NYAS is a national children’s rights charity, based in Birkenhead, Merseyside. It provides advocacy and legal representation to children and vulnerable adults when important decisions are being made about them and contact services to help when their parents are separating, including centre and community based supervised contact, indirect contact, handovers, creative contact (virtual), and life story work. NYAS also runs a second contact centre in Liverpool.
The contact centre is housed in the main headquarters of NYAS to the rear of the building. It has a separate entrance, is self-contained, and is a very attractive, well-maintained centre which meets the necessary standards with a wide range of toys etc. The reception in the front of the building is staffed Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and outside these times facilitators ensure they are there to meet parents. The centre has on-site parking and is a 10-minute walk from Hamilton Square and Conway Park train stations and Central Bus Station. There are good road and rail links to Liverpool and the rest of the area. NYAS premises (including the toilets) are suitable for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. There is only one entrance to the contact centre but staggered times and the use of the main reception area during office hours can be used to manage difficult situations as necessary. The centre is light and airy with several particularly attractive features such as an area on the wall where children can hang their drawings. The centre provides a range of games and activities for a wide range of children and ages and plans to install an I-pad both for virtual contact, feedback and other purposes.
Referral processes for families and children are comprehensive and show the links between referral and plans. Next Steps Meetings are arranged when plans need to change which include a risk assessment although sometimes the next stage is determined by Cafcass or the court. Although policies are not specifically quoted, matters such as safeguarding are spelt out and the rules, terms and conditions are laid out, including the use of mobile phones, cameras and the taking of photographs. There is guidance for families for the provision of interpreters and it is made clear that families must fund this themselves. NYAS does not transport children.
Children are offered a child preparation session (if they want to attend this) prior to the contact sessions or intervention taking place. If the children require more sessions, this discussion takes place between the head office contact team and the allocated contact facilitator. Where appropriate, preparatory sessions for children can take place virtually, but ideally they take place in person. Contact plans are drawn up during the set-up meeting and are reviewed during the contact process. The referral form and the additional information form refers to Cafcass’ parenting plan and provides a direct web link to download the plan so that adults are encouraged to use this, or another method if they prefer. All adults and children involved in the referral are included in the reviewing process and are kept informed.
The centre is staffed by a co-ordinator with administrative support and contact services provided by self-employed facilitators. There is a NYAS-wide HR section that oversees all the necessary processes and it is clear that these are thoroughly monitored and completed. Staff can access a lot of free training resources and supervision and oversight is thorough even for the self-employed facilitators. Consistency of staff for the families is maintained wherever possible.
NYAS Contact Services is well-run and provides a wide range of contact services. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.