Askham Contact Centre is financed by Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council and provides a supervised contact service for children and their families who are looked after by the Local Authority, Hammersmith and Fulham and subject to care orders. The service has been in operation since 1999 and accepts referrals from local borough councils, private or voluntary organisations. The centre made the necessary changes to the service regarding the pandemic in terms of the reopening of the centre, supervised contact and community contacts. Information about the centre can easy be located on LBHF website where referrers and clients can find out the necessary information about the different services the centre offers.
On entry to the building the rules and regulations of the centre are stated clearly, and although face coverings are not mandatory, they are required whilst walking around in the centre. There are hand sanitisers in the corridors and all rooms that will be used. The centre has an excellent cleaning programme in place and at the time of the visit families were allocated a named box of toys to reduce any infections. The centre has six designated child friendly contact rooms, some with kitchen facilities and a secure outdoor space for families to use. There is an excellent variety of equipment for all ages of children available during contact sessions along with families on some occasions bringing their own toys. All the contact rooms are in an excellent decorative order and maintained. The centre has a permanent full-time cleaner who regularly sanitises all areas of the centre as well as the cleaning and refills cleaning stocks and toilet paper to a very high standard. At the time of the report, foster carers/resident parents are allocated a ‘pod’ to wait in until a contact worker comes to collect the child/ren to take them into the contact area.
The centre has produced the appropriate leaflets for users with a map and photos of the actual centre and contact rooms/buildings. The centre encourages whenever possible for children to visit the centre before contact starts, as it is very important that they know what the centre looks like, where things are and hopefully get a sense of the centre’s facilities. This is usually conducted when the contact agreement planning meeting is arranged. Families and referrers are given the opportunity to complete evaluations during the review meeting or when contact is due to end. If necessary, the contact workers will escort looked after children home using a registered taxi firm which will be paid for by the local authority. This is very rare as foster carers will normally bring and collect the children either using their own vehicles or the local authority will pay for a taxi. The staff at the centre do not use their own vehicle for transporting children.
The contact service is overseen by the Head of Service Manager, but the Contact Manager has responsibility for the day to day management of the centre which is well resourced with contact workers, security and cleaners. The centre was very well prepared for the assessor’s visit with the portfolio and access to documents on the computer. The Contact Manager and their team are highly motivated, enthusiastic, committed, and always willing to learn. Their personal strengths include determination, attention to detail and a desire to make a real contribution to families who attend the centre. Clear communication is of the upmost importance and group supervisions are imperative to ensure the smooth running of the centre.
The centre provides an excellent quality service for their users and meets NACCC national standards required for supervised centres.