Dorchester Child Contact Centre is based in the busy town centre of Dorchester. Dorchester is situated between Poole and Bridport with excellent transport links. Dorchester has two train stations and a reliable bus service and is seven miles from Weymouth, eighteen miles from Yeovil and twenty miles from Poole. Within the town itself there are plenty of shops and cafes, the contact centre is opposite a library and there are local parks close by to the centre should contact in the community be happening.
The centre is housed within the United Church in Dorchester which is a large church with rooms available used for a variety of purposes including a community café, a small shop, with large and small function rooms available for hire. The centre is located in two of the upstairs rooms – a large room for contact and another slightly smaller playroom attached. On entry to the contact centre there is always a volunteer who is ready to sign parents and their children in and out of the building. At the time of the report there was information around the building regarding how the centre was keeping safe during Covid19 and explaining what service users were expected to do. Behind the entrance there is a set of stairs for the non-resident to access the contact room. Parents are required to sign in and out of the building for safeguarding and fire purposes. Across the corridor and divided by internal doors is the resident parents’ waiting room, which is equipped with a kitchenette, table and leaflets for parents to look at whilst they wait. Coming out of the waiting room and back down the stairs there is another entrance, which is closed and can be used as a buggy park if needed. There is a chairlift on this set of steps if required.
The contact room is set up according to the number of non-resident parents and their children who are accessing the session. The playroom has a good range of toys and play equipment, which provides for children across the age ranges. Toys are organised and stored clearly in boxes and at the time of the report were regularly cleaned and sanitized between sessions. The toys are shared between the contact centre and a toddler group so cleanliness is important to help decrease the spread of Covid19. Daylight blinds are up in the windows of the contact room as the room overlooks the car park where resident parents park. The kitchenettes in both the contact room and the waiting room are small, clean and organised (electric equipment is PAT tested annually).
A referral is always obtained from the resident and non-resident parents before contact sessions are arranged and pre-visit checklists are completed with all prospective parents as part of the risk assessment. Rules, such as consent for photos and gifts, food requirements and any other issues are agreed, and pre-visit forms are signed. If the risk is deemed as too high then the parents are directed back to NACCC to seek a supervised contact centre or directed to Relate, the local supervised contact centre (approximately 1 mile away). A staggered arrival and departure procedure is used to ensure that parents do not have to see each other if this is an issue and separate entrances and exits are available if required.
The co-ordinator of this centre was newly appointed in October 2021 – they have a background in Early Years and was a children’s centre manager previously and so familiar with the work of child contact centres. The co-ordinator manages the team of volunteers ensuring there are always three on duty during a session and more if needed.
This is a well-established centre that has been running for a long time, however due to the impact of Covid19 it has taken a hit and although enquiries are high, at the time of the report the take-up of places was lower than expected. The coordinator and volunteers were very welcoming and friendly and make it their job to ensure that parents are supported and comfortable whilst using the centre. Safeguarding is a particular strength due to the skills and experience of the volunteers and committee members. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported contact accreditation.