The Bright Connections has been operating since January 2022 and provides supervised contact in the areas of Harlow and neighbouring counties. It provides contact services from an Ofsted inspected pre-school mainly during the weekend or holiday periods with a high proportion of contact being managed in a community setting. Harlow is served by two railway stations: Harlow Town and Harlow Mill; both are served by trains between London Liverpool Street and Cambridge. There is also a bus service to Epping tube station, which is on London Underground’s Central Line. There is limited parking by the centre or off-road parking in a residential area. There is also a small Co-op where families can purchase refreshments to bring into the centre and a park opposite the centre that is used for community contact sessions.
The building used is on the ground level and has a good secure outdoor area available. The building is accessible for people who may have a physical disability. As soon as clients and visitors enter the building, they are signed in by a staff member and taken to the relevant room. The main contact area has a large room, with a smaller room off to the left, a small kitchen, lobby area and toilets for adults and children. Even though the centre’s building is geared to the younger age group, the service has toys and games for older children. An enclosed outdoor area is also available.
The Bright Connections has an easy to navigate website where potential clients can navigate to their chosen facility. A leaflet for parents and referrers is available to download which has pictures of the centre and clearly explains what contact is available with information on the different types, venue, and transport links. It introduces the centre, what is contact, who runs the centre, how it works, why have you been referred, what we provide, what happens when you arrive and at the end. Families and referrers have to call the centre direct regarding charges. A children’s leaflet is also available.
The manager as often as possible will arrange pre visit meetings with the children in attendance and then will inform the family of the centre’s decision regarding contact sessions. All records for recording times and departures are recorded for all families receiving contact sessions whether in the centre, community, handovers or indirect. The centre updates family risk assessments and operates staggered arrivals and departures. Contact agreements for handovers and indirect contact are also completed. The centre if required will use interpreters to enable families to use their language during contact sessions. The cost of this will be decided by the client.
Dates for reviews will be set after 6-8 contact sessions and the centre will ensure that all the necessary parties will need to attend. A reminder notice will be set to all involved at least 2 weeks before the set date for the review. Reviews where applicable will be held separately for each parent.
The team have also spent time looking at community facilities that can be used to facilitate contact services along with a comprehensive risk assessment plan to ensure that all buildings used are safe and appropriate. Prior to any home visits, community visits and venues the assessor viewed additional and thorough risk assessments that have been completed prior to the session taking place. The co-ordinator will use their car if required for transporting children. The assessor viewed business insurance, driving licence and MOT certification for the vehicle. Families will make their own way to the centre or the meeting place where community contact is taking place. Updated risk assessments are completed regarding venue, route and transport that is being used along with ensuring the centre’s mobile phone is fully charged. If there is a community contact, and the family wish to travel on public transport, a thorough risk assessment will be conducted before the session going ahead.
The contact manager and contact coordinator work part time in other jobs and organise the contact sessions when both are on duty along with the support of an independent social care consultant. The team have a wealth of knowledge that assists them with managing any difficult situations as well as providing guidance and support for the families attending contact sessions in the centre, the community, and handovers.
The team have worked hard in providing a good portfolio for the assessor to view. The assessor was shown around the centre by the manager. The venue is ideally suited for the younger child although the team do have available older games and toys for children aged 7+. The contact sessions are held either weekly, fortnightly or monthly sessions ranging from 1 – 2 hours. Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.