This chapter was added to the manual in October 2018.
- Written Agreements
- Reasons to use a Written Agreement
- Good Practice Standards when using Written Agreements
- Appendix 1: Example of Written Agreement
- Appendix 2: Interim LCS Process for Written Agreements until LCS is Updated
Written agreements are frequently used by social workers in their work with children and families. Typically such agreements are used to help ensure the safety and welfare of children during periods of assessment and/or intervention, by outlining what is required from parents in terms of compliance with assessments and appointments, living arrangements or involving supervisory arrangements with other family members.
They are a useful tool but in order to be effective, they must be properly drawn up, shared, tracked and reviewed. The following practice guidance explains the purpose of written agreements and lays out standards to be applied when drawing up and using written agreements.
For specific information around the use of a pre-proceedings letter, meetings and schedule of expectations arising from a pre proceedings care planning meetings you should refer to Care Planning Protocol (within the Children Act 1989, Adoption and Children Act and Revised Public Law Outline 2013).
2. Written Agreements
A written agreement is a partnership document which aims to clarify the detail of and sign up to a plan or a particular aspect of a plan. Written agreements should only be in place until the conclusion of a C&F assessment or until the next CIN/CP/CLA meeting when the agreement should be incorporated within CIN/CP/Care Plan.
3. 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 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;
- A clear agreement until any issues can be incorporated into CIN, CP or Care Plan.
- 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;
- As a long term way of managing concerns.
4. Good Practice Standards when using Written Agreements
Written agreements should be clear, concise and not too long.
Written agreements should only be agreed when it can be demonstrated that this course of action is based on a clear risk assessment and that the risks are manageable.
Unannounced visits should always be made to 'spot check' that such agreements are being adhered to.
Changes cannot be made to written agreements without prior discussion and agreement from the Practice/Team Manager and relevant multi agencies.
At the earliest opportunity the agreed actions within the written agreement should be incorporated into CIN, CP or Care plans.
Breaches of the written agreements must be taken very seriously. The effectiveness of agreements is seriously undermined if families are allowed to breach them repeatedly.
Contingencies should be spelt out and can include a decision to end the agreement, reconvene the Core Group or Conference, seek a legal planning meeting or initiate legal action.
Where a decision has been made to end the written agreement, or it is no longer required, this decision should be communicated in writing to carers and parents and all the agencies involved with the family.