We are delighted that Baroness McIntosh of Pickering has agreed to accept the position as Vice President of NACCC. Baroness McIntosh writes about how she has helped raise the profile of NACCC and child contact centres with the House of Lords and how this work is continuing:
I became interested in the work of child contact centres many years ago as a young Scottish advocate who was instructed by the Court to assess which parent was most suitable for ‘custody’ (now residence) of the children and whether non-resident parents had suitable premises for children to visit. Through this work I became convinced that, whilst the safety of a child is paramount, a child can only truly thrive through regular contact with both their parents.
When the opportunity arose to help the child contact centre movement I was only too happy to do so, by sponsoring the Accreditation Bill which was read, for the second time, in the House of Lords in February of this year. The aim of the Bill is to ensure the same protection for all children and families using all child contact centres and services. If enacted, this Bill would have required all Local Authority services to operate to the same high standards as accredited contact centres and be subject to the same accreditation and re-accreditation procedure. This is a call for consistent standards to be required across the jurisdiction of England and Wales and Northern Ireland so that every child can experience the same high level of care and safeguarding.
Unfortunately, the General Election in June intervened with the timetable to take this Bill forward. However, significant interest was created in the work of NACCC and child contact centres, so rather than reintroducing, the Bill I am now working to capitalise on this interest and in organising cross party meetings involving both House of Parliament determine how I can work with colleagues to see how we can give effect to the intention of the Bill.
We want to make sure that every child contact centre and service is operating to the same high standard to keep children safe. Since the introduction of Special Guardianships, the numbers of children experiencing contact facilities has grown significantly – many of these children’s experiences are determined by their Local Authority whose responsibility it is to offer guidance, advice and support in regard to the relevant services which includes contact.
It is important to point out that this Bill was in no way an attempt to over-extend NACCC’s role, rather the intention was to create a framework for consistency to undertake the vital work of accreditation and reaccreditation it has been charged with by successive governments. The purpose of the Bill is not to introduce new legislation but – as the provision of contact services is extended substantially and sub-contracted away from traditional providers – ensure that consistent standards are applied to all contact centres and services, regardless of whether these relate to public or private law and who has commissioned them.