How can a contact centre help?
1 September 2014 by Charlotte Knappett
Contact centres can play a vital role in family proceedings involving children, by providing a safe place where a non resident parent may have contact with his or her children.
The two main types of centre are those offering supported contact (usually supported by volunteers) and those offering to accommodate supervised contact, where a detailed record of the contact is made often for court purposes. Some contact centres are also able to facilitate indirect contact by way of letters, gifts, emails and Skype.
The use of a contact centre can assist in a number of situations. For example, when contact between a parent (or other family member) and a child is being resumed after a break or where safeguarding concerns, such as drug/alcohol use; allegations of domestic violence or child abuse (whether that be sexual abuse, emotional abuse or physical abuse) have been raised and established or require investigation. In some circumstances, handover arrangements at the contact centre can be managed in such a way that parents do not actually meet each other at the centre.
The majority of centres are members of the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC). They are usually projects run by local charities or churches and are not funded by Government. Some have waiting lists, but throughout Essex there are a number of different centres, and places can usually be found within a few weeks.
There are a number of ways that contact can be arranged through a contact centre. Some allow you to refer yourself, but the most common way is via a referral from either a mediation service, your solicitor, a Cafcass officer or your social worker. Contact at a contact centre may be ordered by the court within family proceedings through a child arrangements order. The circumstances of your application and the possible risks attached to contact will be considered by the centre before contact can start taking place.
Further details about contact centres can be found on the NACCC website by clicking here.
Our website provides details of the options available to parents involved in disputes over children. Further details can be found here.