CSCP Escalation and Resolution Policy

Guidelines for responding to professional disagreement in safeguarding children cases.


Purpose & Scope of Policy

The purpose of this policy is to explain what to do when any professional has a concern or disagreement with another agency’s decision or action related to a child. It aims to keep the focus on the child’s safety and well-being by promoting a culture of professional challenge and providing the framework for timely and effective resolutions.

Working Together 2023 states that 'clear escalation policies for staff to follow when their child safeguarding concerns are not being addressed within their organisation or by other agencies’ should be in place. Similarly, Keeping Children Safe in Education promotes that - ‘if, after a referral, the child’s situation does not appear to be improving, the referrer should consider following the local escalation procedures’. This policy therefore relates to the multi-agency children’s workforce working with children and families receiving support and services at Early Help, Child in Need, Child Protection, and Looked After Children. This policy should be read in conjunction with the London Child Protection Procedures, Part B1 Chapter 11 ‘Professional Conflict Resolution’.

This policy does not replace the need for single-agency dispute resolution procedures which should be in place to manage disputes on decisions between internal services (such as Children’s Social Care CERPs).

Nor is this policy a complaint policy – if there is a complaint about professional conduct or a particular single agency policies should be followed. If the complaint is about the decisions of the Croydon Safeguarding Children Partnership, it should be directed to the CSCP Executive Group who should alert the CSCP Independent Scrutineer.

This Escalation and Resolution Policy promotes both an informal (Stages 1- 2) and formal (Stages 3 -5) approach to resolving issues that arise.

This policy is reviewed biennially by the CSCP Quality Improvement Group.


Problem resolution is an integral part of joint working to safeguard children, and professional challenge is a fundamental part of professional responsibility. In this context, escalation and resolution is about raising concerns or challenging decisions about practice or actions which, according to those holding the concerns, may significantly impact the protection and well-being of the child(ren).

Occasionally situations may arise when professionals within an agency consider that the decision made by professionals from another agency is not an adequate or a safe decision. Many professional challenges will be resolved on an informal basis by contact between the professionals and agencies involved.

However, drift arising out of professionals’ differences should be avoided; unresolved concerns should be addressed using this policy.

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

  • Deciding levels of safeguarding and protection needs
  • Roles and responsibilities of agencies
  • Quality and progression of plans at Early Help, Child in Need, Child Protection, or for Looked After Children
  • Professional vocabulary and communication issues
  • Understanding professional perspectives.

In some instances, finding a way forward may not include changes to original decisions. However, through raising concerns and improving shared understanding through effective dialogue, the overall quality and robustness of the decisions will be greater.

Principles and Stages of Escalation

The policy applies the following principles to help ensure that best practice is upheld, these should be applied to both informal (Stages 1-2) and formal (Stages 3-5) approaches to resolving disputes:

  • The Child's Safety is the focus
  • Critically Reflective
  • Restorative in approach
  • Relationships and dialogue are valued
  • Professional challenge and curiosity are valued

The Child’s Safety is the Focus

Disputes should never leave a child at risk; disputes should be raised promptly and at the earliest opportunity. Maintaining an outcome focus on making the child safer, rather than focusing on processes - promotes openness between and amongst the professional network.

Critically Reflective

Where differences and disputes arise, or difficulties in complex and ‘stuck’ cases - it is important that critical reflective practice is upheld. Different professions and disciplines will hold particular theories of knowledge, practice, and opinions on what action is required. This policy supports convening a shared reflective and purposeful discussion to inquire and map professionals’ views, approaches, and interventions on the case. The CSCP supports the use of a multi-agency reflective group consultation, to help unpick the presenting challenges and difficulties to achieve improved coherence of the issues and agreement to a way forward.

Restorative in approach

Maintaining a principle of restorative approach helps create behaviours that are respectful of relationships, helping achieve effective and positive dialogue. An understanding of shared responsibility can be strengthened by ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and different positions understood; when all professional views and expertise are shared best outcomes for a child can be generated.

Relationships and dialogue are valued

Across and between the child and family’s network professional relationships must be established and maintained through effective dialogue, especially at points of transition and hand-over. Where differences, disputes, or difficulties arise - direct and active dialogue should be prioritised to enable shared perspectives, and exchange of information and ensure the inclusion of the professional network in making decisions.

Professional curiosity and challenge are valued

By maintaining an open stance to receive and provide information – the act of asking questions of other professionals and responding to questions can help avoid assumptions, reduce defensiveness, and encourage a move away from ‘knowing positions’. At all stages, it should be considered that whilst decisions may not change, any challenge to those decisions will be of benefit to the quality and robustness of those decisions.


Resolving disagreements in safeguarding - Stages of Escalation

It should always be clear that no child is at immediate risk of harm while disputes are being resolved, with resolutions focused on the child’s needs. The agency with concerns should discuss them with their line manager or safeguarding lead. If concerns persist, proceed to Stage 1.

Important reminders:

  • Each stage should be completed within 7 working days or less, with all efforts made to resolve at the earliest opportunity
  • Concerns should be specific, evidence-based and accurately recorded on the child’s record. Discussions and outcomes of disagreements should be recorded.
  • A multi-agency group reflective consultation should be actively considered at Stage 3, this is for cases that are stuck, or matters are proving difficult to resolve 
  • The CSCP has the responsibility to identify practice and procedural issues, the Escalation Notification Form should be used and submitted at Stages 3, 5, and 5 as appropriate
  • The principles of this policy underpin its application and should be considered when raising concerns
  • These processes may not fit neatly into all agencies management structures; the principles and processes should be applied as best as possible.

flow chart illustrating the stages of escalation

Recording and reporting

At all stages, a record should be kept on the child’s record within each agency’s case management systems. In particular, this must include written communication about agreed outcomes and how outstanding issues will be pursued.

The CSCP will report on specific issues or recurring themes relating to practice and policy issues. This data will be collated from submitted Escalation Notification Forms and will be referred to the Quality Improvement Group for its recommendations on which aspects of practice or policy should be addressed. This data will also be used in the Annual Report.