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Partnership and Collaborative Working

Partnership and collaborative working is the cornerstone for good practice. Without this, the impact on families can lead to confusion, feeling overwhelmed and pulled in different directions, and eventually disengaging with support and services.

Having good, regular communication is fundamental to the process.


Partnership Ladder

If we consider the Partnership ladder below (adapted from Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation) to evaluate where we might be on this ladder and then consider how we might improve individually and organisationally.

  • Conflict- nobody wants to work with each other
  • Competition- don’t tell anyone else but I think we’ve solved it
  • Co-existence- you do your thing, we’ll do ours
  • Compliance- agree partnership is a good idea but do little or nothing to actually support it.
  • Co-operation- agree partnership is a good idea and provide help and support when you have spare capacity
  • Co-ordination- adjust what you do to avoid the major issues
  • Collaboration- agree to work together on the major issues
  • Co-ownership- you believe that working together, will benefit all and bring a ‘Partnership Dividend’
  • Full partnership- Partners acknowledge individual purpose to the Partnership

Through full partnership working, partners work together to deliver joined up solutions and support for children and families. This includes sharing geographical data, statistics and local intelligence in order to plan services and share resources.

Improving the way we work:

Traditional approaches to service delivery often involve tackling recurring issues, with multiple agencies working in isolation. By working in partnership we can identify and respond to problems more effectively and efficiently in a seamless approach for families.

How can we do this?

During this project there were a number of good practice ideas shared across agencies along with frustrations regarding sharing information and clear communication across agencies.

Hints & Tips

When a number of practitioners are supporting a family: create an email group in contacts under the case number or initials to share information and update one another, also to arrange meetings. Remembering to only use initials/case number in the body of the message as well as the subject line.

Multi Agency/Network Meetings:

Purpose of Meetings

Network Meetings provide an opportunity for professionals involved with a family to come together not only to share information, but also to help determine the direction of a case and the plan for a child; they may be held to resolve uncertainty, controversy or inter-agency disagreement. They may be helpful where there are particularly complex family concerns, with extensive professionals/networks.

It is important to recognise that these meetings should supplement and not replace existing good practices of engaging family members in assessment and planning activity.

Who can convene Meetings?

Any professional involved or part of the multi-agency group or their Manager can request a network meeting.

It would be helpful, but not essential, for a Manager or other senior staff who is not directly involved with the case from any agency to Chair the meeting and facilitate discussion; otherwise, the meeting should be chaired by the Lead Professional.


Initially practitioners may bring partial or biased information to the multi-agency meeting and there may be competing interpretations of a situation.  Any decisions reached need to be based on the best information available and be as objective and fair as possible.  It is important to understand the relevance of any information presented and to analyse it is terms of relevance for the child.  Professionals should seek to see the situation through the eyes of the child.  Intuition should not be ignored but requires exploration and consideration against the full range of information available.

Group decisions can be dominated by a desire to avoid conflict rather than a determination to establish the facts.  The tendency to hold on to first impressions can result in fixed views and a reluctance to reconsider even in the light of new information.  The introduction of challenge from someone who does not have direct involvement with the case and use of standardised tools to measure progress will help to mitigate against unhelpful processes.


Effective multi agency working and the Lead Professional (LP) are key elements of improving outcomes for children and young people through the provision of integrated support.

  • The child, young person, parents/ or carers are fully involved in all decisions regarding the help and support they receive;
  • Parents/carers, and where appropriate, children and young people are equal members of the multi-agency team.
  • Joined-up, seamless support is provided to the family, no matter how many professionals, services, teams and agencies are involved;
  • Professionals from the same and different services work closely together within a clear structure, which places the needs of the child, young person and their family at the heart of all planning and delivery of services;
  • Practice is outcome driven, focused on solutions and helps the family to become more resilient, and self-reliant.
  • The support provided accounts for the child and family’s priorities, their cultural background and their values.

When Professionals Disagree

There may be times when professionals disagree about the decision being made, regarding the level of need of a particular child.

It is important that professionals should feel that their concerns have been considered. If a professional is unhappy with a decision that has been made regarding a referral, they should be confident in challenging the referral decision. Use the BSCB’s Escalation, Challenge and Conflict Resolution procedure for guidance.