Bubba’s Contact Centre was established in 2021 as part of the Walk the Walk Family Service, which supports families in the community with practical parenting, supporting children through separation or domestic abuse, including abuse of alcohol or drugs, or promoting emotional well-being. It has access to counsellors, a psychologist and family support workers who work to design a bespoke package of support. Walk the Walk identified a need for contact sessions and was accredited by NACCC as a supported centre in 2021 but it soon became apparent that there was an even greater need for supervised contact. Funding was provided by the National Lottery to support the generation of this new centre. Its ethos is not only to provide opportunities for safe contact between separated parents and their children but also to have a series of other support interventions which can be accessed if required. Close links have developed with other support agencies. The centre has access to pleasant rooms in the Breaks Manor Youth and Community Centre in Hatfield, about 10 minutes’ walk from the train station.
At present only one room is to be used for supervised contact with opportunities for expansion as the demand increases. There is also a pleasant secure garden which can be used. Toilets were clean, in good condition, with a designated disabled toilet and baby changing facilities. The centre provides a small supply of toys and games but would also expect parents to bring activities so that there is some forethought about the session.
A colourful handout for parents and referrers outlining the service has been produced and the staff are working on further information which will be added to the website which is easy to navigate and has a special feature of a chat button for clients who need to talk. Short videos of introduction have been prepared to introduce staff. The process of referrals is sound in that there is a form and a pre-visit. The documentation includes all family details, all known or potential risks, information about child protection orders, non-molestation orders, court orders, and how other professionals might be involved. The plan will demonstrate the purposes of contact and how written reports might be used.
The centre is committed to providing the best possible service for children recognising that they are often caught in the middle of the issues of their parents. Pre-visits will be offered and the opportunity to ask as many questions as they wish. On occasions a home visit might also be done. A simple leaflet is available to explain to children what to expect. A simple child feedback form is available to be used but feedback is generally collected informally.
The centre is not currently offering indirect contact but offers handovers as part of the supported service. Systems are in place as with the other contact services offered (referral process, pre-visits, risk assessments and recording of visits). As part of their other work staff are used to visiting homes, and safe practices are well established, such as ensuring that times of visits and expected times of return are recorded. Such visits only occur if the risks have been properly assessed. They are trained to check on escape routes, and to withdraw if the situation appears unsafe at any time. Children are not transported.
To begin with the Contact Co-ordinator or the CEO will be the people allocated to the family. A Family Support Worker (FSW) will also be on hand. As the business of supervised contact grows then the FSWs will be trained to take on this role for themselves. Walk the Walk as an established organisation of 15 years is committed to offering a holistic approach to supporting families and can offer bespoke packages to families who are in crisis and who require support to prevent family conflict and breakdown. These services can be offered as appropriate to families coming for contact as a separate intervention. Staff offering them are highly trained and qualified. In addition, there is a team of befrienders (trainee counsellors) who could be on hand to support someone at the beginning or end of contact, not as part of the supervised process, but effectively a listening ear. This is to avoid the supervisor becoming too embroiled in the family issues and can therefore concentrate wholly on the contact session.
Bubba’s Contact Centre has worked extremely hard to meet the standards for supervised contact. Documentation was professionally prepared and thought through with clear evidence of a structured process in every aspect of its work. What is of particular note is the ambitious, holistic approach of their work so contact will not take place in isolation, but additional support is on hand should it be required. This joined up way of working is to be applauded. Without exception, the staff were focussed on positive outcomes for children and showed huge sensitivity and compassion for those who come into the centre. The service meets the requirements for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.