Relate Dorset was established in 1974 supporting relationships across Dorset, South Wiltshire, and South Somerset. The child contact centre is situated in Poundbury, on the outskirts of Dorchester in Dorset with lots of shops, cafes and areas with playgrounds and green spaces. Poundbury is easily accessed by taking a train to Dorchester and there are buses which serve the area too. There is ample parking right outside of the building.
The Relate building is a well maintained, modern building with lots of rooms with various functions and purposes. The centre does more than just supervised contact so there are often lots of staff and service users in the building. Rooms are named and the co-ordinator is only too pleased to show people around the building. An extra room is available if needed, for example if a mum needs to feed her baby or a family member requires somewhere to wait. This room is not in the vicinity of the main room which helps with privacy. The building feels friendly with a lot of information and leaflets available. The centre has a reception area (accessed through the large doors) where a member of staff is situated throughout the contact session.
The room used for contact is welcoming and friendly, with a warm atmosphere. There is a good range of toys and activities for children which cater for all ages and developmental stages with furniture available to support babies and non-walkers. There is a baby change facility in the bathroom and there is also a change mat available in the contact room. The building (parts used for contact) is on one level so there are no access issues. The toilets are newly refurbished, clean and well maintained with cleaning equipment available. There is a well-equipped disabled bathroom with a baby changing table. Separate entrances/exits are available if needed and staff use staggered arrival and departure times.
Relate has a large staffing team, however there are some staff members that just work for the supervised contact centre. The Co-ordinator has been in this role for several years and working previously as a contact supervisor. There are seven supervised contact workers who are assigned a family to work with to ensure continuity and consistency.
The website for this centre is excellent, with lots of good information for parents and professionals which will help to answer many questions about the services offered and how to make a referral. Information, in leaflet form, explains the purpose of supervised contact and how the sessions work, in relation to what the supervised workers do, their role with the parent and child and how information is recorded, what is recorded, how and where it is stored, and who this information goes to. Referrals to the centre can come via court order and Cafcass, court order and referred by parent requesting contact or a professional service, such as a solicitor or a social worker on the parents’ behalf. Self-referrals are also accepted but must come from both parents and signed to agree to the contents of the referral form. Costs are indicated on the referral information, as is the way the session runs and the requirement for staggered arrival and departure times for the resident and non-resident parent. Contact plans are completed methodically and with as much information as possible and are signed by both parties before any interventions take place. Review or next steps meetings are arranged to reach a resolution and plan for the next sessions or moving onto a supported contact centre if required.
Children are placed at the centre of the work done during supervised contact sessions. There are information leaflets available for children and pre visits are arranged with children and resident parent if appropriate, otherwise another time will be made available to children to ensure that they have had a look around the centre and are happy with the environment. Children are also invited to give feedback by way of the smiley face evaluation form.
Relate Supervised Contact Centre is a well-run and well-resourced setting, with a clear staffing structure within a larger organisation. The building is welcoming and all the staff that I met were friendly and clear on their role and the expectations of the service. Staff appear to enjoy their roles and are enthusiastic about the work that they do. Health and safety is well met and this is a well-established centre so many procedures have been in place for a period of time and work well. The co-ordinator is clearly passionate about the work that they do and is responsible for files and paperwork which are well organised and structured. This centre has met the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.