Andover Contact Centre, a supported centre, has been running since 2004. There has been a change of committee and the current chair and coordinator have been in their roles for seventeen years and have made great changes to the service provided and ensuring the centre’s sustainability. Andover is a busy town, and the contact centre provides a safe meeting place for both local families and parents who do not live in the area. This contact centre services Andover, Amesbury, Tidworth, and Salisbury (locally) and non-resident parents have travelled from as far as Aberdeen, Kent, Devon and Yorkshire. Currently, and since the Covid19 pandemic, service users have been local only.
Andover’s train station is a five-minute walk away and buses frequently service the area. Locally to the contact centre there is a park, McDonalds, a sports centre, The Folley with soft play facilities and Chantry Lakes. It is also possible to walk into the town. These facilities can be used by families using the contact centre for handover (pick-up/drop-off) purposes.
There is a large car park to the front of the building which, when families start, they are told which part of the car park to park in, depending on whether they are the resident parent or non-resident. This helps to avoid unnecessary contact between parents. There is a ramp, steps, and handrail up to the large doors which are security protected by an electronic keypad with an additional entrance/exit used by non-resident parents – again to minimise contact. On entry there is a large reception area which is airy and very welcoming. To the right of the entrance there is a set of toilets, these are used by the resident parents and the non-resident parents have another set to use, again to keep contact to a minimum. The bathrooms are very clean and well equipped. There is also a disabled access toilet and an area where babies can be changed.
The room used for contact is a large church hall, which is spacious and light with lots of space. Unfortunately, at the time of the report the centre was unable to use their own toys and resources due to Covid. Non-resident parents were providing their own toys for their children to use during the sessions. A waiting room is available for the resident parents should they wish to stay on the premises or if it is a first contact session.
The co-ordinator has been in this role for a long time so is well versed with the issues and difficulties faced by separated families. Safeguarding training is attended and carried out yearly and any incidents are dealt with calmly and according to policy.
This is a centre that has been running for a long time, with the same chair and co-ordinator who work together well. There is therefore good communication between the committee, the management team and the volunteers. Health and Safety is good, paperwork is completed and the premises is new, fresh and well maintained with all of the necessary safety equipment. The volunteers are friendly and cheerful, and the contact centre has a welcoming feeling. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported re-accreditation.