Escalating a Concern & Whistleblowing

Escalating a Concern

Occasionally situations arise when workers within one agency feel that the decision made by a worker from another agency on a safeguarding adult case is not a safe decision. Disagreements could arise in a number of areas, but are most likely to arise around:

  • Threshold for intervention
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • The need for action
  • Communication

The safety of adults at risk is the paramount consideration in any professional disagreement and any unresolved areas should be addressed with due consideration to the risks that might exist for the adult. All workers should feel able to challenge decision-making and to see this as their right and responsibility in order to promote the best multi-agency safeguarding practice.

Effective working together depends on an open approach and honest relationships between agencies. Problem resolution is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working to safeguard adults at risk. Resolution should be sought within the shortest timescale possible to ensure the adult at risk is protected. Disagreements should be resolved at the earliest possible time.

Escalation Process

Stage 1 – Professional to professional – Any worker who feels that a decision is not safe or is inappropriate should initially consult a supervisor/manager to clarify their thinking in order to identify the problem; to be specific as to what the disagreement is about; an what they aim to achieve.

Stage 2 – Manager to Manager – If the problem is not resolved at stage one the concerned worker should contact their supervisor/manager within their own agency who should raise concerns with the equivalent supervisor/manager in the other agency.

Stage 3 – Senior manager to senior manager – If the problem is not resolved at stage two the supervisor/manager reports to their respective operations manager or named/designated safeguarding representative. These two managers must attempt to resolve the professional differences through discussion.

Stage 4 – Safeguarding Board – If it is not possible to resolve the professional differences within the agencies concerned the matter should be referred to the Chair of the OSAB, via the Business Manager. The Chair may seek to resolve the issue directly, or to convene a multi-agency panel to resolve the issues.


Most organisations providing services to vulnerable people are required to have a whistle-blowing policy and procedures.

A whistle-blowing system essentially allows staff to bypass internal systems if they feel that overall management is engaged in improper conduct. This could include situations where a staff member feels serious abuse by other staff is not being addressed by management. In some cases this can be referred to as ‘institutional abuse’.

Ask to see your organizations/agencies whistle-blowing procedures.

According to the national charity, Public Concern at Work, a whistle-blowing policy should contain the following points that:

  • The organisation takes malpractice seriously, giving examples of the type of concerns to be raised, so distinguishing a whistle-blowing concern from a grievance.
  • Staff have the option to raise concerns outside of line management and have explained the avenues open to them to raise concerns.
  • Staff are enabled to get confidential advice from an independent body
  • The organisation will, when requested, respect the confidentiality of a member of staff raising a concern.

Where concerns are held about a vulnerable adult regarding malpractice or misconduct in a workplace or by employees of an organisation/agency, those concerns should in most circumstances be raised with the organisation/agency involved. This provides workers with the greatest degree of protection and the employer with a chance to address the concerns.

However, there may be some circumstances where the person feels at risk of being victimised, dismissed by their employer or has good reason to believe that the employer will not take the appropriate action, i.e. having already raised concerns with the employer and received an unsatisfactory response. The provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 may protect a person for raising concerns outside the workplace providing:

  • The disclosure is made in good faith
  • The disclosure is substantially true
  • The disclosure is not made for personal gain
  • There is good reason to believe that they would be victimised, that a cover-up would occur or that the matter has already been raised

Whistle-blowing do’s and don’ts


  • Keep calm
  • Think about the risks and outcomes before you act
  • Remember you are a witness, not a complainant
  • Phone Public Concern at Work
  • (PCaW) for advice: 020 7404 6609


  • Forget there may be an innocent or good explanation
  • Become a private detective
  • Use a whistle-blowing procedure to pursue a personal grievance
  • Expect thanks