Family Matters Enterprise (FME) is a not-for-profit Social Enterprise and Company Incorporated which was registered in September 2016 and offers supported, supervised, virtual and handover contact with referrals for both public and private law cases; from local authorities, solicitors, courts and self-referral. There are two registered Directors, who are both registered social workers and work at the centre at the weekend. At the time of the report the centre had been hit by the Covid pandemic with staff having periods of being furloughed. Only virtual contact could go ahead during lockdowns which seriously impacted upon the organisation’s finances. A grant was received from Birmingham Council which enabled rent and essential bills to be paid.
The reaccreditation visit was slightly delayed due to Family Matters Enterprise moving premises after the Covid-19 lockdown. The new premises are in a detached building based in a builder’s yard at the former Station Yard in the Highgate area of Birmingham. The building has been decorated and furnished to a good standard, is clean and tidy and has parking facilities. Thought has gone into meeting health and safety requirements whilst making the building as welcoming as possible. The service is within walking distance to the city centre and has both a bus and tram stop nearby. There are also parks, soft-play, Star City, Sea Life Centre, and a nature reserve in the area giving lots of choice for families using the centre for handover.
Upon arrival there are car parking spaces within the Station Yard and the building is entered via a secure buzzer system. The admin office overlooks the entrance so arrivals and departure can be easily seen. The building is accessible on the ground floor and has a disabled toilet, ladies & gents’ toilets and baby changing facilities, which are all very clean. A small kitchen is available to staff, where they can make drinks for families if necessary. There is a waiting room for resident parents, although this is not generally encouraged. Up to five rooms can be used for contact. Pre visits usually take place in the centre on a Saturday, although virtual interviews are in place for parents who live out of area.
A pre visit pack is available for parents which contains a range of information, including how to prepare children for contact. Operating procedures are sent to parents and referrers, setting out the range of services offered by the service and their prices. Contact centre rules are emailed to each parent before the pre visit to give them an opportunity to read and are signed at the meeting. Children are invited to visit the centre mid-week or at a weekend. They have an opportunity to visit the room they will use and play with some of the toys and meet staff. This helps them to become familiar with the allocated member of staff and with the room they will use for contact. Most of the contact takes place within the centre and there is a limited number of visits in the community which involve staff. Occasionally referrals from local authorities will require staff to escort children as part of a community assessment and to cover these eventualities there is a policy in place which sets out all the steps to be taken in terms of mitigating risks.
The assessor observed a lot of passion and commitment from both the directors and the staff. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.