Conflict is a part of all our lives. Without conflict, there can be no progress. However, conflicts left unresolved or unacknowledged can also hinder progress. It’s important to be at peace and not only recognise a conflict or a disagreement, but to voice it and resolve it, ideally through meaningful dialogue.


In social care, disputes arise just as they do in any other place of work, whether it’s between colleagues, or employees and employers. Due to social care being a regulated industry where there are very clear guidelines to meet, however, conflicts can be more commonplace than other sectors. In addition, the decision to use a social care service is often wrought with emotion, particularly when those involved are having a difficult time taking care of their family or loved ones.

The three most common types of conflict in social care include:

  • Workplace disputes between staff and their managers. This could involve safeguarding matters or whistleblowing.
  • Regulatory disputes between care providers and the authorities. For instance, a care provider may not be able to evidence that its actions were in line with regulatory requirements or government guidelines.
  • Family disputes with providers. This type of conflict is expected to increase as the pandemic recedes and families seek redress for loved ones that may have suffered from COVID-19.

Currently, disputes in social care settings are increasingly common due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, pandemic fatigue amongst staff has caused heightened tension and therefore created an environment that is more prone to conflict.

Person-centred care is the way most social care providers like to describe their service; consider mediation as a person-centred approach to dispute resolution. Unlike the legal process, mediators don’t seek to rule that one party is wrong and another right, they instead look to find a resolution that is satisfactory to both or all parties in a confidential and cost-effective manner.

Here’s an example where mediation can help:

An employee makes a serious error on a shift where they were working short by three staff due to COVID-19 isolation rules. Disciplinary against the staff found gross misconduct, but was disputed as the employer had not provided suitable working conditions and/or support on the shift.

All social care providers want to retain staff, especially at this moment in time when vacancy rates are so high and the cost of new staff is ever-increasing, but often, once a dispute like the above example arises without mediation, the staff member involved may simply leave employment. Mediation can help to retain staff through meaningful, holistic dialogue that takes into consideration factors such as context, without going through the courts. This sensitive approach often results in a continued positive relationship between both employee and employer.