child Protection Conference


A request to convene a Child Protection Conference may be made by a senior staff member of any of the member agencies and should be made and responded to in writing to either a Service Manager or a Child Protection Adviser.


A decision not to convene a conference must be confirmed in writing to the requesting agency/ies giving reasons.


Where there remain differences of view over the need for a Conference in a specific case, every effort will be made to resolve them through discussion and explanation.


As a last resort the decision to hold the conference will be made by the senior child protection manager following discussion with the relevant Safeguarding Children Partnership members.

Professional Dissent at Child Protection Conference


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

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. 


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.


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.

Dissent regarding the Implementation of the Child Protection Plan


Concern or disagreement may arise over another professional's decisions, actions or lack of actions in implementing the Child Protection Plan, including the timing, quoracy or decision-making of Core Group meetings,  progress of the plan or professional practice.


Professionals should always attempt to resolve differences in line with the actions outlined above.

Where Professional Differences Remain


If professional differences remain unresolved, the matter must be referred to the professional leads for safeguarding and child protection within the agencies involved and include the senior child protection manager.

If the issue is not resolved by the steps described above and/or the discussions raise significant policy issues, the matter should be referred urgently to the Safeguarding Partnership for resolution -   Contact us  

See also -Pan Sussex Escalation Policy


Professionals in all agencies have a responsibility to act without delay to safeguard the child (e.g. by calling for a case to be allocated or for a Strategy Discussion, for a Core Group meeting or a Child Protection Conference or Review Conference).


Specialist facilities such as specialist children's hospitals or a psychiatric or other mother and baby unit must have in place a conflict resolution protocol that sets out how conflict resolution will be managed, through the line management of the specialist facility and the LA Children's Children's Services or other services with responsibility for the child. This protocol should take into account the role of the LA Children's Children's Services in the locality of the specialist service.

This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 16th of July 2024 06:24:11 AM please refer back to this website (http://sussexchildprotection.procedures.org.uk) for updates.