Eastbourne Family Contact Centre provides supported contact and is run by the Sussex charity, Family Support Work, in partnership with the Mothers’ Union. They use The Gateway Centre which is a church venue hosting a number of different services including the contact centre, foodbanks and support groups for those in need. The centre is accessible to all and is a five-minute walk from Hampden Park train station and is served by regular buses.
The premises are accessible, on ground level, (with no steps inside or out), with on-site parking. Access to the centre is via a main door at the front of the building. The whole side of the building is windowed (floor to ceiling) and so volunteers are aware of who is outside and approaching the centre. On entering the building, families enter straight into reception where they are greeted by volunteers and signed in, which includes taking a mobile number from resident parents in case of emergency.
The reception area is large with seating and tables (used as a dining area for a small café pre-covid), and families pass through this area to reach the contact hall. The contact hall is now divided into three ‘rooms’, which the service will keep in place despite covid restrictions easing. These rooms accommodate one family each and vary slightly in size to accommodate for large and small families. At least two volunteers occupy this space when sessions take place. The hall is well equipped, well lit, clean and tidy, with various toys and games. Activities are fairly reduced since covid, however. The service does not promote a waiting room, although do have access to a meeting room if necessary, which is usually accessed for completing pre-visits.
The centre has three toilets: ladies, gents and accessible toilets. The families usually only access the accessible toilet unless making use of baby change which is situated in the ladies’ toilet. The bathrooms were clean and in a good state of repair. There is a well-equipped kitchen, which has a food safety rating of 5, however, the service is currently only providing hot drinks. The Café area is run by the church usually however, due to covid they are not present at the sessions.
At the time of the report the co-ordinator was new to the post, having started at Eastbourne Family Contact Centre five months previously. Their background is family support, and they are well versed in safeguarding and risk management. They are hoping to expand into offering supervised contact at some point during 2022. The co-ordinator supports the experienced team of volunteers who are committed and passionate towards the work they do.
The centre only accepts referrals from NACCC’s Safe Referrals System – as a result their families are risk assessed prior to a service being offered. The service follows up with a contact plan to explore any accessibility needs etc. or additional support from the referral received. The service has noted a decrease in referrals over the past four to five months, however these have started to pick up again. Through discussions with the co-ordinator, they do receive a lot of enquiries into supervised contact which has furthered their wish to move to a supervised service.
The centre takes seriously its role in preparing families (which is evidenced in case files via the pre-visit checklist) covering all aspects including transport arrangements for children and the schedule for sessions. The pre-visits take place at the centre when the service is running, making use of a meeting room and then the families attend the next available session. Every family’s case is reviewed, which is explained at the pre-visit.
The co-ordinator has put a great deal of effort into the portfolio, record keeping is secure, and the recent merge (between Family Support Work and the Mothers’ Union) does not appear to have affected the current service which is running well. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported contact accreditation.