Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol


This chapter importantly deals with how professionals and agencies working with children and families resolve disagreements, disputes and unhappiness in a way that is timely and does not negatively impact on the day to day working with children and their risk management.


This chapter was reviewed and amended in March 2020 to give further guidance about the Child Protection Escalation process.

This chapter is currently under review.

1. Purpose

This is a good practice interagency protocol designed to provide a clear process and timescales by which people working with children and their families in Lincolnshire can provide professional challenge and effectively escalate concerns regarding a child or children in a timely manner.

2. Background

Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP), The Children Act (2004) and Working Together to Safeguard Children set out expectations that people working directly with families, whether this is with the child or parent, work to multi-agency plans and processes. This could range from Early Help and the Team Around the Child process to more complex Child in Need, Child Protection and Looked After Children (LAC) processes.

Good practice includes the expectation that there is professional and constructive challenge amongst colleagues within agencies and between agencies. Where a member of staff from any agency is concerned that concerns or agreed actions regarding a child are not being addressed or acted upon in a timely and consistent manner, it is expected that the escalation protocol should be used to reach a satisfactory outcome that is in the best interests of the child.

Individual agencies are responsible for ensuring robust feedback and completion of recommendations or planned actions. Where these actions are not completed or not within timescales this should be explained at reviews and a new or alternative plan devised with timeframes.

3. Professional Disagreement

At various times during the joint involvement and management of a case, professional differences of opinion and judgement emerge. The following guidance is designed to assist agencies and their staff in resolving such differences. There are a range of situations in which professional disagreements arise, however they are most likely to arise as a result of differing views of thresholds, a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities, requirements for multi-agency meetings, and the need for action and communication.

Examples are:

  • Disagreements over the handling of referrals between agencies can impact negatively on positive working relationships and consequently on the ability to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. There are differing views in respect of whether referrals meet the LSCP threshold for Child in Need or Child Protection;
  • There is disagreement about attendance at a Child Protection Conference, core group or child in need meeting;
  • If, following a child protection conference, the Independent Chair wishes to escalate to multi-agency partners concerns related to attendance and/or reporting only, please refer to Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure, Appendix 2: Conference Distribution List and Escalation Guidance;
  • Disagreement in relation to the appropriate placement/setting for children and young people with complex needs (e.g. perceived place of safety);
  • Disagreement on the need for or arrangements from discharge planning meetings;
  • There is difference of opinion with regard to a Child's Plan;
  • Disagreements over the outcome of assessments;
  • A professional is concerned about the action or inaction of another professional in relation to child protection or child welfare issues;
  • There is disagreement over the sharing of information and or provision of services by an agency;
  • Disagreement in respect of the outcome of a medical examination;
  • Issues regarding the justification for convening / not convening an initial or pre-birth conference;
  • An agency is not in agreement with another agency's decision or reasoning to close a case;
  • Issues of transition for example from Child in Need to Team Around the Child;
  • Where one worker or agency considers another worker or agency has not completed an agreed action for no acceptable or understood reason;
  • Other issues that may be of concern regarding the conduct of a case by another agency, such as the timeliness or priority given to tasks, etc.

At various times during the joint involvement or management of a case, professional differences of opinion and/or judgement emerge, the protocol will assist agencies and staff in resolving such differences. 

4. Core Principles

  • All staff and agencies have a duty to take action to escalate concern if they believe there is a risk that relates to the immediate safety or wellbeing of a child;
  • Disagreements within and between agencies must be resolved quickly and openly, within the timescales stated within the protocol;
  • All agencies are responsible for ensuring that their workers are supported and know how to appropriately escalate concerns and disagreements about a child or young person's well-being;
  • Where there is a disagreement about discharge planning arrangements, it is good practice for the child to remain in the placement/care setting until the escalation has occurred and has been resolved. However, in order to ensure the child's needs can be fully met, and that a child is not placed in an inappropriate setting for longer than is necessary, all Partners should ensure that priority is given to undertaking the relevant assessments; thereby facilitating facilitate safe, appropriate and timely discharge;
  • At every point all agencies' staff should ensure discussions and outcomes are recorded in the agencies records and in the child's file;
  • Care should be taken to agree a way of managing conflict, which allows children and families to understand the issues under discussion;
  • This protocol is not designed to replace the LSCP member organisations complaints processes and should not be used when there is a complaint about a specific professional in situations where the relevant organisation's complaints procedure or allegations procedure will apply;
  • This protocol should be read and utilised alongside the agency's and LSCP procedures.

5. Escalation to Resolution Process

See Appendix 1: Escalation to Resolution Process Flowchart.

Escalation can be via telephone, face-to-face, email or a meeting. All escalation should be recorded in single agency records to ensure that the procedure is effective, transparent and for LSCP auditing purposes.

Step 1

Direct Professional to Professional Discussion

Differences of opinion or judgement should be discussed amongst frontline professionals to attempt to achieve a shared understanding and agree a local resolution, in line with the plan, or to ensure a plan is developed if needed. Care should be taken to agree a way of managing conflict, which allows children and families to understand the issues under discussion. This must occur immediately with an acknowledgement and a mutually agreed plan of action should be developed detailing how this will be resolved, including clear timescales within 48 hours (2 working days) of the initial discussion

Step 2

Direct Manager to Manager Discussion

If Step 1 does not resolve the issue then each professional should discuss the issue with their line manager or safeguarding supervisor. The line manager should review the concerns and ensure that they are justified and meet the purpose of this protocol. The line manager should then liaise with the other professional's line manager in an attempt to reach a resolution. Consultation with senior managers within each organisation can be used if this would be felt to assist resolution. The discussion between managers must occur within 5 working days of step 1, with a mutually agreed plan of action developed including clear timescales.

Step 3

Direct SLO to SLO Discussion

If Step 1 and 2 do not reach a mutually agreeable resolution then the agencies' LSCP Senior Liaison Officer (SLO) should be contacted immediately to liaise with the other agency's SLO or assist as appropriate to resolve the conflict. A mutually agreeable plan of action including timescales should be in place within 48 hours (2 working days). SLO contact details are available on the LSCP web site.

Step 4

a) Urgent resolution required- LSCP Independent Chaired Meeting

If the Senior Liaison Officer's cannot resolve the issue that is causing conflict between professionals and agencies then a meeting should be convened with an independent chair selected from the LSCP partner organisations where the agencies can discuss the case and conflict issue in a chaired and minuted meeting, with resolution being agreed and recorded. The meeting should take place asap with a date set within 24 hours of step 3.

b) Non-urgent and / or lessons learned

Senior Liaison Officers can advise that the learning points from a non-urgent case should be referred to the next LSCP Policy and Procedure, Education and Training (PPET) sub group for interagency consideration. At this point the group may make recommendations for individual agencies to review performance and/or involvement, or for LSCP policy and procedural review and development.

Outside of Working Hours

All statutory agencies have an on call manager and director system. Where escalation requires urgent resolution and it is outside of Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm staff are advised to use the on call process.

Appendix 1: Escalation to Resolution Process Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Escalation to Resolution Process Flowchart.