This site has learned that law firms and councils are unlawfully coercing parents into signing informal agreements which forbid families from recording child protection meetings.
Clauses in an agreement asking a parent not to record conversations or exchanges with child welfare professionals are illegal, and are sometimes referred to in family proceedings as unlawful undertakings. Domestic undertakings set out in agreements are very rarely enforceable, and parents are not under any obligation to sign them. If you have signed an agreement prepared by a local authority or lawyer asking you to set aside your legal right to record communications in child welfare proceedings, you can withdraw your consent at any time.
This site has seen a copy of an agreement drawn up by a council which clearly states that the parent named in the document may not record any phone calls or meetings within their home or the local authority’s offices. Sources have also confirmed that lawyers and social workers are telling parents that they are legally obliged to sign these agreements.
Researching Reform has spoken with several parents who have all been asked to sign agreements containing an undertaking that they will not record child protection meetings or any communications between them and professionals involved in their cases. An experienced McKenzie Friend told this site that the practice was widespread and growing, as parents seek to record their meetings in order to highlight professional misconduct, and factual inaccuracies within reports produced after meetings.
Recording child protection meetings and communications is allowed, and while asking professionals for permission to do this is considered polite, it is not compulsory. Parents and family members involved in child welfare proceedings may record meetings and exchanges without telling professionals they are doing so.
Many thanks to the parents and lay advisers who spoke with us about this development.