Ipswich Child Contact Centre was opened in 1994 and moved to its present venue providing supported contact at the Wellington Children’s Centre in Chevalier Road Ipswich in 2005. Referrals come from Social Services, Cafcass, self-referrals, solicitors, and occasionally family mediators. Although the families mostly come from the Ipswich area, some non-resident parents travel from further afield, more recently because of the closure of other centres e.g., in Colchester, parents are travelling a further distance to the centre. The centre is about a mile west of the Ipswich town centre, is on a major bus route and the railway station is about a mile and a half away.
Excellent premises are provided in the Wellington Children’s Centre with parking for resident parents, and a secure outdoor play area, thus providing a comfortable and safe environment for the children and their parents. It was very clean, and well furnished, with colourful rugs and murals. There were adequate toilets and a good baby changing area. Currently the contact centre is using three rooms for contact which are of a reasonable size but not so spacious as to be overwhelming. There are two separate entrances.
At the time of the report, the centre was continuing to take precautions against Covid, with temperatures being taken, readily available sanitiser and masks being required. Toys were not currently being provided, because of Covid safety, however the centre has found that by not doing so non-resident parents are taking more responsibility for activity during the sessions.
Arrangements are in place so that the families do not meet which is helped by having staggered arrival times with the contact parent arriving first and leaving last. The teams are sensitive to those with mental health issues e.g., anxiety, which are again discussed at the pre-visit to consider any additional help which could be provided. Generally, parents are expected to make their own contact arrangements after eight visits and this is made clear at the pre-visit, though of course there are occasions when this isn’t possible and it takes a bit longer. Informal reviews take place on a very regular basis and when the family gets to the sixth session, they are asked to consider what the next step will be.
The centre provides a warm and welcoming environment to families at a difficult time in their lives. The centre co-ordinator has been in post for four and a half years and, along with the deputy, provides strong leadership and support for the volunteer team. Volunteers are experienced, kind and sensitive to each family’s needs. Record keeping and administration are efficiently managed, and documentation is of a high standard. Health and safety issues are taken very seriously and there is a strong focus on placing children at the centre of the process, making the centre a very positive place for children to meet their other parent. The centre meets the standards required for supported contact accreditation.