First Steps Surrey Child Contact Centre in Egham is based at the Literary Institute (just off Egham High Street) providing supervised and supported contact services. Egham is a university town in the Borough of Runnymede in Surrey, approximately 19 miles west of central London. Egham Railway Station is on the railway lines from London Waterloo station to Reading and Weybridge and two bus routes connect the town to Staines-Upon-Thames, Windsor, and London Heathrow Airport. There is a local park within a short walking distance, along with a pleasure park a 10 minute drive away. There are a good selection of shops including supermarkets, cafés and affordable restaurants. First Steps Surrey Child Contact Centre was established in 2022 by the co-ordinator who decided to create this niche service after working in the Social Services field for more than 8 years as well as having personal experience of the issues affecting separated families. The co-ordinator has worked closely with Surrey Social Services Adult Social Care Team.
The contact centre is situated in the Literary Institute which is owned by Runnymede Borough Council. A sign on the main entrance directs clients to the centre and once clients are in the building there is clear signage that directs them to the centre via an accessible slope for easy access to the contact room. The service is provided from one good sized room that can accommodate one supervised contact or 2/3 supported contact sessions and a comfortable waiting area is available if families wish to use it. The room contains appropriate furniture and resources including a sofa, low play tables, chairs and rugs. The décor includes a fun “Alice in Wonderland” themed section within the room. This creates a unique focus point in the centre which is fun, attractive and different for both adults and children. There are additional resources for older children that are appropriate to their age group. The manager intends to make the centre as welcoming as possible with a professional manner. The room provides a safe and neutral environment and during the enhanced accreditation visit it was clean and secure with two lockable entrances/exit points. A disabled toilet with baby changing facilities is available and additional toilets can also be found in the building. There is a kitchen which can be available if clients wish to use, prior to contact starting but is not accessible to families during the session. The centre has a storage area for equipment and a small secure paved outdoor area is also available.
First Steps Surrey Contact Centre has an easy-to-use website page that shows the location of the centre, pictures of the room and a description of the services provided. It has an interactive map to show the location along with the centre’s policies and contact details. Clients can if they wish complete the referral online. Families and referrers will need to contact the centre directly to obtain charges for the services. The centre has also put in place the following documents – referral form, agreement form, visitors’ procedure to centre, risk assessment and centre checklist.
The co-ordinator/centre manager ensures that workers are allocated to families with the manager being the main named worker and a volunteer for consistency. Building upon their experience the co-ordinator has been able to formulate a unique system which ensures that each family is provided with a safe and reliable plan which encourages a positive outcome. They are able to provide families with the support they need to help children adapt to challenging situations when parents have separated or changes to existing contact arrangements have been made. The centre’s focus is always on the emotional well-being and safety of each child. Families will be given feedback as to how the session went and if the child/ren’s needs and wishes are addressed.
At the time of the visit the supervised service was not yet in operation, but the assessor was able to view the necessary paperwork that will be used which included referral forms and contact pre visits/contact agreement forms. Court/child arrangement orders (where appropriate) will be asked for if possible prior to the pre visit/contact agreement meetings so that the centre is clear what is required and who can/cannot attend the contact session. Ground rules and guidelines will be signed by both parties along with a completed risk assessment. Staggered arrivals and departures can be implemented as required. The centre will use the NACCC model review form and families will be informed of dates during their pre-visit/contact agreement meetings.
When community sessions take place an updated risk assessment will be completed, and careful and discreet supervision will be maintained by the contact worker/s. As this is a new service workers will not be transporting children or completing home visits where contact has been requested in the home. Children will either be brought to the centre by the resident parent or if the centre is facilitating a contact session for the local borough, children will be brought to the centre by their foster carer or use the allocated taxi firm registered with the local social services borough.
The small team comprises of a qualified social worker, childcare worker and a volunteer experienced in working in a solicitor’s firm. The manager can also speak fluent Arabic. As the team is small communication will be of the highest importance to ensure all know what is happening. Once the centre becomes more established the manager will recruit additional contact supervisors to assist with the demand. At the present time the manager will be supervising the supervised contact sessions with the volunteers assisting in their role.
This is a new venture for First Steps Surrey Child Contact Centre and the manager has worked hard to prepare the necessary paperwork to ensure they meet the required NACCC standards. The centre provides a good quality service for their users and volunteer contact workers. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) contact accreditation.