About contact centres

Yes, all new volunteers, staff and trustees at a child contact centre accredited by NACCC need to have an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before commencing work at the centre.

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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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All NACCC accredited child contact centres and the people who work in them, will work with you impartially. They are very experienced and understand the difficulties that families will encounter.

Sometimes, the system can feel very unfair, depending upon your situation. It is worth considering that the centre has nothing to gain by taking sides and their first concern will always be the child’s best interests.

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Yes, Child contact centres although accredited by the NACCC and running to our national standards are autonomous and it is solely their discretion on the referrals they accept or decline.

A centre is able to decline referrals that are court ordered, in this scenario we would advise you to go back to the court. It is generally good practice to speak with centres about availability, costs, timescales and referral criteria before court orders are made.

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Child contact centres will have measures in place for parents who do not want to meet their ex partner, this can be discussed at the point of first contact with the centre or within your pre visit.

Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures; it is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So, it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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Supported contact centres may be asked by family solicitors, social workers, mediators or the court to provide information on the dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. This is explained in the Judicial Protocol.

On occasions where there is a safeguarding concern, this will be prioritised and the centre have a legal duty to pass on this information to the relevant authorities, which usually will include them writing a report, in line with Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures.

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Yes, supported and supervised contact centres accredited by NACCC will have a set of rules. The rules will be explained to you during the contact pre visit/agreement meeting and then you will be asked to agree to the rules of the centre and sign the pre-visit agreement to confirm that you understand and are agreeing to adhere to them. Failure to do so will lead to the service being withdrawn.

Sample rules for parents using a contact centre – it is worth noting that any rules at a centre you might attend might vary from this list.

The rules are likely to include the following but do check with your local centre to be shown a copy of their rules:

  1. Please do not bring any other person with you unless previously agreed at the information meeting.
  2. Any person displaying violence, bad language, intimidation or aggression inside or directly outside of the contact centre will automatically lose their place at the centre.
  3. Aggressive and intimidating conduct towards staff will not be tolerated and may lead to place being withdrawn.
  4. Any person arriving at the centre under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave immediately and will lose their place.
  5. Smoking is not permitted inside the grounds of the centre.
  6. You must not access any other part of the building apart from the waiting room and the toilet if you are the person escorting the children.
  7. If you do not attend 2 contact sessions without informing the contact centre of a valid reason, your place will be allocated to another family.
  8. Children are the responsibility of parents at all times. Staff are at hand to help if needed.
  9. If contact has been delayed for whatever reason, the session may still go ahead only for the remaining time left.
  10. Visitors must arrive 10 -15 minutes prior to the escorting person and child arriving. The visitor must stay behind 10 -15 minutes after the session has ended.
  11. Please switch off mobile phone during contact sessions. Videoing is not allowed on our premises.
  12. Please DO NOT bring any balloons, flying toys, toy guns etc while at our centre.
  13. Please note staff (at supported contact centres) do not write reports or comment on contact sessions unless we feel there is a safeguarding issue. Only dates and times of attendance will be given out upon request.
  14. Please do not ask your children to pass gifts or belongings, money or messages (either verbally or written) to your ex-partner.
  15. Supported contact is a temporary measure used to re-establish trusting relationships. You are expected to move on and make your own contact arrangements in the near future.
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If you are having supervised contact the staff will write a summary of what happened at the session. You might see them writing or typing notes that help them remember what happened, but sometimes they have a great memory and will not need to take these notes whilst the session is happening.

Staff will record anything they consider relevant and this will often extend beyond just the session itself.

If you are unsure whether notes are being taken its ok to ask about this and the centre will be able to tell you if they are taking notes and who they will be sharing these with.

If there are no other professionals working with your family the centre will have agreed who to give the notes too. If there are other professionals, they would usually be able to see these notes. These professionals might then use these to think about the future and what might be best.

If you are having supported contact, you will not usually see any notes being taken. Supported centres will make notes about dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. If a centre has safeguarding concerns these will be shared in writing with relevant authorities in order to ensure the safety of children.

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The people who run child contact centres do this because the safety of children and families are important to them. They will do all they can to ensure that services are safe and effective.

NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process which shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

Centres engage in training in relation to the running of their services. They also have close working relationships with Local Safeguarding Children Boards to ensure that they understand how their practice protects children and that they are working to the best possible standards.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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This may be mentioned in a court order if contact is court ordered. This will also depend on the centre’s opening hours, availability and what is decided during your pre-visit at the centre.

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.
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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor the contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. If a party is not agreeable to contact you should seek some legal advice.

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A contact centre is a safe place for children to spend time with people that they care about that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before contact starts the centre will invite you to have a look round, meet the staff and see the centre. We call this a ‘pre-visit’. Your child and the family member that they live with will have a separate visit at another time. This visit is a good chance for you all to find out about how the centre will work with your family but it is also really important that you are able to share about your situation so that the centre staff can make sure that their service is going to be right for your situation. (See our other questions about what happens at a pre-visit for more detail)

As long as the pre-visits go well and the centre is still happy to accept your application you will be invited to come for your first contact session. A contact session is where you and your child can spend time together, do an activity or play a game.

Depending on if you are using a supported or a supervised centre (and also on the layout of the centre) there might be several families using the centre at the same time, or you might have the contact room to yourself with a member of staff observing.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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A self-referral is where you as parents each complete an application form to request that contact be set up at a child contact centre. In order for this to work well there may need to be some communication between you, in terms of liaising about dates and times of appointments for example.

If you are not allowed to contact your ex-partner, then it may not be possible to do a self-referral and you may need to get a third party such as a solicitor or mediator to complete a referral form on your behalf.

A self-referral application form will ask you to share information with the centre in order that they can set up contact safely for your child. This could include details of organisations helping you, details about your current circumstances and that of your children.

You can check on our Find a Centre service to see if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. NACCC’s Safe Referral System is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.

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Supported contact will not be suitable for any situation involving risk to children or adults; supported contact centres do not supervise contact or write reports but offer facilities where a family needs this for a defined period of time. They should only be used where safe and beneficial contact for the child can clearly take place.

Generally, the main differences between supported contact and supervised contact are as follows:

Supported contactSupervised contact
Risk levels*Where the risk is low – perhaps where communication has broken down following divorce or separation.Where the risk is high – perhaps following domestic abuse.
Description of serviceTypically in a contact centre possibly run by volunteers where other families might also be present. The adult having contact is responsible for the child they are spending time with.Takes place on a one-to-one basis in a contact centre where the staff are within sight and sound of the child at all times. Also in community locations once contact service is satisfied this is safe.
Type of NACCC accreditationNACCC’s standard accreditation for supported contact.NACCC’s enhanced accreditation for supervised contact.
ReportsOnly dates and times of attendances are recorded. Notes are not made during the session. Safeguarding concerns will be reported to the local authority.Notes are often made during the session which are used to compile a report following the contact.
Length of serviceShort term – can range from a few sessions to around six months. In exceptional circumstances this may be up to 12 months.Although can be short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.
Typical progressionAlthough can be a short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.         

*See also ‘How can I decide which level of contact is appropriate for the family I’m working with?’

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Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.

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This will depend on your current circumstances. In some cases the person that referred you to a centre will pay for the cost of you being there.

In other cases a court order might outline who is to pay for the cost of using a child contact centre.

Sometimes, one parent will cover the entire cost of this.

Sometimes it might be possible to make an agreement with the other parent where the cost is shared.

Why not speak to the centre or the person who referred you to see what might be possible?

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Some contact centres are run as profit making businesses and others are run as charities. There are also some run by councils. The way that the centre is run and the service you want to receive will have a big impact on the cost of the service.

Charities are often run by volunteers and funded in a number of different ways. When you are asked to pay at a charity, you are often not paying what it will be costing to run the service. Having this charge in place will support this charity to offer you the best service that is possible for them, but also ensure that they are there for children and families that might need them in the future.

Private businesses will be operating based on being profit making. They often have well established centres that are well maintained and well resourced. The people running these centres will be professionals. In these cases, the cost that you are asked to pay with contribute to the sustainability of the service.

Any cost associated with using a contact centre will be understood from the outset. It will be incredibly rare for costs to occur that you could not have anticipated. Sometimes, the person who referred you to a service might cover some of all the cost of using this. If you are ever unsure check with the contact centre or referrer for more information.

If the cost of using a contact centre is something that worries you – talk to them. There might be a way they can help, and you will not have been the first to be worried about this. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suit all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing are maintained.

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About my centre

Once your referral has been accepted by the centre, both parties will be invited to a pre-visit. This is where the centre will go through their ground rules, and you will have the opportunity to discuss with them if you are able to bring gifts and food.

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Once your referral has been accepted by the centre, both parties will be invited to a pre-visit. This is where the centre will go through their ground rules, and you will have the opportunity to discuss with them the use of cameras, mobile devices and photographs while at the centre. The contact centre will have their own processes relating to this.

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Seeing your child at a contact centre is a very emotionally provocative event for you and your child. Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for you and your child to build and strengthen your relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people that might make them feel insecure, until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then your child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, it is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned.

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In most cases your family will not have seen your children for even longer than you and they too will have been very hurt by this experience and keen to see them again.

Seeing your child at a contact centre is a very emotionally provocative event for you and your child. Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for you and your child to build and strengthen your relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people (or too many people that they have not seen for a long time) that might make them feel insecure, until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then your child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, It is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned. 

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.

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NACCC are a membership organisation, and the centres we accredit are run independently of NACCC and therefore have their own complaints process. In the first instance, you should ask the centre for a copy of their procedure; this will advise you on how to make a formal complaint to the centre.

Once you have followed the centre’s complaints process and if you remain unhappy you can complain to NACCC. It is important to be realistic about your expectations though and really clearly explain what outcome you would like to achieve. Bear in mind that our role at NACCC is to ensure the centre followed its procedure and not to re-investigate or look at evidence.

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Child contact centres should (almost) always be thought of as ‘short term stepping stones’. In most cases a centre would plan to support your family for around 3 – 6 months. It is hoped that after this time the children’s parents will be able to work together to make arrangements that better meet the child’s needs.

Having said this, there are some (very rare) circumstances where a centre might be needed for several years. If you think this might be the case in your situation, why not contact our advice line on 0115 948 4557 or contact your nearest centre to discuss your situation.

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Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures. It is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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At a supervised centre, it might be possible for a staff member to help you, or even to role model how to meet the basic care needs of your child. Where this is happening, it will always be because this is what is best for your child and will usually be because they are working with you to help you to gain the skills to do this independently.

At a supported centre, the people working there do not complete basic care tasks. The expectation would be that all parents using the service are competent at meeting all the needs of their children. Volunteers in supported centres will usually be happy to support you if you occasionally need this, but often this support would be limited to advice about how to meet your child’s needs and then you would independently act upon this.

If you have never changed a nappy, fed or winded a child before – talk to the centre about this. Don’t be embarrassed, there might be a way that they can support you. You definitely will not be the first or last parent that has worried about this.

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In supervised contact, observation reports are written following each session. These are intended to be a summary of the session that has taken place as opposed to verbatim reports. The centre will do their best to make sure these are appropriately detailed and accurate. There is also a process for ensuring that these are quality assured by a person different to the author.

The reports can be provided to a number of different people, and this will vary based upon the specifics of your family and the centre, so it’s always worth checking with them. Ideally, the centre will let you know at the pre-visit what information will be recorded and how this will be shared.

Typically, it might be reasonable to expect the following people to have access to reports, where it is identified that these people need this information:

  • Both parents
  • Any Other Person with Parental Responsibility.
  • Cafcass / FCA (if involved)
  • Foster carers (if involved)
  • Social Services (if involved)
  • Solicitors (if involved)
  • Courts (if involved)

If the courts have ordered contact with reports it may be the case that these reports then become the property of the court. In this scenario the relevant court order would usually outline who will have access to the reports. When it is deemed that reports are the property of the court, they must not be shared with parties other than those named, without the consent of the court.

In some cases, the child might also have access to contact reports, they would often be supported to access these by a professional, like a social worker.

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Ideally, you will always do all you can to make sure you follow the arrangements that you have in place. Your children will rely on you doing this, it can be really upsetting for them when arrangements are not consistent or if they get to a centre and then contact doesn’t happen.

If your attendance or time keeping for contact is inconsistent this can also be very distressing for the other parent and it is likely that this will not help you to develop a relationship with them that is in the best interests of your children.

However, there will always be those occasions where this is just not possible. The best thing to do it to contact the centre at the nearest opportunity so that they can make the necessary arrangements to re-schedule this in a way that is best for your child. If you do not give them enough notice, it might be their policy to still charge you for the session you cannot attend. It is always worth making sure you are aware of the rules around missed sessions and that you do not cancel if there is any way of avoiding this.

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Whilst you are in contact with your child it would not be usual for the other parent to be present.  Often, they won’t be in the session with you, but they might wait in the waiting room. Otherwise they might pop to the shops or find somewhere to buy coffee whilst they wait. The centre will always have a way to contact the person your children live with, so if support is needed it will never be too far away.

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About my situation

Many of the child contact centres we accredit accept self-referrals. This means that either party can initiate a referral. However, for a referral to be successful, both parties should be in agreement. Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor a contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. In this instance you would need to seek some legal advice.

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Where this is achievable, it is in your child’s best interests to be able to have a loving relationship with both of their parents, when this can be provided safely and consistently. Children manage well when their parents separate if they are fortunate to have parents able to show the children that that can work together in the interests of the children. Unfortunately, the same is not true when children are subjected to conflict or used by one parent to hurt the other. Therefore, finding a way to work together as separated parents is important.

To make a referral to a child contact centre both parents will need to agree for this to happen.

Where parents disagree about their children or do not speak at all, help may be sought from the following places:

  • Mutual friends can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Trusted family members can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Communicating in written form can assist communication, if people are careful not to abuse this or use emotionally charged language.
  • Communication Apps. There are several different apps available, but something like ‘Our Family Wizard’ can support parents to communicate in the short term, where other methods have not worked.
  • Mediation
  • Cafcass/Cafcass Cymru (if involved), Cafcass website also has a range of information.
  • Social Services (if involved).
  • Solicitors might support with communication. This can sometimes be intimidating for the other party so caution might be advisable here. Resolution members follow a code of practice and you can also access a free conversation with a local solicitor, barrister and mediator by registering on the Family Law Panel
  • Courts also provide an avenue for dispute resolution, where all other options have failed. Generally, this is best left as a last resort rather than a first point of call. You often will not get what you want in court and the process can be timely or expensive.
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Orders made by the court usually provide instructions that are for parents to follow. Centres can be bound by court orders and most of the time they will do their best to work within them.

However sometimes, this will not be possible. For example, on occasions it can happen that the court will order a centre to provide a service that they do not offer, or to provide a service that they cannot offer within the timescales allocated.

Common instructions from the court to centres might include dates for reports or a specific number of sessions to be offered. Typically, centres do follow these instructions and this works well. However, there might be other occasions where to do so is not deemed to be in the child’s best interests or might even place them at risk. This could be because of changes in information or sometimes as a result of new information that the court didn’t know when they made the order. When this happens the centre would be expected to act in the best interests of the child and if this means not following a court order then steps would usually be taken to make the court aware of this.

Different centres and courts will have different processes for dealing with this. Often the courts and centres will have an arrangement when appropriate alternatives will be offered. On other occasions your legal representatives might have a mechanism to overcome this. It is also possible that you might need to return to court to get orders changed so that they can be followed.

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You don’t have to have a court order to use child contact centre. You can set up contact direct by referring yourself (we call this a self-referral) or by getting a family solicitor or mediator to help you. However, if it is difficult to reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding contact then it may be that you will need a court order.

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For legal advice, it is important to speak to someone who is legally trained. If you do not have representation you might want to contact Only Mums or Only Dads for support or advice.

Generally speaking, if a court order has been made the people named in the order should abide by what is written into the order and there might be legal consequences for not doing this. If a court order is not practicable or something has changed since the order was written, you might want to consider accessing legal advice to ascertain whether the order will need changing.

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You can apply to see your grandchildren in a child contact centre, however all parties must be in agreement to make a self-referral successful. If legal assistance is required you can access a free legal conversation with a family law professional on the Family Law Panel Organisations that may also be useful for further advice are Grandparents Plus. Gransnet and Family Lives may be able to provide emotional support regarding lost contact.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional well-being are maintained.

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If you are concerned that your child is at immediate risk of harm or abuse then you must ring 999 and report this to the police.

If you live in England or Wales

If you are concerned that your child is not at immediate risk of harm or abuse but you are concerned that they are still at risk of harm or abuse then you should report it to your Social Services Department.

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 – help@nspcc.org.uk

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

If you live in Northern Ireland

If it is not urgent but you are concerned about the welfare of your child you can contact the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

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We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Most NACCC accredited child contact centres accept self-referrals without the need of court involvement, however for a self-referral to be successful both parties should be in agreement. Usually, a contact centre or other services like mediation will be more effective ways of resolving disagreements. This will save you time and money, as well as laying the basis of a good working relationship for you and the children’s other parent moving forward, successful co-parenting will rely heavily on this working relationship.

If there is a need for court involvement and you can’t afford legal representation you can access information on applying for a court order about the arrangements of your children without the help of a lawyer on a website called Advice Now

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Either party can initiate a self-referral at a child contact centre. If you have contact details of your ex-partner the centre may contact them on your behalf although this is down to the discretion of the centre. You may also use a third party i.e solicitor to initiate a referral. Both parties should be in agreement to using a contact centre for the referral to be successful.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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It depends if your family is involved with Cafcass or social services or if you have a support worker or similar person assisting your family. If these agencies are involved, then it is likely they will decide which type of contact service is best for your family. If you do not have these agencies involved, then it will be up to you as family members to decide what is appropriate for your situation depending on your circumstances and what has happened.

As a rule, supported centres work with families that do not require direct supervision. This means that staff will not be within sight and sound of children at all times. They will not be making observations or recordings. A supported centre works with families where the level of risk is low and there is a clear plan for the family to be able to move on to more suitable arrangements. At a supported centre it is generally expected that parents will take full responsibility for the child during the session. Supported centre would typically take place within a contact centre where other families might also be present. Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.

Supervised contact is generally used for higher risk families. It might be the case that staff need to be within sight and sound of the child at all times to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. In a supervised session the staff will be within sight and sound of the child at all times. They will be better placed to undertake basic care tasks, to teach parents to do this, or to assess parenting capacity. Supervised contact can be within a contact centre or other building. It is often also possible for families to have contact in community locations, once the contact service is satisfied that this is safe. Typical progression from a supervised centre would be to supported contact although it is also possible to progress to handovers.

NACCC have the following table that can be used as a guide when considering whether to approach a supported or supervised contact centre, although it is also worth discussing this with your local centre co-ordinator who be able to advise further.

No:Reason for ReferralSupervised ContactSupported Contact
1Actual evidence or strong suspicion of Child abuse:  In exceptional circumstances centres would collaborate with LA or Cafcass to help bring about a process of change in a family, eg to provide identity contact
Self-referrals – not accepted
No
2Allegations of any abuse: Physical / emotional but no clear evidenceIn collaboration with LA or Cafcass as part of ongoing assessment or plan. Self referral –  case by case decisionsPossibly, subject to risk assessment
3Allegations of sexual abuse:Yes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managed, or whilst investigations continueNot whilst investigations ongoing. If no proof or ongoing concern – yes
4Actual abductionYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedNo
5Fear of abduction but no real evidenceYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedPossibly subject to risk assessment and safety plan
6Serious long term mental illnessYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesNo
7History of mental illness but now appears stableYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesPossibly. Depends on information available to assess situation re risks to child/other parent/centre staff and volunteers
8Drug or alcohol problems. Either current or very recent pastYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influencePossibly. Depends on level of problem. Also service user will need to be engaging with other agencies
9History of drug or alcohol abuse but currently stableYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influenceYes. If relapse occurs may need to be referred to supervised contact
10Proven domestic violence/abuseNeed to be part of a package i.e: activity direction for DVP Programme and following positive midway review.No unless the centre has suitable qualified staff to carry out a risk assessment and where the perpetrator has demonstrated a willingness to address their anger management issues through the relevant courses.  
11Allegations of domestic abuse: Pending finding of fact  CAFCASS & Self referral –  await outcome of finding of fact before referral considered.Not whilst investigations ongoing    
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If you have been referred to a contact centre by a professional, they might be contractually obliged to refer you to a specific service, these won’t always be accredited by NACCC and might not be the closest one to where you live. Often this will be related to how they are funding the service. If you want to use a centre that is different to the one you have been referred to, it is worth discussing this with the referrer, in case they can help.

If you have a court order, this will sometimes name a specific contact centre. Court orders will always be for NACCC accredited services. If you are unsure, do check the wording of the order though – increasingly they will order a contact centre to be used but not name a specific service.

If you are referring yourself it would be usual to use the closest NACCC accredited contact centre to the child’s home address. Exceptions to this might occur if one parent cannot know the child’s home address.

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About NACCC

NACCC has an information line which runs part time (9am to 1pm Monday to Friday). Please try and find out the answer to your query on our website but if you are unable to find what you are looking for please do call the information line on 0115 948 4557. You can also contact us at any time using the Contact form on this website.

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NACCC is not responsible for the direct running of child contact centres as these are all independent organisations with their own management. Contact centres might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC’s role is to ensure that child contact centres work to the national standards for supported contact and supervised contact, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.

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Child contact centres are autonomous – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Child contact centres are autonomous. They might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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