Muswell Hill Child Contact Centre is a well-resourced centre based in the Methodist Church. It is situated on Pages Lane, Muswell Hill, slightly set back from the main road with on-site parking and street parking available. The centre can be easily reached using public transport – the nearest underground stations are Highgate or East Finchley (Northern line), Bounds Green (Piccadilly line) and Finsbury Park (Piccadilly and Victoria lines). Buses from the stations – No: 102, 234, 299, 34 or 134. A high percentage of referrals come via the courts or through parents self-referring. Referrals also come from social services, but they have frequently required supervised contact and are therefore not accepted by the centre.
The assessor found the centre very inviting, bright and a good standard of cleanliness. It is located within the church with allocated areas. All entrances and exits are clearly identified with one main entrance to the centre with steps and a ramp to enter for all to use. There are several exits which are clearly signposted. The centre has separate entrances in place if required and staggered departures are arranged to avoid any possible confrontation on the premises. All families partaking in contact are registered by a volunteer, stationed at the entrance. Waiting rooms are available although resident parents are advised to go off site once the children are having contact with the visiting parent. The contact office and the three contact rooms are located on the first floor. You can access these using the stairs or the lift (which at the time of the report was not being used). The centre has one large contact room and two smaller contact rooms with plenty of tables and chairs. All are in very good decorative order and provide plenty of natural light and ventilation. There is also a huge garden area which includes a small wooded area. Families can also use a tennis court next to the centre’s premises. Volunteers all wear badges (so it is clear who is on duty) and are positioned to cover all rooms and garden area in order that they can observe the families without being intrusive.
The centre has a very good selection of equipment available for all ages, including art and craft materials, a good variety of books, construction toys, board games. The toys, games and small trucks/slide are regularly reviewed, cleaned and checked for missing pieces or damage. The centre has in place a regime for cleaning and checking all toys which is managed by the toy volunteer. The centre provides refreshments for the families attending the centre and for the resident parents if they are remaining in the centre. No families are allowed in the main kitchen. All toilet facilities have paper towels and soap along with hot water for hand washing.
At the time of the visit the centre was catering for 8 families depending on the numbers of children attending and size of families plus to ensure good social distancing. Families could play with a selection of large toys that are available, but due to Covid restrictions they were bringing their own toys and then taking them home at the end of the session. The centre had sanitisers in all areas of the centre for families and volunteers to use and volunteers were wearing masks or face coverings when on duty, but the visiting parents did not need to if they were at their allocated table with their children.
The centre has a very informative and easy to navigate website with all the necessary forms and information for all to view and use. Following receipt of the referral, each parent comes for a visit on separate occasions starting with the resident parent and the child when the centre is in operation. Either the co-ordinator, deputy or a team leader will conduct the pre-visit. Volunteers sometimes entertain the child in a separate corner of the room if it’s more appropriate. Parents and children have a chance to see the centre in operation, what is available, location, travel time to centre and gain an understanding of the rules and regulations of the centre. It also gives the children the experience playing in a different environment and what activities are on offer and agreements of what toys the visiting parent will be bringing to the session. At pre-visit meetings it is made clear that no threatening or intimidating behaviour will be tolerated towards family members or volunteers and all clients must sign the ground rules for the centre. Evaluation forms are completed by families and parents/children can also write on a post-it giving anonymous feedback about the centre.
The centre co-ordinator has been volunteering at the centre for 8 years and runs the child contact centre service, managing all aspects of the referral process according to NACCC’s National Standards. They are responsible for running the fortnightly sessions, recruiting and managing the volunteer team, ensuring that all policies are adhered to and records kept as appropriate. They arrange the pre-visits with families and provide training for volunteers, the deputy and team leaders who deputise in their absence.
Throughout the reaccreditation process the co-ordinator, chair and volunteers were professional in their manner, dedicated to their roles and support all who attend the centre. The coordinator has worked extremely hard in getting all the necessary paperwork up to date as well as completing training for the volunteers. The volunteers on duty all said that the co-ordinator is very dedicated, extremely supportive and that they are very clear on their roles. They mentioned that they enjoy the training that has been delivered by the co-ordinator or other training bodies. The centre has in place clear procedures so it reduces minimum risk for all that attend. The co-ordinator and volunteers demonstrated that they have good relationships with families. This is achieved through good communication between all concerned. By observing the families in attendance, they enjoy the facilities offered by the centre and several parents and children have expressed their pleasure of the service.
Muswell Hill Child Contact Centre is well organised and facilitates a high-quality service. The centre meets NACCC’s national standards required for supported re-accreditation.