Children North East Family Centre is based in Cowgate, a locality in the north-west of Newcastle upon Tyne and lies 2.8 miles northwest of the city centre. They offer excellent child contact facilities for families living in the northeast of England with many referrals coming from family solicitors. As well as offering a wide range of contact services they can also offer individual contact and assessment services to local authorities. The contact centre services are part of Children North East Family and Parenting Team and they can therefore offer additional services and programmes to families who may benefit, whilst acknowledging that not all families will live in the local community.
The Family Centre is owned by the Newcastle Asset Trust, a local charity which took over previous Newcastle City Council buildings and rents them at a low rate to charities delivering services in the area. Children North East share the family centre with Barnardo’s and a community café is also in the process of opening. They are well established in the area and run a number of family-based services from the centre for the local community.
The premises are within a purpose-built family centre which has excellent facilities offering a range of games, toys, and activities to suit a range of cultures and ages. The building is well decorated, modern, with good standards of furniture and equipment.
Children North East adopt a child centred approach in their work, placing the interests of the child at the centre of everything they do. If a child is affected by domestic violence or abuse, Children North East have a duty to safeguard and promote their welfare. Once parents are invited to the centre for a pre-visit the £50 admin charge (at the time of the report) becomes payable. Parents invited to separate pre visit meetings where the rules and conditions are explained, and an assessment of suitability is undertaken. There is a useful leaflet for children which is sent to them prior to the pre visit. This helps the child/young person to think about what they want to know and what questions they could ask.
The resident parent is asked to bring their child along to the pre visit, dependent upon their age and stage of development. The pre-visit gives children the chance to meet staff and become familiar with the centre and activities prior to contact going ahead. Time is taken alone with the child to meet the staff member and ask any questions. The staff member ensure that the child knows why they are coming to the centre and addresses any fears or anxieties. They can agree a ‘safe’ word to be used at contact if they need to leave the room. Children North East also offer preparation for contact sessions when required. There are also expectations upon parents using the service and this is covered by the parental agreement. Following these meetings the contact arrangements are agreed.
Children North East have arrangements in place to use interpreters when necessary, but the fee-paying parent is responsible for the cost. Children North East no longer offer contact in the community and do not offer a transport service or home visits. Parents must attend the centre as part of their initial visit through the referral pathway.
The Deputy Service Manager has a good strategic overview of the child contact landscape, and all of the team were passionate about their roles, providing a good service to families living in the North East. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.