Yorkshire Children’s Centre is based in the middle of Huddersfield which is a large market town in the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, West Yorkshire. The contact centre has been running for around 25 years, specialising in supervised contact, but also providing supported/assisted contact mainly as a follow-on to those families who have already been part of a supervised contact programme. The centre is based in Brian Jackson House which also houses some local authority children’s services including the Local Safeguarding Board partnership. This provides the centre with an invaluable range of on-site support services and advice on safeguarding. Brian Jackson House is a large 3 storey building donated to the charity which owns the property. It is located directly above the train station and 5 minutes’ walk from the bus station and several large car parks. Yorkshire Children’s Centre runs an additional contact centre in Doncaster.
The building is a large, converted warehouse and has three floors all connected by lifts as well as stairs. Reception and a spacious waiting area are on the ground floor with two large contact rooms – one in the basement and one on the first floor. There are clean toilets with changing facilities and disabled facilities on each floor and the large contact room has its own toilets and kitchen.
The culture of the local community is well reflected with several members of staff able to speak Urdu and Punjabi and guidance re use of interpreters in the staff handbook although these are not often required.
The centre is normally staffed by a co-ordinator and team of contact workers and volunteers, with the co-ordinator reporting to the Head of Children and Family Services who is a qualified social worker. An additional contact worker is also a qualified social worker who works for the local authority children’s team and assists the contact centre on a part time basis. The centre is well staffed and has two named workers allocated to each family, with changes in worker only taking place when unavoidable.
Guidance for referrers and information for parents can be found on the centre’s website which also has links to the centre’s safeguarding and privacy policies. The centre has detailed and clear referral forms, record of pre visits, observation of contact and reviews (next steps meetings). The assessor was also able to observe a pre-visit where the service to be provided was clearly explained with the stages from supervised to supported (called assisted by the centre) through to handover contact and the family managing unaided. There is a detailed and clear risk assessment form which is saved in all the family files. Contact plans are comprehensive and are seen and signed by both parents. Handovers are usually offered as a follow-on to supervised contact and less frequently as a first service with new families. A proforma is used for recording contact sessions and these are overseen by a senior person before being shared with parents. When contact takes place in the community the centre has a list of agreed and pre-checked venues and two workers are always present. There is a clear commitment to planned work and reviews and evidence was seen of families progressing from supervised contact, through some dispute resolution work, to eventually managing contact themselves. The centre prepares reports for court or for Cafcass through the Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA) scheme.
The centre has a high commitment to children with them always being offered a pre-visit, good resources in the contact rooms for them to express their feelings including a “Buzz your feelings box”. They also have a child-centred feedback form and a “What about me” form where the child can tell the workers what they like etc.
This is an excellent centre which specialises in supervised contact with the benefit of a large well-appointed building centrally located with a high standard of contact provision and access to many complementary services for children and families in the same building. It is managed to a high standard with a strong emphasis on clear policies, accountability, and staff support. Particular strengths are their commitment to diversity in practice (with staff speaking Urdu and Punjabi); their child centred approach (with opportunities for children to express their feelings and needs before, during and after sessions); and a high level of training in place (especially regarding safeguarding). Any recommended actions following the visit are now complete meaning the service meets the standards for enhanced (supervised) accreditation.