Birmingham Salvation Army Child Contact Centre was opened in September 2000 and provides supported child contact for children to spend quality time with a parent they no longer live with following parental separation. It is a child-centred space with a good range of toys and equipment to suit a wide variety of age and diverse backgrounds.
The centre is based on the outskirts of the city centre and is easily accessible by bus, train and tram. There is a public carpark over the road from the centre. The centre works with families from across the West Midlands and further afield, due to its links with the M6, M5 and M42.
The centre is located within the Citadel which is owned and run by the Salvation Army in Birmingham. The building is a large modern building with good amenities. There is one main entrance and exit, which is staffed by a volunteer; this is a secure entrance with intercom entry. Staff can also see who they let in through a large glass door prior to unlocking the door. The building has a large spacious reception area with a reception desk which is manned by a volunteer with a register listing who is expected at the centre. On the desk and within the contact room there are photos and names of the volunteers on duty. There is a waiting area that is separate to the main contact room, which has comfortable seating and its own bathroom facilities. One large hall is used, with tables and chairs around the perimeters. At the time of the visit due to Covid restrictions families were encouraged to stay within their allocated area as much as possible and maintain social distancing. An additional room is used with themed activities which is used by half the families present in turn each session. There are various toilets around the building that can be used by those using the centre, which are clean and well maintained. There is a bathroom for people with disabilities and a baby changing area. The centre has a large kitchen that has a serving hatch into the contact room. This is used by volunteers to prepare drinks for the families using the service. There is no charge for refreshments. The centre has an appropriate range of toys and games, which are clean and well maintained.
Pre-visits are mandatory and mainly take place whilst the centre is open. Parents attend these meetings separately. At the time of the visit court ordered contact was being given priority. Children are invited to attend along with the resident parent so that they can see the centre, meet some of the volunteers and visit the rooms and toys prior to meeting their parent. The assistant co-ordinator or team leader will engage with the children whilst the parent is speaking to the co-ordinator. There are also leaflets available for younger and older children.
The centre is managed by an advisory board, co-ordinator, and deputy co-ordinator. Contact sessions are led by four team leaders who are responsible for a group of volunteers. The co-ordinator, deputy or a senior team leader would always be on duty whilst the centre is open. There is an informative website which is clear in what the centre can offer in terms of supported contact, e.g. there are no written reports about the quality of contact and they do not make recommendations to courts. The co-ordinator has been in this role since September 2014 and previously volunteered so has over 20 years’ experience at the centre. The centre offers excellent opportunities for volunteers who are rewarded for their long service. The volunteers appear to be really listened to and there were examples of training put on following their requests.
In summary the Birmingham Salvation Army Child Contact Centre is a well-run centre that meets all of NACCC’s standards for supported centres.