Chances Gives Choices was established in 2014 by the manager and has grown substantially over the years to reflect the need within the community. The service offers supervised and supported contact (in the centre or within the local community), home visits, handovers – indirect and direct, transport services. Remote contact sessions are also available which the centre reports to work very well for times when face-to-face contact is not able to happen or for when there has been a significant break in contact for the child. Indirect letter-box contact is also offered. Alderbury Children’s Centre is operating as an outreach contact venue for Chances Gives Choices with other venues available in Wiltshire, Dorset, and Hampshire. Alderbury is a small village in Wiltshire, 3 miles southeast of Salisbury, with a a village shop and a park for community contact. The nearest train station is in Salisbury with limited bus services available – families would need to check bus times as these can be sporadic and unreliable.
The centre’s external door is operated with a doorbell with entry and exit supervised by a member of staff. Internal doors have a keypad entry system. There are two rooms used for contact, both of which are large and spacious providing areas for parents and child to sit together and for play. There is an area where the worker will sit and record their notes if required. There is a good supply of toys and resources for children which are provided for children across the ages. The centre has a range of resources for children and young people and non-resident parents are also invited to bring their own toys for the children should they wish (at the time of the report there were less toys available due to Covid19 restrictions). There are male and female bathrooms which are clean and maintained and accessible to all. The kitchen appears basic but clean and maintained by staff. This space can be used by families to make drinks and prepare food. There is no outside area.
Information for referrers is available from the centre directly or on the Chances Gives Choices website. Information for referrers is good and clear and the leaflet available for parents is clear and holds good detail. There is always someone available to give more information from the centre should it be required. Referrals come via social services, solicitors, and families themselves. A referral form is always gained for both parents wanting to engage in contact sessions which gives information about what service is required and why. Pre-visits are arranged separately, and this is either done remotely or at the centre with questions answered to alleviate anxiety. The child is also offered a pre-visit which helps to ensure that they are familiar with the contact venue and comfortable with the process. The centre uses a children’s leaflet which has an introduction to the service, contact workers names and information about the centre and comes with an invitation to look around the centre.
A play schedule is started, stating session dates and times, along with contract and rules. Contact plans are put in place which are personalised and reflect the family’s needs, preferences, and requirements. Contact plans contain all the particulars that are relevant to the parent, referrers and the child, including who will bring and collect the children to and from the centre and any restrictions around gifts, photos and food. The centre uses staggered arrival and departure times and ensures that if there are court orders in place preventing parents from seeing one another that this is managed accordingly. If a service user requires a translator, then this can be arranged but at the cost of the referring party. Transport can be provided for public law cases. Prior to any contact in a family’s home a risk assessment is carried out by a senior team member who attends the home first.
The manager appears to have a happy team, with a range of roles and responsibilities who are well supported to be able to do their job and are encouraged to further their career and take on new responsibilities. Supervision is offered on a monthly basis to supervised contact workers. Health and safety is to an excellent standard and risk assessments are thorough. Safeguarding is in place, with training being given in all areas. Training appears to be kept up to date, with coercion being added to the domestic abuse training. Policies and procedures are to a good standard and reviewed annually. Family files are to a good standard and enough information is gathered about families before they access the centre. The assessor particularly values the amount of risk assessing that goes into home working agreements – which demonstrates the awareness of how working with families in their home environment can be a risky area and that staff and family safety is taken seriously.
The manager is clearly passionate about the work that they do with families. The premises look well maintained, clean and child friendly and Covid19 implications are taken into account. This is a centre which is serving and supporting many people and offering different services in different counties and appears to be striving. The centre meets the requirements for enhanced accreditation and the assessor wishes them all the very best for their future work with children and families.