Guernsey Child Contact Centre is a well-managed small charity offering supported, supervised and handover contacts based at Roseville Community Centre in St Peter’s Port. The centre has full use of the building, renting it from Guernsey Housing Association and comes under the umbrella of ‘Safer’ – a larger charity that oversees the domestic abuse strategy and services for the islands. The service is based in a community complex with car parking, in the town centre on the main bus routes. Referrals come from the Family Proceedings Advisory Service (FPA) which was formerly known as the Safeguarder Service and works for the Courts, independently of any other States Committees or agency, to safeguard and promote the interests of children and young people involved in Family Court proceedings and ensure that children’s views are heard. It incorporates the Family Mediation Service. Guernsey Child Contact Centre can take both public and private law referrals, but predominantly operates within private law proceedings. The reaccreditation, due to the covid pandemic, took place via MS Teams.
Guernsey Child Contact Centre has been operating since 2008, initially as a supported centre based in a church building. With the support of the then NACCC Regional Support Manager they were able to develop the supervised service. For the past six years the manager has been in post working with six centre co-ordinators/contact supervisors and six volunteers, the latter covering the supported centre.
The building presents as a child friendly service with well-resourced contact rooms. the premises are in very good condition, well ventilated, safety checked with good furnishings and equipment. There are ample toilets, including an accessible one and baby changing facilities are available. There are a range of leaflets and guidelines available for both parents and referrers about contact services and information regarding what children need when parents separate.
At the pre-visit meeting parents are given a pack which covers everything that has been discussed in the meeting, ie guidelines, contract, rules, policies etc. Every case at the centre is allocated a lead supervisor and a back-up supervisor and each worker has a role with the family, eg one worker will accompany the non-resident parent into the contact room and the back-up supervisor will welcome the child into the centre and spend time with them making sure they are feeling OK and not upset/worried before escorting them to the allocated room for contact. On occasions these roles are reversed. The non-resident parent attends 15 minutes prior to contact starting and leaves at least 15 minutes after contact is finished. At the time of the report, lateral flow tests and temperature were being taken on arrival. If parents are needing a handover service and are happy to meet but need a level of support, the supervisor can be present for the handover. The centre also has CCTV covering the outside area and parents wishing to return children after the centre has closed can choose to do this in front of the cameras for added protection. The service has also facilitated limited virtual contact, predominantly used during lockdown.
Guernsey Child Contact Centre has an excellent arrangement for getting children ready for contact; the resident parent is asked to bring the child/ren in for a pre contact meeting once parents’ pre-visits have taken place and the family are deemed to be suitable. The child then gets the opportunity to visit the centre and have a play session with the supervisor who will be overseeing the contact. The second supervisor is also introduced. Depending upon the anxiety level of the child more than one meeting can be offered to meet the individual need. This is particularly good when children have been affected by issues such as parental alienation. At the start of a contact session the resident parent and the child are met by the second supervisor at the door of the centre and the child is handed over. They then go into a small room to have an initial chat with the second supervisor who will assess whether the child is OK for the contact. They then take the child down to the contact room when the child is ready. For some children this can be straight away and for other children they just might need to talk for a little while or agree a safe word to say if they want to leave. Children are also asked for feedback at the review stages via an emoji questionnaire.
The staff are all very committed to the centre and the families they support and want to do the best job they can. The assessor was particularly impressed with the level of support they can give to children. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.