AG Contact Centre (AGCC) is located in Hassocks, a large village in Sussex providing an array of contact services including supervised and supported contact. The centre is based on the High Street with very close links to public transport and local parks – perfect for community contact. The building can be difficult to spot initially however, the service provides good directions prior to arrival. AGCC provides various social work services including assessments, family support, independent social workers and interpreting services in relation to cases accessing services. More recently AGCC has been sub-contracted to facilitate work commissioned by Cafcass (Improving Child and Family Arrangements – ICFA). The centre is run by AG Family Support which has opened four other venues in the Sussex and Thetford areas.
The building is a cosy space which is well utilised given that there is only one room and a kitchen. The service also has access to a secluded garden which acts as an outside space and the entrance to the building. The centre is clean and attractively decorated with pictures furnishing the walls and well-lit spaces. There is access to a small kitchen should families wish to provide lunch or tea; and a dining table to eat at. The centre is on the ground floor making it easily accessible and has a bathroom for those with additional needs. The space is safe, child friendly and has in place the appropriate signage, alarms and extinguishers. The building has one entrance to the premises; however, the service has implemented staggered arrivals and use of waiting rooms if necessary to reduce parents meeting.
AGCC has made use of the NACCC leaflets to provide information such as location, and general information about the use of contact centres. As well as this there are additional flyers that provide ‘frequently asked questions’ covering how to make a referral, who to contact etc, and referral processes. This information is straight to the point and easy to understand. As well as this the service has information about the local community for those engaging in handover and community contact. AG Family Support’s website is professional and provides information about all services provided, for all including children and young people.
AGCC makes use of documents produced by Cafcass that support children understanding separation and provides a leaflet to children and young people about why they may be attending contact and what to expect at a contact centre. Children have the opportunity to meet staff to discuss the services they will be accessing, and are able to feedback and evaluate the service they are getting.
Children and parents attend a pre-visit where the services, rules and processes are discussed. At the time of the report a lot of pre-visits were taking place virtually, however, children were visiting face to face prior to contact occurring. The organisation’s contact agreement sets out the rules of the centre and expectations of staff and parents attending and is signed by both parents and the staff completing this. The agreement refers to policies that link with contact such as safeguarding and the disclosure of information, as well as the use of mobile phones within contact sessions. Two staff are allocated to each family allowing for a familiar face for families to build positive working relationships. They are well trained and experienced in working with children and young people.
AGCC provide handover services for families who were originally referred for other contact services such as supervised contact and ICFA. As a result, they follow the same process as these services included contact plans and risk assessments. Families are provided with schedules outlining the new services and how these are delivered. AGCC have a review process which include updating the family’s risk assessment to ensure that any changes to services are appropriate and safe. When transporting children under the age of sixteen, information in relation to who will be escorting children is requested at the point of referral. As well as this, the centre’s policy outlines that two staff members must accompany children being transported in private vehicles or taxis.
Administration of the service is professional and well organised, with a strong background in social work services and a desire for improving contact services to ensure children have the best possible experience. The service meets the requirements for Enhanced (supervised) re-accreditation.