Henry’s House is a new contact service in Darlington which has been set up to offer a range of contact needs in both public and private law. There is a large contact service and additionally they are offering a community contact service and transporting looked-after children to and from contact. Henry’s House is based in an office block in an industrial part of Darlington, close to the town centre with good transport links. Henry’s House is the contact arm of We Care Bespoke (WCB) and has been developed due to the latter’s excellent reputation with local authorities in the health & social care recruitment arena, which has led them to opening a home in County Durham for children on the autistic spectrum, an assisted living scheme in Northumberland and now the contact service. WCB’s head office is based in Chester-Le-Street and is commissioned by a number of local authorities based in the Northeast of England.
Henry’s House has been internally designed to meet the requirements for child contact. It has security access and is part of a larger development of offices and charities. The premises has a reception area and four good sized rooms with male and female toilets, kitchen and dining facilities, separate disabled toilet, baby changing facilities and is accessible. The building has recently passed CHAS registration ensuring it meets all H&S requirement and is now ready to be used as a child contact centre. The centre has a sensory room that can be used for children with autism and special learning needs and a training room is available which can be used for supported contact or as a large family contact room. Toys and equipment meet a range of ages and needs and toilets are clean and well maintained.
At the time of the report the contact service was not yet up and running, however, the assessor observed a comprehensive referral form which will be used for all children/families using the service. The service intends to take private law referrals (from solicitors and parents self-referring) and will also to offer contact facilities to local authorities. For private law referrals a pre-visit meeting with each parent will take place. Contact plans are ready to be used, which require signature of both parents and are made following the pre visit and risk assessment. Basic child contact centre rules are part of the agreement. The contact agreement form sets out who will bring the children to contact and collect them, and the times for this.
Reviews will be undertaken for all contacts taking place. For public law cases this will need to be agreed with the local authority social worker and should include the social worker, contact worker and the parents. For private law cases a review will be done after 4-6 contacts with a view to discussing progress (or otherwise) made and next steps. At this meeting the parents and contact worker should be present plus any other professional with an interest, e.g. social worker or Cafcass worker. This review document will be completed up to the next steps part by the case worker and discussed with parents, with amendments as agreed. The next steps for moving contact out of a centre then need to be agreed. This could include moving to supported, handover or trying family mediation.
We Care Bespoke have a good website which is easy to navigate with information for professionals regarding the services offered and a leaflet for parents detailing the different types of contact. There is a good child’s leaflet available, and a child-friendly complaints policy is also available, setting out how children/young people can complain and the steps that will be taken. Once the service is up and running it is intended that children will be given the opportunity to visit the centre and meet the member of staff who will be supporting them, see the room they will use and be given information about what will happen on the day. A ‘safe’ word can be agreed for children who are anxious or nervous about the contact or seeing the other parent.
In setting this up WCB have worked closely within the NACCC National standards to ensure that the highest quality is offered to its service users. WCB investment in health and safety and training is to be commended. The service meets the requirements for enhanced (supervised contact) accreditation.