In a recent twitter storm (or perhaps more accurately, a surge) there was a great exchange of ideas between Aotearoa and UK social workers, lawyers and service user advocates on the topic of the term ‘disguised compliance’ in child protection. We say ‘surge’ because it was a powerful and constructive exchange rather than the sometimes personal, incoherent and bitter fights that can erupt in that forum.
The discussion itself was prompted by an article ‘Disguised Compliance – Or Undisguised Nonsense‘ written by an English lawyer Paul Hart critiquing the term on two counts: that it doesn’t really describe what it attempts to (that it should be called ‘disguised NON compliance’) and that, more worryingly, it’s used in a kind of medical diagnosis way to describe almost any kind of hesitance or reluctance to engage on the part of people engaged with child protection services. In some cases, its power as an interpretive lens has become so broad that it can put people in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ position where almost anything they do is viewed suspiciously. Another article ‘We need to rethink our approach to disguised compliance‘ by David Wilkins similarly expressed concern about how commonplace the term had become , not just in “relation to (suspected or actual) manipulation or intent to deceive. Rather, it can be used as a catch-all term in relation to almost any signs of resistance or even just ambivalence on the part of the parent”.
On the other hand, active manipulation of facts can obscure what is actually happening for a child. Anyway, one of the main players in this discussion, Jadwiga Leigh, has put the various threads of this discussion into the neat Storify page below. We are curious to know in our Aotearoa New Zealand context – do practitioners here see it being used in the same way? Is it used too widely here? Or has it maintained its specific usage and is generally helpful?