The Roberts Centre is in Portsmouth, which is located 19 miles south-east of Southampton and linked to Gosport and the Isle of Wight via ferry and local bus and rail links. The centre provides supervised and supported contact and sits within Crasswell Street which is a residential area with neighbouring shops and large car parks. The Roberts Centre opened in 1985 and has adapted to changing needs in the area ever since, now offering support for children, families, young people and vulnerable adults from across Portsmouth and the surrounding area. The centre is close to a refugee camp, which it supports as part of the extended services offered at the centre. The culture of the community is reflected throughout the centre and the centre has a broad range of service users from varying backgrounds, faiths, and family situations. There are parks and facilities nearby which helps support community contact.
The building is large with a lot of rooms and a nursery attached which offers all day care. The building has a reception which all service users report to on entry. The building is safe, child friendly and appropriate for the services being offered. On entry there is a reception desk and lots of information for parents, there are also resources for parents to take if they need them, such as clothes and toys – this service is offered to all families at the centre. All parents and children are required to sign in and out of the building, on entry people are asked to wear a mask for Covid precautions. The centre uses staggered arrival and departure times and there is provision for separate entrance/exits if necessary.
From the reception area the contact room is off to the right and down a short corridor, which is also where the bathroom is. The bathroom is clean and tidy and well equipped for children and adults. Within the contact room, “The Clarke Suite” there is a kitchen which families can use for refreshments and cooking activities if they wish, all equipment and the area is clean and safe. The room is bright, welcoming, and inviting for children with its huge range of toys, games, art equipment and football and pool table. The room caters for all ages of babies, children and young adults. Children can choose whatever toys they wish, however during times of Covid toys are limited to ensure their cleanliness. Toys, furnishings and equipment are all in a good state of repair. On the walls within the contact room there is plenty of information about the centre, service user evaluation forms and other useful information is displayed, such as healthy eating ideas. On entry to this room there is a visual display for children to help them express how they are feeling about contact. There is an additional contact room which is used for younger toddlers, which has toys which are more appropriate to their age and stage of development, including a large fiddle board full of sensory toys. A waiting room is available. Within this room there is information for parents, a board which displays parents’ comments and the actions taken by the centre in response and a suggestions box. The centre has one other room that they can use as a waiting room if the parent has other children not involved in contact or if there is a parent finding contact difficult, particularly if they can hear their child crying. This room is far enough away for parents to be able to relax and the non-resident parents to be given an opportunity to be able to care for their child and attend to their needs. The centre can use the nursery garden when the nursery children are not in attendance. The garden is secure, with high walls around it and is well equipped with a good range of activities to meet children’s developmental needs. The garden is checked whenever it is used for hazards.
A handover service is offered after receiving a referral form from both parties, a pre-visit is completed as well as a risk assessment and rules and expectations of service use are explained. This service is recorded in the same way as supported and supervised sessions. Documented is who will be bringing the child and collecting the child, people who will be present at the handover and any additional arrangements.
Supported handovers are reviewed in the same manner as supported contact sessions and are not viewed as a long-term solution to community contact. Children are supported and are given opportunity to talk to workers, as part of the pre-visit any concerns are discussed and addressed with the child. There is a good amount of information about contact on the website, which is clear and easy to use with easy navigation. There are also clear descriptions about what contact is and the other services provided, with contact details.
Children are well provided for in the contact centre – there is a huge range of toys and resources for children to choose which cover a large age range. Children are listened to, and their wishes and feelings are taken into account. The centre has recently reflected on their practice of how they support children with the emotional effect of coming to a contact centre. The centre felt that they did not do enough to support children and were keen to ensure that they are capturing the child’s voice, so they have made a display on entry to the contact centre room of faces depicting emotional states – the child who is going to contact and place the arrow on the face which best describes how they are feeling. This is an excellent way of children being able to express themselves, especially if they either do not have the emotional vocabulary to say or they are feeling shy about telling someone. This also helps contact workers be aware that the child may be finding contact difficult and provide support as needed. Contact workers establish a safe word with the child which they can use if they wish for contact to stop, or they are finding things hard. Older children are provided with a staggered departure time so that workers can gather their views, via an informal chat after their contact session. All views and feelings about contact are recorded on the file and are shared with other professionals as needed and fed into Cafcass reviews. Next session sheets are used with children to identify what they would like to do during their next contact session. The centre has books about Robert Bear who uses a contact centre – this is a lovely resource, is child friendly and received well by the younger children. This resource helps children to understand what a contact centre is and why and how it is used. Evaluation forms are used with the children at the end of the contact intervention.
The Roberts Centre has been established for a long time and continues to meet the needs of the local area. This centre offers a range of services and is supporting a lot of vulnerable families. The contact centre is well run, organised and offers good contact which is well supervised. Records are kept securely and safely and completed in a timely and efficient manner. The centre works well with partner agencies and is working collaboratively with families. Health and safety standards are met. Safeguarding and child protection measures are in place and training is good. Recruitment and induction is excellent and files are well organised. The centre meets the requirements for supervised (enhanced) accreditation.