Sometimes there may be disagreements between staff in relation to decisions made during the safeguarding adults process. This chapter provides information for multi-agency practitioners about the likely causes of such differences of opinion and the process involved for resolving them.


Safeguarding Enquiries

1. Introduction

There are occasions where there may be a difference of professional opinion and judgement in relation to decisions made and courses of action agreed in the safeguarding adults process. Disagreements between professionals in the same organisation should be dealt with using the agency’s internal procedures. Where there is disagreement between agencies, however, this falls under the remit of the local Safeguarding Adults Board to resolve.

Hopefully the majority of disagreements will be resolved in a timely and agreeable manner. But however long it takes to resolve a professional disagreement, the quality of the safeguarding process provided to the adult who is experiencing or at risk of experiencing abuse or neglect, and their carer, must not be affected. Adults and their carers must remain the central focus of the safeguarding professionals at all times.

This chapter does not apply for adults or carers who do not agree with decisions that have been made or services which are provided. See Complaints or Appeals in Relation to the Safeguarding Adults Process.

2. Possible Areas of Disagreement

There are a number of areas where inter-agency disagreements are more likely to occur. These include:

  • differing views on whether a referral meets the threshold for a safeguarding enquiry;
  • the safeguarding adults team decide the referrer should provide more information before a referral is progressed;
  • there is disagreement as to whether or not the safeguarding procedures should be implemented;
  • there is a difference of professional opinion in relation to the outcome at any point of the safeguarding process, for example enquiry, strategy discussion, case conference or safeguarding plan;
  • there is a difference of opinion in relation to sharing information and / or provision or services;
  • there is disagreement about whether an appropriate action plan is in place to safeguard the adult;
  • there is a difference of opinion as to when the case should be closed by the safeguarding team.

Where there are disagreements all discussions and outcomes should be fully documented, including dates and times. Records should ensure that issues in dispute are clearly and objectively recorded and should include the thinking behind the issues and actions taken (see Case Recording chapter).

3. Step 1: Preventing Disagreements

The majority of disputes should be able to be resolved through discussion and negotiation directly between the professionals involved, and this should take place within one working day. Where they are unable to do so, they must report the disagreement to their line manager as soon as practicable. This may initially be by email notification to ensure they are aware of the dispute, if a face to face meeting is not possible. The disagreement and management response should be recorded on file (see Case Recording chapter).

Where resolution was not possible between the involved professionals, unless they relate to more complex situations, relevant line managers should be able to resolve most disagreements between them. Contact between them should take place within one working day, the purpose being to review the available information and to resolve the concern. It may be useful for the respective agencies’ designated safeguarding leads to be involved at this stage, instead of line management. This should be decided by the relevant line managers. Discussions should be recorded on file with relevant manager sign off.

The relevant line managers should be informed of the outcome of this step of the resolution process, including agreed actions. This should also be recorded on the adult’s file.

4. Step 2: Informal Dispute Resolution

Where line managers are not able to resolve the disagreement, the dispute should be referred without delay to second tier managers (service manager equivalent). The relevant managers should first discuss the issue within their agency, particularly with their designated safeguarding leads, before trying to resolve the situation between them. This decision and further discussions should be recorded on file with relevant manager sign off.

5. Step 3: Formal Dispute Resolution

If the matter still remains unresolved, the matter should be referred to the appropriate head of service within the involved agencies, who all discuss the matter with a view to resolution. Previous efforts to resolve the situation should be discussed, and in particular the main points of concern. This decision and further discussions should be recorded on file with relevant manager sign off.

A decision and way forward will need to be agreed between the heads of service.

6. Step 4: Disagreements Remain Unresolved

In the unlikely event the disagreement remains unresolved, the matter must be referred to the chair of the Safeguarding Adults Board who will decide the outcome of the resolution, in conjunction with other Board members. This decision and next steps should again be recorded on file with relevant manager sign off.

Consideration should be given to holding a multi-agency case review, in all cases where it has not been possible to resolve differences and / or where there may be lessons to be learned for multi-agency cooperation and practice.

At any stage of the process, any action agreed should be fed back immediately to all staff involved and the detail of the disagreement and outcome should be recorded on the adult’s file.

All disputes should be resolved in a timely way and must ensure the wellbeing and safety of the adult is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect is not compromised.

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