Child Contact Centres
A contact centre is a safe and friendly environment for children to spend time with a parent(s) or other family members in circumstances where families have separated. The centre will provide facilities to ensure children of all ages are comfortable such as toys, board games, kitchens, toilets and so forth. The contact centres remain impartial throughout and work closely with the separated parents/families to ensure an efficient service is provided and contact can be arranged.
Who manages the centres and how are they funded
All the centres are expected to be affiliated to the National Association of Child Contact Centres and to follow their National Standards. The centres are often run by charities and are funded by grants. Contact centres offer either supervised contact, supported contact or both. Centres that offer supported contact only usually offer a free service but some charge a fee. Centres that offer supervised contact almost always charge a fee.
What services do contact centres provide?
Supervised contact takes place when a referral has been made by a public body such as the Court, Cafcass or the local authority. The referral is made in cases where the public body believes the child has suffered or could potentially suffer harm during contact. The contact takes place in the contact centre and is supervised by a member of staff at all times who also records details of the session and prepares a report. The allocated member of staff is required to pre-read details of the case, including any health records of the child and court orders before supervising contact. If parents do not wish to meet, the contact centres can arrange for this.
- Supported contact is used in cases where there are no welfare risks identified in relation to the child. Supported contact requires contact centres to facilitate contact and essentially support the parent not living with the child to have contact with the child in a safe venue. Members of staff are present at the centre but a detailed report is not produced and contact is not observed. Again, parents do not have to meet in order for supported contact to take place.
- Handover is a service available at contact centres to drop off/pick up children without meeting the other parent.
- Supervised Contact Assessments take place in circumstances where contact is proving unworkable, prevented or has broken down. The contact centres undertake assessments to establish an appropriate course of action. The staff at the centre will take necessary steps and work closely with the child in a manner appropriate for the child’s age and understanding, often without the presence of either parent. This will assist the contact centre when making recommendations on how contact should progress. Typically the centre will also undertake interviews of the parents (either together or separately), interviews of other adults involved in contact and possibly involvement of schools and doctors.
- Escorted contact is accompanied contact by a member of staff outside of the contact centre, typically to places like the shopping centre, bowling, the park and a detailed report is created. Escorted contact usually takes place after consistent supervised contact sessions have successfully taken place at the contact centre.
- Life story/identity contact is used where a child has very little or no knowledge of their parent before contact starts and has not seen their parent for some time. The contact centre could prepare a plan to help the child develop knowledge about their parent. A report is prepared by a member of staff outlining the steps taken and the child’s reaction.
- Indirect contact often takes place where there are concerns with direct contact taking place or as a means to reintroduce a parent into the child’s life after prolonged period of time where no contact has taken place. The contact centre can facilitate indirect contact such as delivery letters, cards, gifts exchange, emails or skype.
Where is my nearest contact centre?
Your nearest contact centre can be found here.
If you have any questions about child contact issues, please do get in touch with a member of Neves’ Family department.