During the recent thematic review of the authorities` reactions to domestic persons, inspectors found that the agreements were widely applied in two administrations, although there was “no evidence of their effectiveness”. To me, that is to blame the victims. And as you can imagine, the inspectors saw no evidence of the effectiveness of these agreements. Given that the focus was not on the culprit – who was the source of the abuse and therefore the risk – this is hardly surprising. We know that written chords can be a really useful tool to change certain behaviours. As in written contracts where social workers and parents agree on conditions that parents sign, written agreements simply specify what type of behaviour is acceptable and what is not. Everything looks familiar. Before, as a social worker in the community, I was very frustrated when I was asked to write a written agreement in which a parent promised not to do anything that was illegal. If they are prepared to oppose the law of the land, what is the point of a written agreement? I was going to advance the argument of “cover la`s back” – they are often used to put parents on a failure, signing an agreement that is broken, so that it will provide evidence for a court that the parent cannot trust. But 68% believe that agreements have been used to protect the Agency and reassure social workers instead of supporting a family. Sometimes, social services will ask parents to sign an agreement, even if the children are in care to provide them with a framework for the work to be done and the changes to be made during an assessment period (going to appointments at the Addiction Agency, maintaining conditions at home, reporting relapses, etc.). Another SCR, published earlier this month on the death of Ayeeshia-Jayne Smith, criticized a deal that “was not helpful and presented an unrealistic expectation” to the mother. Adam Birchall, a senior social worker for children, youth and families in Solihull, says these agreements work well if there are a few “purchases” from the family and are specific to what they are asked to do.
The other aspect of the medal here is that a waiting contract can give parents a framework or guide for the kind of things they should focus on to make sure they keep their children or pick them up at the end of the process – but it is important for parents to understand that holding on to an agreement is not a guarantee of a particular outcome. Sometimes parents have ticked everything off the list, but there are concerns – for example, social workers may think that parents are just going through the applications without really understanding why they need to make changes, or maybe if they don`t really believe they were necessary.