Enfield Family Contact Centre is based in Enfield Baptist Church, which is in Enfield town centre, a few minutes’ walk from shops and public transport links. The centre has been providing safe handovers and supported contact for over twenty-five years, where non-resident parents can spend time with their children on a regular basis until more permanent arrangements are agreed. Families generally use the centre for around three months and then their attendance is reviewed.
The premises provide a safe and suitable environment for the number of families who attend the sessions and are arranged on the ground floor of the church buildings. The area is fully accessible with a ramp and designated disabled toilet with separate toilets available for boys and girls just off the contact playroom. The centre uses only one entrance and has in place a ‘staggered handover’ arrangement to assist in situations where parents should not meet.
There is a waiting room set aside for resident parents to be taken to when they arrive with their children. The non-resident parent is taken into the contact room, and a volunteer brings the children from the waiting room. If necessary, the resident parent may remain in the waiting room during the contact session. The contact room is large, bright, and airy with a small kitchenette and table set up for refreshments which are available to purchase. The centre uses the outdoor play space which is shared by the church playgroup. It is a safe area surrounded by a high wall and fence. There is a good range of equipment including climbing frame, a slide and ‘sit and ride’ toys.
Referrals can be self-referrals from families, or come from solicitors, Cafcass, social workers, mediation or refuge services. The centre uses the NACCC Safe Referral System for most of their self-referrals and will encourage use of this service wherever possible. Pre-visits are mandatory and take place prior to the start of contact. The co-ordinator on duty for the month will usually arrange the time and date with the families, making separate arrangements for each parent. The resident parent and children are usually invited in first so they can meet the volunteers and be familiar with the environment. The pre-visit meeting includes a discussion about the referral information and any risks identified will be explored with the parents. The history of contact will be explored, and then arrangements agreed for when contact will start, frequency, review date etc. The family will be given a full explanation of what happens when they attend the centre. Any concerns they may have will be listened to and any necessary arrangements or restrictions discussed to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. Parents are then asked to sign up to the ground rules for attendance at the centre.
The three co-ordinators who run the service are supported by a strong committee and a large and stable group of trained volunteers. The management committee gave careful consideration to reopening the centre after eighteen months closure, completing a risk assessment in consultation with the volunteers. At the time of the report hand sanitiser was available, with all adults required to wear masks until seated. A limit had been placed on the number of families attending each session to ensure it was safe, and families were asked to provide their own toys and activities. This was deemed to have been a positive move, as it encourages non-resident parents to get to know what their child enjoys doing. As back up, the centre had toys available if required.
The number of referrals dropped off during the lengthy period of closure due to the pandemic. The centre has publicised their reopening, and referrals are beginning to pick up, although they have no waiting list at present. The centre has some families who attend monthly, and some who attend fortnightly, and at the time of the report had reduced numbers attending to ensure distancing in the hall.
This is a child-focused, welcoming, and well-run centre. At the time of the report, they have only recently reopened, and things will need to ‘bed in’ over the next few months as the number of referrals builds up. However, the co-ordinators are capable and committed, and will be well supported throughout this period by the volunteers and management committee. Families clearly appreciate the service provided, and children can spend their time at the centre safely and enjoyably whilst rebuilding family relationships. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported contact re-accreditation.