Information updated: 22nd July 2021.
The majority of Child Contact Services are open and able to support children and their families. To find out about the status of your local centre, check out the NACCC Find A Centre tool.
Centres are independent and have systems in place that they have risk assessed to be safe, in terms of the virus. Despite the change in the law in July 2021, NACCC remains of the view that any softening of restrictions at child contact centres should be a gradual process and one that can easily be reversed if infection case rates continue to rise.
Centres may choose to keep all current advice (face coverings, hand gel, temp checks, toys) in place for the time being and NACCC would support them in this approach. Any softening of rules should only take place alongside a reviewed risk assessment showing this to be appropriate.
Are Child Contact Services Open?
It is permitted for supported and supervised Child Contact Centres to continue to offer services to children and families. This will remain under review and updated information will be made available here.
Some Child Contact Services will be unable to open, for the time being, particularly those only offering supported contact. There are various reasons for this, which might include the ability of the centre to keep families safe, any shortage of staffing as a result of self-isolation or restrictions posed beyond their control, by a landlord for example.
Those centres remaining open will give extra consideration to how they will keep families separate and socially isolated, bearing in mind the increased risk. Information about the steps being taken at centres is available further down this guide.
I’m Worried, Do I have to attend a Child Contact Service?
Children have a right and an emotional need to see loved ones that they do not currently live with. Parents attuned to and able to prioritise their children’s needs will do all they can to promote safe and healthy relationships with the adults who no longer live with their children.
Some families might not be able to attend services either because they are in some way vulnerable or because they are concerned about the virus and its impacts. Parents are always encouraged to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of their children, but must not unjustly use Coronavirus to frustrate Child Contact.
The Courts are aware of examples where the Coronavirus has been used as an excuse to frustrate the process of children having contact with parents they do not live with. The Courts will not tolerate this and take robust action where this is noted to be happening.
The President of the Family Division – Sir Andrew McFarlane. Has provided guidance to parents when considering Child Contact particularly during Coronavirus and where Child Arrangement Orders might be in place. This can be accessed here.
If you are worried, it is strongly advised that you speak to your local contact service to find out what measures they have in place to ensure the safety of those using services.
What are Child Contact Services doing to keep children and families safe?
Child Contact Services have been working in ways that keep children and their families safe since March 2020. They are experienced and confident at doing this.
All Contact Services will have risk assessed their services to ensure that they are keeping families safe. Some centres will have used a NACCC Template to do this, others will be using an equivalent at least as good.
All child contact centres will have amended the way they work with children and families in order to protect them from the virus. Steps taken are likely to include:
- Personal Hygiene. Most centres will be asking you about your health and wellbeing in order to ensure that they are able to keep other families safe. Furthermore, you will also observe increased Soap, Hand Sanitizer, Antibac, Gloves, Signage and other things in place.
- Additional Environmental Hygiene Measures. Buildings will be cleaned more frequently, particularly parts of the building touched or used by multiple different people. You may notice windows open, to increase airflow or one way systems where these were not previously used.
- Staff and Volunteers will have access to PPE. Risk assessments at centres will have identified the PPE required at centres and you may have noticed some subtle differences.
- Social Distancing Measures in place. All centres will have measures in place to facilitate social distancing. In many cases, this will be the kind of thing you will already be familiar with. However, at some centres, you might have noticed your currently not as close to other families, if you see them at all. Or, you might also notice waiting areas have closed that were previously open.
- Track and Trace. All centres have processes in place to share personal information with Track and Trace. They might ask you to scan a QR Code on a mobile phone, sign in and out of the building, or both. Information, as required, will be shared with Track and Trace in a way that is safe and secure.
- Training. NACCC has given members access to E-learning relating to managing risks posed by Coronavirus. Many will have completed this, others may have completed an equivalent or have alternative arrangements in place.
If you are worried, anxious or unsure – speak to the centre. They would rather you tell them and they will be able to set your mind at ease. If you have reasonable cause to stop attending a Child Contact Service discuss this with them at the nearest possible opportunity.
Contact with my child has stopped because of Coronavirus, what can I do?
It is a sad reality of this pandemic that some children have had contact arrangements with their parents disrupted because of Coronavirus. In most cases, this is not what is in their best interests. In fact, it can be emotionally harmful to keep implementing and then revoking contact.
NACCC urge parents, and where necessary professionals to work together, in the best interests of children to ensure that disruptions to contact are minimal and where necessary avoided altogether.
This might be achieved by:
- Changing the date and time of contact to ensure as many families as possible get to use services.
- You might temporarily use a different contact service if your usual one has closed, but others remain open, locally to where the child lives.
- Asking mutually trusted family or friends to take over the supervision of contact or facilitating handovers. Before doing this be sure that this is acceptable with not only the parents but also within any guidance provided by Courts, Cafcass, Local Authorities or other professionals.
- You can access virtual contact from an ever-increasing number of services. This does not need to be a centre near to you and this is often a very affordable way of maintaining essential links to children, where other options are not available.
- Parents might be able to make arrangements independently of contact services where this is safe and appropriate.
- Where other options are not possible, contact might be able to be sustained by the passing of letters, cards, pictures and gifts. This is not likely to be as enjoyable as seeing a parent they do not live with, but it does keep that other parent in their lives.
Where disruptions to contact can not be avoided, children should be offered information, at a developmentally appropriate level about the changes to their lives. They should be offered reassurance that things will return to normal, as soon as possible, and that their absent parent still loves them.
I share parental responsibility for a child with someone I don’t live with – can I still see them?
Where parental responsibility is shared, existing arrangements can continue and the child can move between both parents, and therefore between both parents’ households (and support bubbles where relevant).
My child does not live with me but there are regular arrangements in place so we can continue to have contact with each other – can these arrangements continue?
Yes – for children who do not live in the same household as their parents and have existing arrangements in place to visit and safely have contact, these arrangements can continue. This could include children in foster care, children’s homes and adoptive placements.
Can wider family members come to (supervised) contact sessions, when this takes the total number of participants to 6 or 7 (not including staff)?
NACCC are advising against this for the time being, but centres are free to make their own assessments about what is safe.
I live in elsewhere in the UK but child contact is in England, can I still travel?
Anyone who is in England, whether resident or travelling here, is bound by English Government Rules. However, travelling to a destination in England for Child Contact remains a reasonable reason to leave home and travel.
Do children, parents, staff, or volunteers have to wear face coverings?
NACCC continue to recommend that parents, staff and other adults wear face coverings, where a person is not exempt. Children may choose or parents may exercise parental responsibility about face coverings for children, where this is developmentally appropriate. Whilst the law no longer requires these, NACCC would support any centre that made them a condition of service, in the interests of the safety of all involved.
My family use a Contact Centre, do they test for Covid-19?
Probably not, most contact centres are run by people qualified or experienced in Health and Social Care and therefore, they would not ordinarily have expertise onsite to arrange or deliver testing. To arrange a test you should follow the information available on the Gov.uk website.
Some centres might ask you to produce a lateral flow result, showing that you are free of the virus. Tests are free to access from your local pharmacy.
I work at a Contact Centre, am I eligible for priority testing?
Yes, anyone can access tests, free of charge from most local pharmacies.
How can I arrange for staff or families to be tested for Covid-19 at the contact centre?
Tests can be accessed from any local pharmacy and people can be encouraged (but not mandated) to take these.
Other Information & Bodies that can Assist
Agencies that might be able to assist.
The government have this information available about testing and how people can access tests.
Public Health England
Public information access office
Public Health England
133-155 Waterloo Road
If your enquiry relates to coronavirus (COVID-19) please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Main switchboard – 020 7654 8000
Telephone: 0300 311 22 33
General Post (including complaints, but not legal proceedings): NHS England, PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT
NHS 119 – Test and Trace Service
Telephone – 119