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Conflict Resolution and Case Resolution Protocol

Everyone, including children, adults and practitioners should feel able to challenge decision making and to see this as their right and responsibility to promote children’s safety.


Effective safeguarding of children is everyone’s business, wanting the very best for children requires us to be ready to stand up for them. To be ready to support and advocate for their wellbeing and safety and challenge others in their assessment as required. Different viewpoints and perspectives are key to protecting children. It is inevitable that this will, at times, lead to a difference of opinion on the levels of concerns and risk and the best course of action.

However, there may be occasions where individuals/agencies disagree on how best to keep children and young people safe and promote their welfare. Disagreements can arise in several areas, but are most likely to arise around:

  • Perceived levels of risk, levels of need and whether a concern has met the threshold for a service or intervention
  • Roles and responsibilities of workers
  • Communication and information sharing
  • Provision of services
  • Action or lack of action progressing plans
  • Cases being/not being stepped up or down and/or closed

Everyone, including children, adults and practitioners should feel able to challenge decision making and to see this as their right and responsibility to promote children’s safety. At no time, should a professional disagreement detract from ensuring that the child is safeguarded. The child’s welfare and safety must remain paramount throughout.

Resolving Professional Disagreements

Most disagreements can be resolved through discussion and negotiation. The following are likely to be involved:

  • 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; and
  • What needs to be achieved in order for it to be resolved

The process of resolving professional differences should first involve workers consulting co-workers, to clarify their thinking and practice in the first instance, for example, via a professionals meeting, discussion with the Safeguarding Lead or other meeting which promotes reflection, using an appropriate practice tool where available, such as the Levels of Need Tool. In some voluntary, community or faith sector organisations, the role of a Senior Manager, may be undertaken by a member of the management committee.


Whistleblowing is when someone who works in or for an organisation passes on information, which they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing or a cover-up by that organisation. For example, the information may be about activity that is illegal or that creates risks to the health and safety of others. The concern may relate to something that has happened, is happening or that a person may fear will happen in the future.

It is important for individuals to feel safe and listened to when raising concerns. An open approach to whistleblowing promotes the values of openness and transparency and encourages employees to treat service users with dignity, respect and compassion. In that way, the wellbeing and safety of service users and the provision of good care become part of the culture, and are seen as “the way we do things around here”.

Please refer to our policy on whistleblowing or raising concerns at work for more information.

Conflict Resolution Policy

Effective working together depends on an open and honest restorative approach between agencies. Problem solving and resolution is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working to safeguard children and young people at risk. Transparency, openness and a willingness to understand and respect individual and agency views are a core aspect of multi-agency/inter-agency working.

Initial attempts to resolve the problem should normally be made between the people who have the original disagreement and as the dispute is identified, unless the child/young person is at immediate or significant risk.

Following on from that discussion, any worker who feels that a decision is not safe, or is inappropriate, should consult their supervisor/manager to clarify their thinking, if required. They should be able to evidence the nature and source of the concerns and should keep a record of all discussions. It should be recognised that differences in status and/or experience may affect the confidence of some workers in resolving differences, and some may need on-going support from their managers and/or Safeguarding Lead.

In nearly all instances, it is possible to resolve any differences through practitioner relationships or line management arrangements of partner agencies. It will be exceptional that any situation will need to be progressed through a more formal procedure but the Four Stages of the Conflict Resolution Policy should be used if concerns for children remain unresolved.

Professionals working through different perspectives with each other can almost always result in an agreed way forward. There may be occasions when the Four Stages of the Conflict Resolution Policy is followed and the professional and carer network is still unable to come to a consensus/decision to resolve a concern for children. In these instances, practitioners and sometimes their agencies may have a high level of concern but a lack of clarity and certainty about how to manage the risk, requiring additional support to resolve differences. Sometimes, themes may be identified that are placing children at risk of significant harm that require a multi-agency response to protect them.

When the Four Stages of the Conflict Resolution Policy have been followed and agreement still cannot be reached, the matter should be referred to the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership Manager through the case resolution protocol.

Case Resolution Protocol

The Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership Case Resolution Protocol seeks to set out an approach to resolving differences using a restorative approach, ensuring children’s needs remain at the heart of all we do.

Organisationally, this means:

  • Senior leaders in all partner organisations will need to lead this protocol by example and demonstrate and model the behaviours needed for it to be successfully embedded into the local culture
  • Professional differences are to be welcomed and their resolutions are considered likely to improve outcomes for children
  • There is an expectation that there is a collective responsibility for problem solving regardless of where the specific issue lies
  • That external mediation and restorative reflective circles can be useful when needed and can be provided either by the independent chair or another partner organisation best suited to the issue.

At an individual level, it means:

  • Maintaining a child focus but within a family safeguarding approach. Ensuring that only the best interest of children drives any escalation
  • Concerns have been discussed and reflected with safeguarding leads/managers
  • Professional difference is raised within principles of Restorative approach: Relational, Responsible, Resilient, Reflective, Respectful balance and clarity
  • Clear evidence must be provided including exploration of professional curiosity.
  • Opportunity to reflect and explore any action to understand any personal distress, impact, overidentification, trauma and unconscious motivation that might be impacting on practice.
  • Actively listening to children. families and other professionals
  • Championing children and young people is at the heart of this protocol, with a drive to improve safety and outcomes, meeting needs early and working together effectively to achieve this.

The Case Resolution Protocol should be used when the Conflict Resolution Policy has not resolved professional disagreements. The case resolution form for raising disagreements is available here. This form should be used when efforts to resolve issues directly between practitioners, their line manager/service has not achieved the child-centred outcome desired or in a timely way.

You can watch a video summary of the protocol here.

What happens when you submit a Case Resolution form?

The Devon SCP Manager receives an alert via email that a case resolution form has been submitted.

  1. The Devon SCP Manager reads the submission to check whether, in the first instance, the four stages of the Case Resolution Policy have been followed. You will receive an email or a telephone call if the policy has not been followed advising of the next steps you should take.
  2. If the Conflict Resolution Policy has been followed and professional disagreement has still not been solved, the Devon SCP Manager will contact you to discuss this further. Evidence of efforts to resolve issues and reasons for a formal escalation will then be gathered to assist in a multi-agency approach to support and help resolve the disagreement at the next Devon SCP Business Group meeting.
  3. The Devon SCP Business Group have a standing item at every meeting to ensure there is an overview of areas of dispute and challenge. Understanding the pattern of conflicts and conflict resolutions is an important part of monitoring the gaps and areas of development, gauging the health of the system. Of equal if not greater importance, will be the need to understand low numbers of escalations being reported, as that might indicate a lack of appropriate challenge and grit in partnership work.

All the key agencies are represented, either directly or indirectly, in the Partnership’s Business Group and this protocol requires that all escalations are reported to the Business Group each time it meets.

The Business Group will also expect the Independent Reviewing Unit to report on any examples of inter-agency difference that becomes apparent in the conduct of child protection conferences and/or children in care reviews. Conference chairs are necessarily independent of operational service delivery and it is right that their independence should be used to identify and, where appropriate and possible, resolve inter-agency disagreement.

Where necessary, the Business Group will be able to offer a restorative facilitator to bring the agencies together and identify a way forward. It is important to be clear that no-one from the Business Group, including the chair can be a case decision-maker. That is the shared responsibility of those involved.

If you are worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child or young person in Devon,
please complete the request for support online form.


If you think that the child is at risk of significant harm,
contact our Front Door directly by calling 0345 155 1071.


In an emergency call 999.