Please note: The accreditation summary below was written about the centre’s previous venue which it occupied until February 2023.
Swindon Family Contact Centre has been running for 20 years. The centre is a 10-15 minutes’ walk from the train station and the town centre. Swindon is on the train line to London Paddington which makes it very accessible for those needing to come on public transport from or via London. The road where the centre is located has links with a good public transport network. During the Covid pandemic the contact centre had to close due to lockdown restrictions, but the time was used to identify a more suitable venue for the centre to operate from. The current church premises has been used since their reopening in September 2021, is in a great location and has a good space with safe entrance/exits to manage the parents and the children that live there. The building has all the necessary checks in place to meet Covid safe standards.
There is a car park at the centre behind the church available for parents using the centre. There is a back entrance into the contact centre area of the church which is used exclusively by contact centre users during the opening hours. The contact centre uses a floor of the church building, which is clean, secure and self-contained with its own kitchen, toilets, two contact rooms and a quiet room. This is separate from anyone else using the church during this time. There is only one entrance and exit from this floor which makes the venue extremely safe for children and parents using it. There is a point where a volunteer can sit which is a great position giving oversight of the whole of the floor and helps with safety. There is a café run by the church in a separate area of the church for resident parents to use if they want to. The contact centre does not have an outside area available to use.
Staggered arrival and departures are in place with the non-resident parent arriving fifteen minutes before the start of the session. On arrival they register at the table at the entrance area, hand sanitise (at the time of the report), and any outstanding paperwork is completed. Mobile phones are not allowed in the contact centre’s premises. The non-resident parent will then wait in the contact playroom. The resident parent will then arrive, and their child is taken into the playroom. Resident parents can then either leave or wait in the church’s café. If either party are going to be late, then they need to ring to let the contact team leader know. If the child is taken to the toilet, someone will go and hover outside the door so they can hear what is going on. If child is old enough to go alone, they will go alone, and a volunteer will hover to check they are ok. An age-appropriate selection of toys is brought out each week for the children attending. However, a family can bring their own toys if they prefer.
Referrals are mainly dealt with via NACCC’s Safe Referral System and in some cases a parent may get assistance from their solicitor, social worker or Cafcass officer in completing the online referral form. Pre-visits are organised by the co-ordinator during the Saturday morning session and during the pandemic have been held over Zoom. At the time of the report children were having a look at the centre over a Zoom call. If necessary, there can be arrangements made to show the child the centre face-to-face and this is arranged accordingly. The centre will in the first instance only offer four sessions of contact. Additional sessions are subject to these being completed successfully. The centre is intended to be a short-term solution while contact is established between children and visiting adults. A review takes place after the four sessions and a further four are offered should they be needed.
The centre’s volunteers communicate with the parents and observe children to make sure their needs have been met and they are happy at the centre. Feedback forms and complaint procedures are also in place. Interpreters are not often used within the centre but there are arrangements in place to use a local organisation which can provide independent interpreters.
At the time of the report the current co-ordinator had been in the role for the last year as they have been re-opening since a period of closure over Covid lockdown and have been working closely with the nearby supported centre in Gloucester and the centre in Cheltenham (which provides supported and supervised contact). This is particularly helpful should the new co-ordinator have any questions as they gain the experience they need. The centre relies heavily on volunteers to ensure it runs effectively. They have lost some over the Covid pandemic period, however have gained some new volunteers on the teams. Swindon Family Contact Centre is now in a good place financially to sustain its work over the next period and meets the requirements for supported contact reaccreditation.