This chapter was added to the manual in March 2017 after being introduced from January 2017.
There has been learning from Serious Care Reviews in other LA and this contains a model written agreement which is shown as completed document using fictitious names.
This guidance is to ensure appropriate use of Written Agreements.
- Written Agreement vs Written Undertaking
- Good Reasons to Use a Written Agreement
- Bad Reasons to Use a Written Agreement
- Before a Written Agreement in Embarked Upon
- Good Written Agreements Are
- Appendix 1: Model Written Agreement
- Appendix 2: Model Written Agreement
A Serious Case Review (Child H March 2015 Cambridgeshire) identified the need for a review of the use of written agreements, which had been relied on in that case.
Serious Care Reviews have noted that written agreements are used too often with little guidance and used as a means of attempting to put controls/boundaries around individuals and family’s behaviours.
This guidance is aimed at supporting staff in the appropriate use of written agreements and to avoid drift towards their inappropriate or dangerous use.
2. Written Agreement vs Written Undertaking
It is important to distinguish between a written agreement and a written undertaking.
The former is a partnership document which aims to clarify the detail of and sign up to a plan or a particular aspect of a plan.
A written undertaking is a means of obtaining evidence that a person has agreed to do or not do something. Written undertakings should only be used in emergencies and for short periods (hours/days) and when the practitioner judges that the individual is likely to comply, even if they do not like it e.g. a grandparent who has temporarily assumed care of a child agreeing not to allow unsupervised contact with a parent for the duration of a Child Protection Assessment/Section 47 Enquiry.
3. Good Reasons to Use a Written Agreement
- To provide family members and professionals with clarity about the detail of what they have agreed or are being required to do;
- To crystallise what has already been agreed or particular aspects of it;
- To clarify the aim or goal of work/planned actions;
- To clarify timescales for work/planned actions;
- To establish clarity about the consequences of success and failure of planned actions;
- To clarify what the contingency plan(s) is/are.
4. Bad Reasons to Use a Written Agreement
- To coerce individuals to behave in ways which they are reluctant/refusing to; (Coercion is sometimes required and appropriate but should be pursued in other more effective ways);
- As an attempt to put controls around a situation which has been out of control. Remember, it is only a piece of paper;
- To reassure concerned professionals and managers that a concerning situation is being appropriately addressed;
- Because a previous written agreement has been reneged upon;
- Because other attempts at control (legal orders, child protection planning) have been sought but not obtained. In these circumstances, a written agreement could provide a dangerous illusion of compliance.
5. Before a Written Agreement in Embarked Upon
- Discussion of all aspects of what might go into the agreement should be undertaken with all participants before anything is committed to paper; do not start with a draft drawn up by a professional because the likelihood of ‘ownership’ by service users and other professionals will be reduced;
- Explain and discuss why a written agreement could help;
- Explore participants' willingness, confidence and capacity in the proposed written agreement: Do they want to do it? Do they think it will work? Do they have the resources to make it work?
- Decide what all participants are committing to, not just family members; include any input/support which professionals are going to provide as well as expectations of family members;
- After doing all of the above, nominate one or two participants (if two, one should be a family member and one a professional) to produce a draft for everyone to subsequently discuss before signing; involving family in this way promotes ownership and compliance.
6. Good Written Agreements Are
- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited;
- Balanced - clarify everyone’s full undertakings;
- Clear about their aim/goal;
- Consistent with and usually based upon other existing plans e.g. Child Protection Plans, Care Plans, Family Group Conference plans;
- Clear about the consequences of failure to deliver, for family members and professionals;
- Clear about contingencies;
- Written in clear language without jargon or acronyms;
- Clear about when they will be reviewed.
Written agreements are only effective if they are monitored rigorously, breaches dealt with quickly and the specified consequences of compliance or non-compliance implemented.
A model written agreement is appended - the names used in this model are fictitious.
For further information see: Local Resources.