Kings Lynn Child Contact Centre opened in 2010, following the closure of another centre in the area. The volunteers recognised that the need remained, and so the centre opened initially in other premises but has been in the current hall owned by the Methodist Church for the past four years. This is proving to be very satisfactory as the hall is in the centre of Kings Lynn, close to public transport and the train station. These transport links are vital as many clients are travelling some distance from other towns and rural areas. There is a small car park available but even if full there is adequate parking nearby.
The Methodist Church Hall is used as the contact room, along with a separate room for resident parents to wait should it be necessary. The hall is clean, comfortable, and well equipped with tables and chairs with each family being allocated a space. Ample toys, all in good condition, are available along with an arts and craft table, plus protective clothing, and the usual books and games. There are adequate toilets, including a disabled one with changing facilities, again in a clean state.
Referrals come from the courts, some self-referrals, Cafcass, the mediation service, children’s services, and solicitors, though less so at the time of the report. Numbers were beginning to increase following the pandemic, but there was currently no waiting list. All self-referrals require a form completed by each parent. The co-ordinator and their team are very aware of the risks presented by some families and have procedures in place to manage these. There is careful checking on receipt of a referral, with the coordinator making telephone calls to other agencies before a referral is accepted to gather as much information as possible.
No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises, and this is stressed before contact starts. Arrangements are in place so that family members do not need to meet which is helped by having staggered arrival times with the non-resident parent arriving first and leaving last, and separate entrances. However, where parents are willing to meet this is encouraged as it benefits the children seeing their parents communicate. The teams are sensitive to those with mental health issues eg anxiety, which are again discussed at the pre-visit, to consider any additional help which could be provided. All volunteers are made aware of potential risks and measures in place to mitigate these. Parents are encouraged to make their own contact arrangements after six months and this is made clear at the pre-visit, though there is a degree of flexibility about this, and it sometimes takes a bit longer. Informal reviews take place and when the family gets towards the fifth month they are asked to consider what the next step will be.
The co-ordinator has been in post for ten years and leads a strong team of volunteers who have mainly all been in post for several years. The co-ordinator takes overall responsibility for the week by week running of the centre, including liaison with referrers, and parents as well as creating rotas and registers and DBS checks. Three or four volunteers will be on duty every session, and always the co-ordinator or their deputy, thus creating a strong sense of continuity and reassurance for the families who attend. They demonstrated good understanding of the needs of the children and their parents which was demonstrated with sensitivity but firmness.
This is a well-run centre, in a pleasant and well maintained building, and clearly the contacts were being enjoyed by both parents and children. The volunteers, who come from a range of backgrounds and with a wide age profile, were proactive, and ready to assist if necessary. All demonstrated considerable understanding of the needs of the families they serve. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for supported contact re-accreditation.