Exeter Southernhay Child Contact Centre is a supported contact centre with a good central location in Exeter. The centre is run from Southernhay United Reformed Church, is served by good rail and bus links, has car parking close by and is a 15-minute drive from the A30/M5.
The centre is easily visible from the road and has steps with a handrail and ramp leading to the front door. The inner door is locked with a safety chain to prevent children leaving the building and volunteers open the door when the bell rings to admit families. There is a small, welcoming area with a reception desk where families are checked in by a volunteer. This area also has display boards with useful information. There is not a waiting room, but families come in at 15-minute intervals (a vestry can be used if necessary for a waiting area).
The centre has one very large contact room. This is a good size, bright and airy and is laid out into three sections with lots of appropriate furniture with rounded edges, chairs for adults and children as well as beanbags available. The centre has a large selection of toys to suit all ages with a limited amount out at the time of the visit due to Covid 19. The centre has a small kitchen area where refreshments can be served which helps generate some additional funds for the centre. The kitchen hatch is visible to the entire hall area and so a volunteer stays in this area and can also oversee the families having contact. The toilets and baby changing facility are clean, well maintained, and available on one level so easily accessible for disabled users.
Before the centre starts contact with any family, a referral is completed and pre contacts/visits arranged. Risks are assessed, which are discussed with the family and if it is felt that the needs of the children cannot be met due to the level of risk, an enhanced (supervised) centre is suggested. The resident parent will usually bring the child/children to the start or end of a session and are shown around the space, and the co-ordinator or deputy goes through how and when they will see their other parent. Children are given the opportunity to ask questions.
The child contact centre is a lovely airy centre with an experienced co-ordinator and assistant co-ordinator who clearly care for the children and families that use the facility on offer. The co-ordinator has been in post since April 2018. They receive all referrals, and arrange the pre-contact visits, liaising with families regarding dates and times of contact. They organise the rota for volunteers and work with their deputy who is responsible for the volunteers helping to ensure the smooth running of the centre.
The centre is run and managed in a child focused way. During their visit, the assessor observed the co-ordinator and the volunteers interacting with the families within the centre, offering different toys and help and guidance where needed. The co-ordinator greets the visiting parent and children alike in a warm and friendly manner. It was a pleasure to see such a warm, friendly, passionate group of volunteers who care for the families they work with, this was also clearly demonstrated in how happy the children were using the centre and how they recognised the volunteers working. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported contact re-accreditation