Refusal to Engage and Disguised Compliance

Refusal to Consent or Engage

Some families will refuse to consent or cooperate when early help is suggested. Sometimes verbal consent will be given (as a result of a Safeguarding Referral) and then withdrawn when a professional or practitioner attempts to engage the family. Other families, were there have been no safeguarding concerns raised, will refuse offers of early help and maybe suspicious of professionals' intentions.

  • If the family has come to you through a referral from another agency, contact the referrer if the family refuse to engage. They may have a better relationship with the family and can support you with a warm handover / joint visit.
  • If you are attempting to contact a family by telephone, make attempts at different times of the day and on different days. Record these attempts on the family file. Check the number you have and look for an alternative in your records or on the referral if there is no response.
  • If you have an address and have not been able to make contact by telephone, you might consider calling at the property to leave an invitation to the family to make contact. The invitation should be an offer of support and include contact details of a named individual.

Concerns about Disguised Compliance

Disguised compliance, resistance and denial are common features of families with support needs. Apparent resistance may be the result of fear, stigma, shame, denial, ambivalence, or the parent's lack of confidence in their ability to change or lack of insight into their parenting capability and the impact on the children.

Indicators of disguised compliance can include:

  • missed appointments with lots of excuses
  • exaggerated cooperation and compliance
  • attempts to minimise professionals' concerns or denial of the impact of the lived experience of the child
  • aggressive or threatening behaviour when challenged
  • unjustified claims of progress being made or actions carried out and a refusal to discuss key issues whilst focusing on others that have less or no impact on the child
  • a lack of measurable progress despite apparent effort and cooperation from parents
  • parental agreement to change but not completing actions to achieve it
  • change occurring due to the efforts of other agencies rather than the parents.