Dissent and disagreement

Disagreements could arise in a number of areas, but are most likely to arise around:

  • thresholds
  • roles and responsibilities
  • the need for action
  • communication

Problem resolution is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working to safeguard and promote the well-being of children/young people.  While often a positive sign of developing thinking within a dynamic process this can therefore, however, be reflected in the immediate term as a lack of clarity in procedures or approaches.

Professional disagreement is only dysfunctional if not resolved in a constructive and timely fashion.

Principles

  • The safety and well being of individual child or  young people is the paramount considerations in any professional disagreement.  Professional disputes obscuring focus on the child/young person must be avoided.
  • Effective working together depends on an open approach and honest relationships between agencies.
  • Effective working together depends on resolving disagreements to the satisfaction of workers and agencies; and a belief in genuine partnership.
  • Professional disputes are reduced by clarity about roles and responsibilities, and airing and sharing problems in networking forums.
  • The aim should be to resolve difficulties at practitioner or fieldworker level between agencies as simply and quickly as possible.
  • Attempts at problem resolution may leave one worker or agency believing that the child remains at risk of significant harm. This person or agency has responsibility for communicating such concerns through agreed channels. [Refer All London Child Protection Procedures]

Process

The following stages are likely to be involved:

  • Recognition that there is a disagreement over a significant issue which impacts on the well-being of a child or young person.
  • Identification of the problem, and clarification about the disagreement in light of what need to be achieved.

These 2 stages could involve consulting a colleague to clarify thinking.

  • Initial attempts to resolve the problem should normally be between the people who disagree unless the child/young person is at immediate risk.
  • It should be recognised that differences in status and/or experience may affect the confidence of some workers in pursuing this without support.
  • If unresolved, the problem will be referred to the practitioner’s own line manager or advisor, who will discuss with their equivalent colleague in the other agency.
  • If the problem remains unresolved, the line manager will refer ‘up the line’.
  • If still the problem is unresolved, consideration will be given to referring the matter to the Chair of Local Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) who will offer mediation.
  • A clear record should be kept at all stages, by all parties. In particular, this must include written confirmation between the parties about an agreed outcome of the disagreement and how any outstanding issues will be pursued.

Referral Rejection

Every effort should be made for all agencies to work in the best interest of the child or young person. However, in situations where one professional does not agree to accept a particular referral, the following process should take place:

  • The receiving agency should give clear reasons why the referral will not be accepted. This should be confirmed in writing within 24 hours and sent to the referring agency.
  • The referring agency will write contemporaneous notes on the file regarding the reason/s for refusal by the receiving agency.
  • The referring agency will act on the contents or advice of the rejection letter where appropriate.
  • Where concerns persist, the referring agency should consult and inform a manager of the situation who will then contact a manager in the receiving agency to discuss the referral and it’s appropriateness.
  • If there is still disagreement regarding the referral being accepted, then the referring agency will continue to hold the case and coordinate a multi-agency meeting to agree a multi-agency plan of action and identify alternative support to meet this child or young person’s particular need, or identify alternative most appropriate agency to which to refer the case.  However, if the case is of a Child Protection nature, then London Child Protection Procedures will be followed.
  • When the matter is resolved, any general principles should be identified and referred to the agency’s LSCB representative for consideration and to inform future learning, and resolution should be promoted via amendment to protocol and procedures.
  • It may also be helpful for individuals to debrief following some disputes in order to promote continuing good working relationships.

Governance

‘The systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation’
  • The Children Act 2004 places a duty on all agencies supporting children and young people to work together in protecting and promoting the welfare of children and young people.
  • It also places the accountably for all children’s services with the Local Authority Directors of Children’s Services (DCS).
  • Thus the governance of Merton Integrated Working, including Early Help's  Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) implementation as guided by this Child and Young Person Well Being Model (MWBM), sits with Merton Children’s Trust, with the lead taken by the Local Authority.
  • Merton’s Inter Agency Forums inform Merton Children’s Trust operational development, whilst specialist child well-being and child protection multi-agency protocol development is linked to Merton Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) sub groups to ensure continued fitness for purpose and to take account of changing Government Policy.