Neath Port Talbot Child Contact Centre was established 17 years ago, opening in November 2005 by the centre coordinator. They still use the same premises – a local church in the heart of the Sandfields community of Port Talbot. It is an independent service, although well supported and established within this community, and with many informal links and working partnerships because of this. Port Talbot is a town in South Wales. It has good local transport links; both road and rail and is easily accessible to visiting families. There is parking available in the large church carpark, with plenty on the surrounding roads if needed. The centre is accessible to many children and their families, with different referral routes available, including private law, social services and more recently, self-referrals. The service has developed in many ways; supporting families predominantly from the local community over the years, but also with increasing numbers travelling to use the centre from further afield. It has always been busy during the Saturday morning sessions and although there have been quieter moments due to the Covid-19 pandemic/ lockdown restrictions, the contact service remains in high demand.
The Contact Centre is based in the Sandfields Methodist Church, where it is well established and accommodated very well. There is a large, light and airy ‘hall’; used as the contact room, a good sized ‘school room’; used as the waiting area, which is separate to the contact space, and a kitchen which is free for their use if they wish. There is lots of cupboard storage available for furniture, and the soft furnishings and toys that are used. The entrance area provides a comfortable space for parents to sign in. The building is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs, and the family toilet facilities are multi-purpose and well equipped with changing facilities.
The centre is currently accepting and processing new referrals. These families will begin as soon as the pre-visits have taken place and convenient dates are agreed. Referrals are currently received from solicitors, the local authority, and self-referrals are also accepted. The centre follows the required protocol for preparation for contact visits. There have been few occasions where these have taken place on the same day as sessions, only due to long distance travel arrangements. Occasionally, these will take place over the phone, in cases where the co-ordinator believes the information given to be straightforward, and the family presents as low risk. The co-ordinator, or the deputy, is responsible for conducting these visits but there is support available from the volunteer team, as necessary. The paperwork used to support this process is excellent, and the information for referrers and parents is clear and easy to understand. A new leaflet for parents/children is in the process of being printed, updating the one that has been used for many years.
The centre has a long-established, active management committee. Many of the members have been in their roles since the centre’s early days, and it appears that they are still very committed to supporting and developing the centre and its contact service. As mentioned, the co-ordinator has been in post for 17 years, providing a constant source of guidance and support, both for the team of volunteers and the families. They have a long employment history of working with children and families, especially in this field; previously as a social services child contact manager, and at Swansea Contact Service. They have well-established links with the community and with many other professionals, teams and organisations in the area and remains dedicated to the service.
Neath Port Talbot Child Contact Centre appears to be continuing to provide a much needed and much valued service. Despite still receiving no Cafcass referrals at present, the centre is busy with families and with referrals from other sources. The volunteer team, although small at present, is long established, and committed to the smooth and successful running of the centre. The management committee, also long-established, remain positive and supportive of the co-ordinator and their efforts. With the leadership, the premises and most of the practice/ procedure remaining the same, the service at the centre is as consistent as it has always been and meets the requirements for supported contact re-accreditation.