Wigan Child Contact Centre has been established for around 20 years, providing supported contact. It is based in Hindley which is a town/former mining village 3 miles outside the centre of Wigan. The centre is based in a self-contained local authority children’s centre building with its own car park and bus and rail links nearby.
The local authority building meets all health and safety requirements and is well appointed in terms of disabled facilities, toys etc with the contact centre only accessing it on a Saturday. The centre has 8 separate contact rooms with 4 currently in use at the time of the report due to Covid restrictions. There is a secure entrance with a vestibule where the volunteers can chat briefly to either parent before admitting them to the rest of the building. The main area is only currently used to receive families. Individual contact rooms are well furnished and at the time of the report parents were being asked to bring their own toys. The conservatory is extensive and useful for larger family groups. All rooms have glass viewing panels, but doors are also left open. There are several toilets available with currently each family having use of their own facilities. Baby changing facilities are available and disabled provision is in place.
The volunteer centre co-ordinator has been in the role for the last 3 years and organises the rota of volunteers, attendance of families and is a link to any outside agencies. The majority of referrals are received by the co-ordinator via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. The centre’s referral form and rules for parents make it clear what will/will not be acceptable at the centre and a clear system for staggered arrival and departures is in place.
Pre-visits are arranged with parents prior to contact starting ensuring safety for all concerned. In addition to the co-ordinator rings each family in the week preceding contact to check that there have been no major changes. On the day of contact the parent seeking contact arrives first and waits in their contact room until the resident parent arrives with the child/ren. A volunteer will then bring the children to meet their non-resident parent and the resident parent can leave the centre. At the end of the session the resident parent collects the children and the parent who has had contact waits until the other parent and children have left the premises.
Much responsibility lies with the co-ordinator who is unpaid and devotes a lot of time and energy to running the centre with care and commitment. The management committee appear to be stable and supportive, as are the team of volunteers. There is a core strong team of volunteers with experience in other relevant fields such as nursing and teaching although some have left due to Covid related issues. During the assessor’s visit they presented as experienced and well informed with an approach which was friendly but sensitive to different families’ needs and promoting safe contact.
Overall, it is considered that this is a centre with very good facilities which is welcoming and well run. The co-ordinator is very committed and organised with good support from the committee and volunteers. From the evidence presented, it is an effective service that meets the NACCC National Standards for supported contact, and the needs of families in the area.