Joint professional escalation and resolution protocol



Sometimes professionals and agencies working with adults, children, young people (ACYP) and families have disagreements and disputes. 

This protocol deals with resolving cross-agency disagreement. For disagreements within the same agency, staff should consult their internal escalation protocol.

Any resolution should:

  • be timely
  • not negatively impact the day-to-day working with adults and their safeguarding


This is a good practice multi-agency protocol. It is designed to provide a clear process and timescales. People working with ACYP and families in Lincolnshire can challenge colleagues from another agency and can effectively escalate concerns in a timely manner.


Partnership and accountability are cross-cutting themes throughout children’s and adults’ legislation.  They underpin all safeguarding work as set out in legislation and statutory guidance.

Good practice requires professional and constructive challenge amongst colleagues within agencies and between agencies. At times, staff may be concerned that agreed actions or concerns regarding an ACYP are:

  • not being addressed
  • not being acted upon timely and consistently

Staff are then expected to use this protocol to reach a suitable outcome that is in the best interests of the ACYP. Individual agencies are responsible for:

  • ensuring robust feedback
  • completion of recommendations or planned actions

These actions should be explained at reviews where they are not completed or within timescales.  A new or alternative plan should be devised with timeframes.

Professional disagreement

At times there may be professional differences of opinion and judgement. This guidance is designed to assist agencies and their staff resolve such differences. The most common reasons for disagreements are:

  • differing views of threshold eligibility
  • a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities
  • requirements for multi-agency meetings
  • the need for action and communication

Some examples of disagreements are:

  • over the handling of referrals between agencies, which can impact negatively on:
    • positive working relationships
    • the ability to safeguard and promote the welfare of ACYPs
  • differing views with respect to whether an ACYP meets the criteria for a safeguarding concern form
  • about the need for attendance at a strategy meeting
  • about an appropriate setting for an ACYP with multiple care and support needs
  • over the outcome of assessments
  • over the sharing of information and or provision of services by an agency
  • in respect of the outcome of a medical examination
  • an agency is not in agreement with another agency’s decision or reasoning to close a case
  • there are issues of transition, for example, from children's to adult services
  • 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
  • differing views with respect to whether an ACYP meets the criteria for a safeguarding concern form
  • a difference of opinion about an ACYP's continuing care
  • a professional is concerned about the action or inaction of another professional regarding an ACYP

Core principles

If staff and agencies believe there is a risk to the immediate safety or wellbeing of an ACYP they have a duty to:

  • take action
  • escalate concern

All agencies must support their workers in knowing how to escalate concerns and disagreements about an ACYP's wellbeing appropriately.

Professional concerns or disagreements may detract the focus from safeguarding the ACYP. It is paramount that during any professional disagreement priority is given to:

  • the safeguarding and wellbeing of the ACYP at risk
  • the ACYP wishes, feelings and desired outcomes
  • resolving the matter in a timely manner

Sometimes there is a disagreement about care arrangements.  It is good practice for the ACYP to remain in the care setting until the escalation has been resolved. The ACYP’s needs must be fully met. They must only remain in an inappropriate setting for as long as is necessary.  All partners must prioritise relevant assessments to enable safe, appropriate and timely discharge.

All agencies' staff must ensure discussions and outcomes are recorded in the agencies’ records and the ACYP's file.

Care should be taken to agree a way of managing conflict.  This will allow ACYPs and families to understand the issues under discussion.

This protocol is not designed to replace any agencies’ complaints processes.  It should not be used for complaints about a specific professional where their agency’s complaints or allegations procedure applies.

This protocol should be read and utilised alongside the agencies’ and LSAB procedures.

Escalation can be via telephone, face-to-face, email or a meeting.  All escalation must be recorded in the single agency records.  This will ensure that the procedure is effective and transparent.

Staff should contact their agency safeguarding lead if unsure of whom to contact for cross-agency escalation.

Escalation and resolution steps

Step 1 direct professional to professional discussion

Differences of opinion or judgement should be discussed amongst frontline professionals.  Attempts should be made to achieve a shared understanding and agree on a local resolution.  The resolution should align with the plan or ensure a plan is developed if needed.

Care should be taken to agree a way of managing conflict.  This will allow ACYPs and their families to understand the issues under discussion. An acknowledgement must be provided immediately.  Within 48 hours (two working days) of the initial discussion, an agreed action plan should be developed.  It must detail how the conflict will be resolved and include clear timescales.

Step 2 direct manager to manager discussion

If step 1 does not resolve the issue, 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 two line managers should then liaise to try to reach a resolution. This discussion must occur within five working days of step 1. They may consult senior managers within each organisation if this would assist resolution. An agreed plan of action must be developed, including clear timescales.

Step 3 direct SLO or equivalent to SLO or equivalent discussion

If steps 1 and 2 do not reach a resolution, the agencies' senior liaison officer or equivalent (SLOE) should be contacted immediately.  They will liaise with the other agency's SLOE or assist in resolving the conflict as appropriate. A mutually agreeable action plan, including timescales, should be in place within 48 hours (two working days). For children SLO contact details use our find a liaison officer search.  For adult SLOs' contact details email

Step 4

a) Urgent resolution required, LSAB or LSCP independent chaired meeting

Sometimes, the SLOs or equivalent cannot resolve the issue causing conflict between professionals and agencies.  A meeting should be convened with an independent chair selected from the LSAB or LSCP partner organisations.  The director who holds safeguarding responsibility for each respective agency will be consulted on the meeting.

The meeting will be a forum where the agencies can discuss the case and conflict issue.  It will be chaired and minuted with the resolution agreed and recorded. The meeting should take place as soon as possible with a date set within one working day of step 3.

b) Non-urgent and, or lessons learned

SLOs can advise that the learning points from a non-urgent case be referred for interagency consideration to:

  • LSAB
  • LSCP significant incident review group

At this point, the group may make recommendations for:

  • individual agencies to review performance and, or involvement
  • LSAB policy and procedural review and development
  • LSCP review via the policy, procedure, education and training subgroup (PPET)

At every discussion stage the actions should occur within the stated timescales.  They must be followed up in writing between the agencies and in the single agency record.

Outside of working hours

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