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FAQ Resident Parents

Yes, all new volunteers, staff and trustees at a child contact centre accredited by NACCC need to have an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before commencing work at the centre.

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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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All NACCC accredited child contact centres and the people who work in them, will work with you impartially. They are very experienced and understand the difficulties that families will encounter.

Sometimes, the system can feel very unfair, depending upon your situation. It is worth considering that the centre has nothing to gain by taking sides and their first concern will always be the child’s best interests.

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You can encourage your child to look at the stories on our website in the children and young people section. It may be helpful for them to visit the website of the centre that you might be attending.

Childline provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

My Hidden Chimp is an educational book for children to work through with an adult or by themselves. The book offers parents, teachers and carers some ideas and thoughts on how to help children to develop healthy habits for life. The science behind the habits is discussed in a practical way with exercises and activities. The neuroscience of the mind is simplified for the children to understand and then use to their advantage. Cost: about £7 https://chimpmanagement.com

There are lots of books for children and young people covering separation and divorce available on Amazon and other book shops. For example:

Questions and Feelings About: When parents separate

Dinosaurs Divorce

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When you attend the pre-visit the centre will allow you to see the building and will hopefully be able to identify the room that your child will be spending time within. Ordinarily, parents would not be in the contact room whilst contact is taking place. This would require both parents being together at the same time and in most cases if this were possible you probably wouldn’t need the services of a contact centre.

If your child is particularly unsettled centres will have ways of managing this. One of these might be that you join your child in the contact room (maybe with or without the presence of the other parent), you would then spend time calming your child, progressing to playing with them. Then when appropriate you would be expected to become less a part of the play, and moving towards gradually leaving the room and being replaced by the other parent for the remainder of the session. It is anticipated that once the child forms positive associations with the centre and the person they are having contact with this could become less needed and cease.

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Yes, Child contact centres although accredited by the NACCC and running to our national standards are autonomous and it is solely their discretion on the referrals they accept or decline.

A centre is able to decline referrals that are court ordered, in this scenario we would advise you to go back to the court. It is generally good practice to speak with centres about availability, costs, timescales and referral criteria before court orders are made.

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Many of the child contact centres we accredit accept self-referrals. This means that either party can initiate a referral. However, for a referral to be successful, both parties should be in agreement. Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor a contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. In this instance you would need to seek some legal advice.

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Ordinarily, it would be OK for your child to take toys of other comforters to child contact centres. It can be reassuring for them to have something with them that is familiar or that provides a sense of reassurance.

Once your referral has been accepted by the centre, each party will be invited individually to a pre-visit, here you will have the opportunity to discuss any queries, requests or concerns with the centre worker who will be able to advise accordingly.

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In most cases your family will not have seen your children for even longer than you and they too will have been very hurt by this experience and keen to see them again.

Seeing your child at a contact centre is a very emotionally provocative event for you and your child. Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for you and your child to build and strengthen your relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people (or too many people that they have not seen for a long time) that might make them feel insecure, until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then your child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, It is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned. 

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Orders made by the court usually provide instructions that are for parents to follow. Centres can be bound by court orders and most of the time they will do their best to work within them.

However sometimes, this will not be possible. For example, on occasions it can happen that the court will order a centre to provide a service that they do not offer, or to provide a service that they cannot offer within the timescales allocated.

Common instructions from the court to centres might include dates for reports or a specific number of sessions to be offered. Typically, centres do follow these instructions and this works well. However, there might be other occasions where to do so is not deemed to be in the child’s best interests or might even place them at risk. This could be because of changes in information or sometimes as a result of new information that the court didn’t know when they made the order. When this happens the centre would be expected to act in the best interests of the child and if this means not following a court order then steps would usually be taken to make the court aware of this.

Different centres and courts will have different processes for dealing with this. Often the courts and centres will have an arrangement when appropriate alternatives will be offered. On other occasions your legal representatives might have a mechanism to overcome this. It is also possible that you might need to return to court to get orders changed so that they can be followed.

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Child contact centres will have measures in place for parents who do not want to meet their ex partner, this can be discussed at the point of first contact with the centre or within your pre visit.

Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures; it is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So, it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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You don’t have to have a court order to use child contact centre. You can set up contact direct by referring yourself (we call this a self-referral) or by getting a family solicitor or mediator to help you. However, if it is difficult to reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding contact then it may be that you will need a court order.

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Supported contact centres may be asked by family solicitors, social workers, mediators or the court to provide information on the dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. This is explained in the Judicial Protocol.

On occasions where there is a safeguarding concern, this will be prioritised and the centre have a legal duty to pass on this information to the relevant authorities, which usually will include them writing a report, in line with Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures.

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Yes, supported and supervised contact centres accredited by NACCC will have a set of rules. The rules will be explained to you during the contact pre visit/agreement meeting and then you will be asked to agree to the rules of the centre and sign the pre-visit agreement to confirm that you understand and are agreeing to adhere to them. Failure to do so will lead to the service being withdrawn.

Sample rules for parents using a contact centre – it is worth noting that any rules at a centre you might attend might vary from this list.

The rules are likely to include the following but do check with your local centre to be shown a copy of their rules:

  1. Please do not bring any other person with you unless previously agreed at the information meeting.
  2. Any person displaying violence, bad language, intimidation or aggression inside or directly outside of the contact centre will automatically lose their place at the centre.
  3. Aggressive and intimidating conduct towards staff will not be tolerated and may lead to place being withdrawn.
  4. Any person arriving at the centre under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave immediately and will lose their place.
  5. Smoking is not permitted inside the grounds of the centre.
  6. You must not access any other part of the building apart from the waiting room and the toilet if you are the person escorting the children.
  7. If you do not attend 2 contact sessions without informing the contact centre of a valid reason, your place will be allocated to another family.
  8. Children are the responsibility of parents at all times. Staff are at hand to help if needed.
  9. If contact has been delayed for whatever reason, the session may still go ahead only for the remaining time left.
  10. Visitors must arrive 10 -15 minutes prior to the escorting person and child arriving. The visitor must stay behind 10 -15 minutes after the session has ended.
  11. Please switch off mobile phone during contact sessions. Videoing is not allowed on our premises.
  12. Please DO NOT bring any balloons, flying toys, toy guns etc while at our centre.
  13. Please note staff (at supported contact centres) do not write reports or comment on contact sessions unless we feel there is a safeguarding issue. Only dates and times of attendance will be given out upon request.
  14. Please do not ask your children to pass gifts or belongings, money or messages (either verbally or written) to your ex-partner.
  15. Supported contact is a temporary measure used to re-establish trusting relationships. You are expected to move on and make your own contact arrangements in the near future.
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NACCC has an information line which runs part time (9am to 1pm Monday to Friday). Please try and find out the answer to your query on our website but if you are unable to find what you are looking for please do call the information line on 0115 948 4557. You can also contact us at any time using the Contact form on this website.

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If you are having supervised contact the staff will write a summary of what happened at the session. You might see them writing or typing notes that help them remember what happened, but sometimes they have a great memory and will not need to take these notes whilst the session is happening.

Staff will record anything they consider relevant and this will often extend beyond just the session itself.

If you are unsure whether notes are being taken its ok to ask about this and the centre will be able to tell you if they are taking notes and who they will be sharing these with.

If there are no other professionals working with your family the centre will have agreed who to give the notes too. If there are other professionals, they would usually be able to see these notes. These professionals might then use these to think about the future and what might be best.

If you are having supported contact, you will not usually see any notes being taken. Supported centres will make notes about dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. If a centre has safeguarding concerns these will be shared in writing with relevant authorities in order to ensure the safety of children.

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional well-being are maintained.

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Child contact centres work on the basis that they are providing a short term stepping-stone in families’ lives. In most cases it should be expected that a centre will be needed for no more than 3-6 months, although this is obviously different for some families and for Looked After Children. Every case is assessed and planned for on an individual basis and centres are usually well placed to meet the needs of the families using their services.

Contact centres often have a review session where they consider the contact moving forwards. This could be from supervised contact to supported contact. Contact centres also offer handovers into the community. The young person can be signed into the centre on the register and then the contact person can take the young person out for the time of the contact session and then sign the person back in. This helps to build confidence before contact progresses without the centre.

The contact centre also provide parenting plans and these consider many areas of a young person’s welfare. This is a helpful tool to help the adults make informed decisions for the young person and how to safely move contact forwards. The parenting plan can be found on the NACCC website and it would be beneficial for every parent to have sight of one before contact commences.

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The people who run child contact centres do this because the safety of children and families are important to them. They will do all they can to ensure that services are safe and effective.

NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process which shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

Centres engage in training in relation to the running of their services. They also have close working relationships with Local Safeguarding Children Boards to ensure that they understand how their practice protects children and that they are working to the best possible standards.

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If you are concerned that your child is at immediate risk of harm or abuse then you must ring 999 and report this to the police.

If you live in England or Wales

If you are concerned that your child is not at immediate risk of harm or abuse but you are concerned that they are still at risk of harm or abuse then you should report it to your Social Services Department.

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 – help@nspcc.org.uk

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

If you live in Northern Ireland

If it is not urgent but you are concerned about the welfare of your child you can contact the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

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Child contact centres should (almost) always be thought of as ‘short term stepping stones’. In most cases a centre would plan to support your family for around 3 – 6 months. It is hoped that after this time the children’s parents will be able to work together to make arrangements that better meet the child’s needs.

Having said this, there are some (very rare) circumstances where a centre might be needed for several years. If you think this might be the case in your situation, why not contact our advice line on 0115 948 4557 or contact your nearest centre to discuss your situation.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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Child contact centres are short term stepping-stones and they will be keen for your family to move on to more appropriate arrangements as soon as possible. Having a review of the current arrangements is often a really helpful way of looking and what has worked well and what the centre could support you with in the future in order to enable you to no longer need their services.

If possible, it is a really good idea for both parents to be present. This will provide you with the opportunity to get used to being in the same room and communicating. Your children will need you to do this in the future, so why not try now, whilst you have support. Don’t worry though if you don’t feel ready for this, the centre will support you.

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NACCC are a membership organisation, and the centres we accredit are run independently of NACCC and therefore have their own complaints processes. In the first instance, ask the centre for a copy of their procedure; this will advise on how to make a formal complaint to the centre.

Once you have followed the centre’s complaints process and if you remain unhappy you can complain to NACCC. It is important to be realistic about your expectations though and really clearly explain what outcome you would like to achieve. Bear in mind that our role at NACCC is to ensure the centre followed its procedure and not to re-investigate or look at evidence.

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We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Either party can initiate a self-referral at a child contact centre. If you have contact details of your ex-partner the centre may contact them on your behalf although this is down to the discretion of the centre. You may also use a third party i.e solicitor to initiate a referral. Both parties should be in agreement to using a contact centre for the referral to be successful.

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Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures. It is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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The pre-visit meeting is a chance to relay all your concerns to the centre and for them to ensure that they have all the correct information about your family. You will meet with the co-ordinator of the centre and they will explain how the centre runs and what you can expect. They will also go through the rules and regulations of the centre and if you agree to this they may offer you times and dates of when you can attend. The contact centre agreement form should be signed by yourself and they should also let you know about their compliments and complaints procedure.

The pre visit meeting should also include a chance to view the contact area although this may not always be possible. The young person should also have a pre-visit meeting, ideally separate from the adult’s meeting however individual centres will manage this in different ways.

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If your child is really upset in a contact session the person they are spending time with will be expected to be able to meet their needs and if needed they will be supported to calm your child. These are important skills that will be required if or when the service moves out of the centre. It is also important that your child builds a relationship and trust with the person they are spending time with so that this can be the initial stepping-stone towards allowing this parent to meet their needs.

However, there are some, very rare, occasions when children cannot be calmed, and this is neither the fault of the child or the person they are visiting at the centre. In this scenario it is possible that sessions will be bought to an end early. Child contact centres are there to ensure the safety of children, which includes their emotional wellbeing. Centres will not allow children to become traumatised or to develop and or maintain negative memories or associations with the centre because this might stand in the way of future progress.

Initially, the centre might invite you to remain present in the centre. Possibly within a waiting room so that you can be there for your child if they become unsettled. Moving forward they will probably encourage you to be leaving the centre during contact, they will be able to call you to come back if you are needed.

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In supervised contact, observation reports are written following each session. These are intended to be a summary of the session that has taken place as opposed to verbatim reports. The centre will do their best to make sure these are appropriately detailed and accurate. There is also a process for ensuring that these are quality assured by a person different to the author.

The reports can be provided to a number of different people, and this will vary based upon the specifics of your family and the centre, so it’s always worth checking with them. Ideally, the centre will let you know at the pre-visit what information will be recorded and how this will be shared.

Typically, it might be reasonable to expect the following people to have access to reports, where it is identified that these people need this information:

  • Both parents
  • Any Other Person with Parental Responsibility.
  • Cafcass / FCA (if involved)
  • Foster carers (if involved)
  • Social Services (if involved)
  • Solicitors (if involved)
  • Courts (if involved)

If the courts have ordered contact with reports it may be the case that these reports then become the property of the court. In this scenario the relevant court order would usually outline who will have access to the reports. When it is deemed that reports are the property of the court, they must not be shared with parties other than those named, without the consent of the court.

In some cases, the child might also have access to contact reports, they would often be supported to access these by a professional, like a social worker.

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.
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Child contact centres will undertake a robust referral and risk assessment process to ascertain whether they can safely meet the needs of your family.

You might find it helpful to contact your local centre in order to discuss this with them.

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A supervised centre will provide a safe environment for your children to spend time with the parent they no longer live with. The centre will make recordings and provide advice and support where it is in the child’s best interests to do so.

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When talking to children about family members they do not know but will soon meet it is important to present information to them in a way that is truthful, but appropriate to their child development. It is important not use negative language about the other person, this will shape how the child feels about the person they will be meeting and may lead to problems around anxiety. It is even possible that your negativity might be thought of as parental alienation, when this is accompanied with other actions or observations.

The conversation with the child should take place at a pace they can cope with and might actually be several conversations rather than something that can be concluded briefly. Children are likely to have questions as a result of the information you share with them, make time for this and where you can answer openly and fully. If you cannot do this, let them know, they will understand this much better than finding out later that something you said was incorrect.

Explain that there are many different types of families and this is the situation with yours. There are story books that can assist with this. Sesame Street also have a range of cartoons, which are accessible online.

Visit the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) website for other tips around engaging with your children in a way that meets their needs, post separation.

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If you are worried about the parenting skills of the other parent, this is something that you should discuss with the centre. Different centres will have different ways that they might be able to assist with this. These can vary from parenting education classes to offering a little advice now and again. If they can’t help, they will probably know who can. They will be keen to provide any support or advice they can. The safety of your children will always be their first concern.

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Where this is achievable, it is in your child’s best interests to be able to have a loving relationship with both of their parents, when this can be provided safely and consistently. Children manage well when their parents separate if they are fortunate to have parents able to show the children that that can work together in the interests of the children. Unfortunately, the same is not true when children are subjected to conflict or used by one parent to hurt the other. Therefore, finding a way to work together as separated parents is important.

To make a referral to a child contact centre both parents will need to agree for this to happen.

Where parents disagree about their children or do not speak at all, help may be sought from the following places:

  • Mutual friends can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Trusted family members can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Communicating in written form can assist communication, if people are careful not to abuse this or use emotionally charged language.
  • Communication Apps. There are several different apps available, but something like ‘Our Family Wizard’ can support parents to communicate in the short term, where other methods have not worked.
  • Mediation
  • Cafcass/Cafcass Cymru (if involved), Cafcass website also has a range of information.
  • Social Services (if involved).
  • Solicitors might support with communication. This can sometimes be intimidating for the other party so caution might be advisable here. Resolution members follow a code of practice and you can also access a free conversation with a local solicitor, barrister and mediator by registering on the Family Law Panel
  • Courts also provide an avenue for dispute resolution, where all other options have failed. Generally, this is best left as a last resort rather than a first point of call. You often will not get what you want in court and the process can be timely or expensive.

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If you are worried about your child being introduced to new people, speak to the centre as soon as possible. They will not allow this without the consent of all parties, but it is important that they understand your concerns and consider these when making plans about what might be in the best interests of your children.

Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for the other parent and children to strengthen relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child, it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people that might make them feel insecure until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then the child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, it is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned.

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Moving on is often the hardest part. It is easy to feel safe at the centre, particularly once you have built a rapport with them. However, it is natural to be worried about the next step.

The centre will have worked with many families and supported them to move on. This experience provides them with a good basis to know what is best for your family. If you are worried talk to them, they might be able to set your mind at rest.

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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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Ideally, you will always do all you can to make sure you follow the arrangements that you have in place. Your children will rely on you doing this, it can be really upsetting for them when arrangements are not consistent or if they get to a centre and then contact doesn’t happen.

If your attendance or time keeping for contact is inconsistent this can also be very distressing for the other parent and it is likely that this will not help you to develop a relationship with them that is in the best interests of your children.

However, there will always be those occasions where this is just not possible. The best thing to do it to contact the centre at the nearest opportunity so that they can make the necessary arrangements to re-schedule this in a way that is best for your child. If you do not give them enough notice, it might be their policy to still charge you for the session you cannot attend. It is always worth making sure you are aware of the rules around missed sessions and that you do not cancel if there is any way of avoiding this.

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A contact centre is a safe place for children to spend time with people that they care about that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before contact starts the centre will invite you to have a look round, meet the staff and see the centre. We call this a ‘pre-visit’. If your child lives with you then they will be invited to come at the same time in order that the centre can become more familiar and safer to them. This visit is a good chance for you all to find out about how the centre will work with your family but it is also really important that you are able to share about your situation so that the centre staff can make sure that their service is going to be right for your situation. If there are aspects of your situation that you would prefer to discuss without your child overhearing then it might be advisable for another adult to accompany you so that they can stay with your child while you discuss your situation with the co-ordinator. The person who your child will be seeing at the centre will have their own separate visit. (See our other questions about what happens at a pre-visit for more detail)

As long as the pre-visits go well and the centre is still happy to accept your application you will be invited to bring your child or children for their first contact session. A contact session is where your ex-partner and your child can spend time together, do an activity or play a game.

The centre staff will check all your details off on the register and it may be that you will be shown to a waiting room or separate area whilst they wait for your ex-partner to arrive and be shown into the contact room. If you do not wish to see your ex-partner at the centre then a member of staff can help bring your child or children to the contact room.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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A handover is a service offered by supported and supervised centres. This enables the child to move from one parent to the other in the supportive environment of the centre, without actually using the contact centre to spend time with the child.

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A self-referral is where you as parents each complete an application form to request that contact be set up at a child contact centre. In order for this to work well there may need to be some communication between you, in terms of liaising about dates and times of appointments for example.

If you are not allowed to contact your ex-partner, then it may not be possible to do a self-referral and you may need to get a third party such as a solicitor or mediator to complete a referral form on your behalf.

A self-referral application form will ask you to share information with the centre in order that they can set up contact safely for your child. This could include details of organisations helping you, details about your current circumstances and that of your children.

You can check on our Find a Centre service to see if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. NACCC’s Safe Referral System is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.

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NACCC is not responsible for the direct running of child contact centres as these are all independent organisations with their own management. Contact centres might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC’s role is to ensure that child contact centres work to the national standards for supported contact and supervised contact, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Supported contact will not be suitable for any situation involving risk to children or adults; supported contact centres do not supervise contact or write reports but offer facilities where a family needs this for a defined period of time. They should only be used where safe and beneficial contact for the child can clearly take place.

Generally, the main differences between supported contact and supervised contact are as follows:

Supported contactSupervised contact
Risk levels*Where the risk is low – perhaps where communication has broken down following divorce or separation.Where the risk is high – perhaps following domestic abuse.
Description of serviceTypically in a contact centre possibly run by volunteers where other families might also be present. The adult having contact is responsible for the child they are spending time with.Takes place on a one-to-one basis in a contact centre where the staff are within sight and sound of the child at all times. Also in community locations once contact service is satisfied this is safe.
Type of NACCC accreditationNACCC’s standard accreditation for supported contact.NACCC’s enhanced accreditation for supervised contact.
ReportsOnly dates and times of attendances are recorded. Notes are not made during the session. Safeguarding concerns will be reported to the local authority.Notes are often made during the session which are used to compile a report following the contact.
Length of serviceShort term – can range from a few sessions to around six months. In exceptional circumstances this may be up to 12 months.Although can be short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.
Typical progressionAlthough can be a short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.         

*See also ‘How can I decide which level of contact is appropriate for the family I’m working with?’

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Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.

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It depends if your family is involved with Cafcass or social services or if you have a support worker or similar person assisting your family. If these agencies are involved, then it is likely they will decide which type of contact service is best for your family. If you do not have these agencies involved, then it will be up to you as family members to decide what is appropriate for your situation depending on your circumstances and what has happened.

As a rule, supported centres work with families that do not require direct supervision. This means that staff will not be within sight and sound of children at all times. They will not be making observations or recordings. A supported centre works with families where the level of risk is low and there is a clear plan for the family to be able to move on to more suitable arrangements. At a supported centre it is generally expected that parents will take full responsibility for the child during the session. Supported centre would typically take place within a contact centre where other families might also be present. Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.

Supervised contact is generally used for higher risk families. It might be the case that staff need to be within sight and sound of the child at all times to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. In a supervised session the staff will be within sight and sound of the child at all times. They will be better placed to undertake basic care tasks, to teach parents to do this, or to assess parenting capacity. Supervised contact can be within a contact centre or other building. It is often also possible for families to have contact in community locations, once the contact service is satisfied that this is safe. Typical progression from a supervised centre would be to supported contact although it is also possible to progress to handovers.

NACCC have the following table that can be used as a guide when considering whether to approach a supported or supervised contact centre, although it is also worth discussing this with your local centre co-ordinator who be able to advise further.

No:Reason for ReferralSupervised ContactSupported Contact
1Actual evidence or strong suspicion of Child abuse:  In exceptional circumstances centres would collaborate with LA or Cafcass to help bring about a process of change in a family, eg to provide identity contact
Self-referrals – not accepted
No
2Allegations of any abuse: Physical / emotional but no clear evidenceIn collaboration with LA or Cafcass as part of ongoing assessment or plan. Self referral –  case by case decisionsPossibly, subject to risk assessment
3Allegations of sexual abuse:Yes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managed, or whilst investigations continueNot whilst investigations ongoing. If no proof or ongoing concern – yes
4Actual abductionYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedNo
5Fear of abduction but no real evidenceYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedPossibly subject to risk assessment and safety plan
6Serious long term mental illnessYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesNo
7History of mental illness but now appears stableYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesPossibly. Depends on information available to assess situation re risks to child/other parent/centre staff and volunteers
8Drug or alcohol problems. Either current or very recent pastYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influencePossibly. Depends on level of problem. Also service user will need to be engaging with other agencies
9History of drug or alcohol abuse but currently stableYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influenceYes. If relapse occurs may need to be referred to supervised contact
10Proven domestic violence/abuseNeed to be part of a package i.e: activity direction for DVP Programme and following positive midway review.No unless the centre has suitable qualified staff to carry out a risk assessment and where the perpetrator has demonstrated a willingness to address their anger management issues through the relevant courses.  
11Allegations of domestic abuse: Pending finding of fact  CAFCASS & Self referral –  await outcome of finding of fact before referral considered.Not whilst investigations ongoing    
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If you have been referred to a contact centre by a professional, they might be contractually obliged to refer you to a specific service, these won’t always be accredited by NACCC and might not be the closest one to where you live. Often this will be related to how they are funding the service. If you want to use a centre that is different to the one you have been referred to, it is worth discussing this with the referrer, in case they can help.

If you have a court order, this will sometimes name a specific contact centre. Court orders will always be for NACCC accredited services. If you are unsure, do check the wording of the order though – increasingly they will order a contact centre to be used but not name a specific service.

If you are referring yourself it would be usual to use the closest NACCC accredited contact centre to the child’s home address. Exceptions to this might occur if one parent cannot know the child’s home address.

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Child contact centres are autonomous – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Child contact centres are autonomous. They might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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This will depend on your current circumstances. In some cases the person that referred you to a centre will pay for the cost of you being there.

In other cases a court order might outline who is to pay for the cost of using a child contact centre.

Sometimes, one parent will cover the entire cost of this.

Sometimes it might be possible to make an agreement with the other parent where the cost is shared.

Why not speak to the centre or the person who referred you to see what might be possible?

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Some contact centres are run as profit making businesses and others are run as charities. There are also some run by councils. The way that the centre is run and the service you want to receive will have a big impact on the cost of the service.

Charities are often run by volunteers and funded in a number of different ways. When you are asked to pay at a charity, you are often not paying what it will be costing to run the service. Having this charge in place will support this charity to offer you the best service that is possible for them, but also ensure that they are there for children and families that might need them in the future.

Private businesses will be operating based on being profit making. They often have well established centres that are well maintained and well resourced. The people running these centres will be professionals. In these cases, the cost that you are asked to pay with contribute to the sustainability of the service.

Any cost associated with using a contact centre will be understood from the outset. It will be incredibly rare for costs to occur that you could not have anticipated. Sometimes, the person who referred you to a service might cover some of all the cost of using this. If you are ever unsure check with the contact centre or referrer for more information.

If the cost of using a contact centre is something that worries you – talk to them. There might be a way they can help, and you will not have been the first to be worried about this. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suit all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing are maintained.

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FAQ Non Resident Parents

Yes, all new volunteers, staff and trustees at a child contact centre accredited by NACCC need to have an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before commencing work at the centre.

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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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All NACCC accredited child contact centres and the people who work in them, will work with you impartially. They are very experienced and understand the difficulties that families will encounter.

Sometimes, the system can feel very unfair, depending upon your situation. It is worth considering that the centre has nothing to gain by taking sides and their first concern will always be the child’s best interests.

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Yes, Child contact centres although accredited by the NACCC and running to our national standards are autonomous and it is solely their discretion on the referrals they accept or decline.

A centre is able to decline referrals that are court ordered, in this scenario we would advise you to go back to the court. It is generally good practice to speak with centres about availability, costs, timescales and referral criteria before court orders are made.

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Many of the child contact centres we accredit accept self-referrals. This means that either party can initiate a referral. However, for a referral to be successful, both parties should be in agreement. Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor a contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. In this instance you would need to seek some legal advice.

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Once your referral has been accepted by the centre, both parties will be invited to a pre-visit. This is where the centre will go through their ground rules, and you will have the opportunity to discuss with them if you are able to bring gifts and food.

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Once your referral has been accepted by the centre, both parties will be invited to a pre-visit. This is where the centre will go through their ground rules, and you will have the opportunity to discuss with them the use of cameras, mobile devices and photographs while at the centre. The contact centre will have their own processes relating to this.

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Where this is achievable, it is in your child’s best interests to be able to have a loving relationship with both of their parents, when this can be provided safely and consistently. Children manage well when their parents separate if they are fortunate to have parents able to show the children that that can work together in the interests of the children. Unfortunately, the same is not true when children are subjected to conflict or used by one parent to hurt the other. Therefore, finding a way to work together as separated parents is important.

To make a referral to a child contact centre both parents will need to agree for this to happen.

Where parents disagree about their children or do not speak at all, help may be sought from the following places:

  • Mutual friends can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Trusted family members can often support with communication and to a limited extent provide mediation between the parents.
  • Communicating in written form can assist communication, if people are careful not to abuse this or use emotionally charged language.
  • Communication Apps. There are several different apps available, but something like ‘Our Family Wizard’ can support parents to communicate in the short term, where other methods have not worked.
  • Mediation
  • Cafcass/Cafcass Cymru (if involved), Cafcass website also has a range of information.
  • Social Services (if involved).
  • Solicitors might support with communication. This can sometimes be intimidating for the other party so caution might be advisable here. Resolution members follow a code of practice and you can also access a free conversation with a local solicitor, barrister and mediator by registering on the Family Law Panel
  • Courts also provide an avenue for dispute resolution, where all other options have failed. Generally, this is best left as a last resort rather than a first point of call. You often will not get what you want in court and the process can be timely or expensive.
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Seeing your child at a contact centre is a very emotionally provocative event for you and your child. Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for you and your child to build and strengthen your relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people that might make them feel insecure, until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then your child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, it is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned.

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In most cases your family will not have seen your children for even longer than you and they too will have been very hurt by this experience and keen to see them again.

Seeing your child at a contact centre is a very emotionally provocative event for you and your child. Initially, it is best if these sessions are used for you and your child to build and strengthen your relationships in this very unfamiliar environment.

In terms of the needs of your child it is worth remembering that a lot has changed in their lives recently, and maybe changes are still happening. This is likely to be very unsettling and hard to get used too, even if your child seems to be managing well. What children need is consistency and security. Therefore, it is usually best not to introduce them to new people (or too many people that they have not seen for a long time) that might make them feel insecure, until other elements of their lives feel a little more stable for them.

However, it might be possible for other people to attend child contact sessions with you after you have been using the service for some time. This will need to be discussed with the centre, prior to making any arrangements. You should not come to the centre with visitors without letting them know. Typically, they will want to seek the agreement of all parties before approving such requests.

If it is agreed, then your child can be introduced to new people, or people that they have not seen for a very long time. A supervised centre or social worker will be able to assist with planning this (re)introduction to ensure that this happens in the best way for the child. For most children, It is important that nothing is sudden or unplanned. 

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Orders made by the court usually provide instructions that are for parents to follow. Centres can be bound by court orders and most of the time they will do their best to work within them.

However sometimes, this will not be possible. For example, on occasions it can happen that the court will order a centre to provide a service that they do not offer, or to provide a service that they cannot offer within the timescales allocated.

Common instructions from the court to centres might include dates for reports or a specific number of sessions to be offered. Typically, centres do follow these instructions and this works well. However, there might be other occasions where to do so is not deemed to be in the child’s best interests or might even place them at risk. This could be because of changes in information or sometimes as a result of new information that the court didn’t know when they made the order. When this happens the centre would be expected to act in the best interests of the child and if this means not following a court order then steps would usually be taken to make the court aware of this.

Different centres and courts will have different processes for dealing with this. Often the courts and centres will have an arrangement when appropriate alternatives will be offered. On other occasions your legal representatives might have a mechanism to overcome this. It is also possible that you might need to return to court to get orders changed so that they can be followed.

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Child contact centres will have measures in place for parents who do not want to meet their ex partner, this can be discussed at the point of first contact with the centre or within your pre visit.

Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures; it is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So, it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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You don’t have to have a court order to use child contact centre. You can set up contact direct by referring yourself (we call this a self-referral) or by getting a family solicitor or mediator to help you. However, if it is difficult to reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding contact then it may be that you will need a court order.

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Supported contact centres may be asked by family solicitors, social workers, mediators or the court to provide information on the dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. This is explained in the Judicial Protocol.

On occasions where there is a safeguarding concern, this will be prioritised and the centre have a legal duty to pass on this information to the relevant authorities, which usually will include them writing a report, in line with Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures.

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Yes, supported and supervised contact centres accredited by NACCC will have a set of rules. The rules will be explained to you during the contact pre visit/agreement meeting and then you will be asked to agree to the rules of the centre and sign the pre-visit agreement to confirm that you understand and are agreeing to adhere to them. Failure to do so will lead to the service being withdrawn.

Sample rules for parents using a contact centre – it is worth noting that any rules at a centre you might attend might vary from this list.

The rules are likely to include the following but do check with your local centre to be shown a copy of their rules:

  1. Please do not bring any other person with you unless previously agreed at the information meeting.
  2. Any person displaying violence, bad language, intimidation or aggression inside or directly outside of the contact centre will automatically lose their place at the centre.
  3. Aggressive and intimidating conduct towards staff will not be tolerated and may lead to place being withdrawn.
  4. Any person arriving at the centre under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave immediately and will lose their place.
  5. Smoking is not permitted inside the grounds of the centre.
  6. You must not access any other part of the building apart from the waiting room and the toilet if you are the person escorting the children.
  7. If you do not attend 2 contact sessions without informing the contact centre of a valid reason, your place will be allocated to another family.
  8. Children are the responsibility of parents at all times. Staff are at hand to help if needed.
  9. If contact has been delayed for whatever reason, the session may still go ahead only for the remaining time left.
  10. Visitors must arrive 10 -15 minutes prior to the escorting person and child arriving. The visitor must stay behind 10 -15 minutes after the session has ended.
  11. Please switch off mobile phone during contact sessions. Videoing is not allowed on our premises.
  12. Please DO NOT bring any balloons, flying toys, toy guns etc while at our centre.
  13. Please note staff (at supported contact centres) do not write reports or comment on contact sessions unless we feel there is a safeguarding issue. Only dates and times of attendance will be given out upon request.
  14. Please do not ask your children to pass gifts or belongings, money or messages (either verbally or written) to your ex-partner.
  15. Supported contact is a temporary measure used to re-establish trusting relationships. You are expected to move on and make your own contact arrangements in the near future.
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For legal advice, it is important to speak to someone who is legally trained. If you do not have representation you might want to contact Only Mums or Only Dads for support or advice.

Generally speaking, if a court order has been made the people named in the order should abide by what is written into the order and there might be legal consequences for not doing this. If a court order is not practicable or something has changed since the order was written, you might want to consider accessing legal advice to ascertain whether the order will need changing.

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NACCC has an information line which runs part time (9am to 1pm Monday to Friday). Please try and find out the answer to your query on our website but if you are unable to find what you are looking for please do call the information line on 0115 948 4557. You can also contact us at any time using the Contact form on this website.

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If you are having supervised contact the staff will write a summary of what happened at the session. You might see them writing or typing notes that help them remember what happened, but sometimes they have a great memory and will not need to take these notes whilst the session is happening.

Staff will record anything they consider relevant and this will often extend beyond just the session itself.

If you are unsure whether notes are being taken its ok to ask about this and the centre will be able to tell you if they are taking notes and who they will be sharing these with.

If there are no other professionals working with your family the centre will have agreed who to give the notes too. If there are other professionals, they would usually be able to see these notes. These professionals might then use these to think about the future and what might be best.

If you are having supported contact, you will not usually see any notes being taken. Supported centres will make notes about dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. If a centre has safeguarding concerns these will be shared in writing with relevant authorities in order to ensure the safety of children.

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.

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You can apply to see your grandchildren in a child contact centre, however all parties must be in agreement to make a self-referral successful. If legal assistance is required you can access a free legal conversation with a family law professional on the Family Law Panel Organisations that may also be useful for further advice are Grandparents Plus. Gransnet and Family Lives may be able to provide emotional support regarding lost contact.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional well-being are maintained.

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Child contact centres work on the basis that they are providing a short term stepping-stone in families’ lives. In most cases it should be expected that a centre will be needed for no more than 3-6 months, although this is obviously different for some families and for Looked After Children. Every case is assessed and planned for on an individual basis and centres are usually well placed to meet the needs of the families using their services.

Contact centres often have a review session where they consider the contact moving forwards. This could be from supervised contact to supported contact. Contact centres also offer handovers into the community. The young person can be signed into the centre on the register and then the contact person can take the young person out for the time of the contact session and then sign the person back in. This helps to build confidence before contact progresses without the centre.

The contact centre also provide parenting plans and these consider many areas of a young person’s welfare. This is a helpful tool to help the adults make informed decisions for the young person and how to safely move contact forwards. The parenting plan can be found on the NACCC website and it would be beneficial for every parent to have sight of one before contact commences.

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The people who run child contact centres do this because the safety of children and families are important to them. They will do all they can to ensure that services are safe and effective.

NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process which shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

Centres engage in training in relation to the running of their services. They also have close working relationships with Local Safeguarding Children Boards to ensure that they understand how their practice protects children and that they are working to the best possible standards.

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NACCC are a membership organisation, and the centres we accredit are run independently of NACCC and therefore have their own complaints process. In the first instance, you should ask the centre for a copy of their procedure; this will advise you on how to make a formal complaint to the centre.

Once you have followed the centre’s complaints process and if you remain unhappy you can complain to NACCC. It is important to be realistic about your expectations though and really clearly explain what outcome you would like to achieve. Bear in mind that our role at NACCC is to ensure the centre followed its procedure and not to re-investigate or look at evidence.

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If you are concerned that your child is at immediate risk of harm or abuse then you must ring 999 and report this to the police.

If you live in England or Wales

If you are concerned that your child is not at immediate risk of harm or abuse but you are concerned that they are still at risk of harm or abuse then you should report it to your Social Services Department.

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 – help@nspcc.org.uk

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

If you live in Northern Ireland

If it is not urgent but you are concerned about the welfare of your child you can contact the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland

You can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person on 0808 800 5000 https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call or email NSPCC Childline – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

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Child contact centres should (almost) always be thought of as ‘short term stepping stones’. In most cases a centre would plan to support your family for around 3 – 6 months. It is hoped that after this time the children’s parents will be able to work together to make arrangements that better meet the child’s needs.

Having said this, there are some (very rare) circumstances where a centre might be needed for several years. If you think this might be the case in your situation, why not contact our advice line on 0115 948 4557 or contact your nearest centre to discuss your situation.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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This may be mentioned in a court order if contact is court ordered. This will also depend on the centre’s opening hours, availability and what is decided during your pre-visit at the centre.

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We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Most NACCC accredited child contact centres accept self-referrals without the need of court involvement, however for a self-referral to be successful both parties should be in agreement. Usually, a contact centre or other services like mediation will be more effective ways of resolving disagreements. This will save you time and money, as well as laying the basis of a good working relationship for you and the children’s other parent moving forward, successful co-parenting will rely heavily on this working relationship.

If there is a need for court involvement and you can’t afford legal representation you can access information on applying for a court order about the arrangements of your children without the help of a lawyer on a website called Advice Now

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Either party can initiate a self-referral at a child contact centre. If you have contact details of your ex-partner the centre may contact them on your behalf although this is down to the discretion of the centre. You may also use a third party i.e solicitor to initiate a referral. Both parties should be in agreement to using a contact centre for the referral to be successful.

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Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures. It is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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At a supervised centre, it might be possible for a staff member to help you, or even to role model how to meet the basic care needs of your child. Where this is happening, it will always be because this is what is best for your child and will usually be because they are working with you to help you to gain the skills to do this independently.

At a supported centre, the people working there do not complete basic care tasks. The expectation would be that all parents using the service are competent at meeting all the needs of their children. Volunteers in supported centres will usually be happy to support you if you occasionally need this, but often this support would be limited to advice about how to meet your child’s needs and then you would independently act upon this.

If you have never changed a nappy, fed or winded a child before – talk to the centre about this. Don’t be embarrassed, there might be a way that they can support you. You definitely will not be the first or last parent that has worried about this.

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In supervised contact, observation reports are written following each session. These are intended to be a summary of the session that has taken place as opposed to verbatim reports. The centre will do their best to make sure these are appropriately detailed and accurate. There is also a process for ensuring that these are quality assured by a person different to the author.

The reports can be provided to a number of different people, and this will vary based upon the specifics of your family and the centre, so it’s always worth checking with them. Ideally, the centre will let you know at the pre-visit what information will be recorded and how this will be shared.

Typically, it might be reasonable to expect the following people to have access to reports, where it is identified that these people need this information:

  • Both parents
  • Any Other Person with Parental Responsibility.
  • Cafcass / FCA (if involved)
  • Foster carers (if involved)
  • Social Services (if involved)
  • Solicitors (if involved)
  • Courts (if involved)

If the courts have ordered contact with reports it may be the case that these reports then become the property of the court. In this scenario the relevant court order would usually outline who will have access to the reports. When it is deemed that reports are the property of the court, they must not be shared with parties other than those named, without the consent of the court.

In some cases, the child might also have access to contact reports, they would often be supported to access these by a professional, like a social worker.

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Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following in order to make use of a child contact centre.

Work out which type of contact service you need

  1. It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
  2. You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out what contact service is going to be best for your situation.
  3. It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.

Find your local centre

  1. Find out where your local centre is and if they offer the service you need. You will need to go on ‘Find a Centre’, select the service you need and enter the postcode to find centres nearest to that postcode that offer the service. Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.

Applying to use a contact centre

  1. You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’.
  2. Decide if you can refer yourself to the centre or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf.
  3. Once the centre has received your referral application they decide if they are able to offer you a place.

Go for your pre-visit meeting

  1. If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
  2. If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
  3. At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and also for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.

Acceptance by the centre

  1. The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
  2. If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.
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Staff working at child contact centres will have appropriate qualifications and experience depending on the level of the role. If you have a query about the qualifications of staff at your local centre it is probably best to check this with them. The people running supported contact centres may not have specific qualifications but will have received the appropriate training to carry out the service. Contact supervisors in a supervised centre will likely have an NVQ Level 3 qualification in Health and Social Care (or equivalent). Co-ordinators or managers or supervised centres will ideally have a social work qualification or similar.

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Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor the contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. If a party is not agreeable to contact you should seek some legal advice.

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Ideally, you will always do all you can to make sure you follow the arrangements that you have in place. Your children will rely on you doing this, it can be really upsetting for them when arrangements are not consistent or if they get to a centre and then contact doesn’t happen.

If your attendance or time keeping for contact is inconsistent this can also be very distressing for the other parent and it is likely that this will not help you to develop a relationship with them that is in the best interests of your children.

However, there will always be those occasions where this is just not possible. The best thing to do it to contact the centre at the nearest opportunity so that they can make the necessary arrangements to re-schedule this in a way that is best for your child. If you do not give them enough notice, it might be their policy to still charge you for the session you cannot attend. It is always worth making sure you are aware of the rules around missed sessions and that you do not cancel if there is any way of avoiding this.

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A contact centre is a safe place for children to spend time with people that they care about that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before contact starts the centre will invite you to have a look round, meet the staff and see the centre. We call this a ‘pre-visit’. Your child and the family member that they live with will have a separate visit at another time. This visit is a good chance for you all to find out about how the centre will work with your family but it is also really important that you are able to share about your situation so that the centre staff can make sure that their service is going to be right for your situation. (See our other questions about what happens at a pre-visit for more detail)

As long as the pre-visits go well and the centre is still happy to accept your application you will be invited to come for your first contact session. A contact session is where you and your child can spend time together, do an activity or play a game.

Depending on if you are using a supported or a supervised centre (and also on the layout of the centre) there might be several families using the centre at the same time, or you might have the contact room to yourself with a member of staff observing.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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A self-referral is where you as parents each complete an application form to request that contact be set up at a child contact centre. In order for this to work well there may need to be some communication between you, in terms of liaising about dates and times of appointments for example.

If you are not allowed to contact your ex-partner, then it may not be possible to do a self-referral and you may need to get a third party such as a solicitor or mediator to complete a referral form on your behalf.

A self-referral application form will ask you to share information with the centre in order that they can set up contact safely for your child. This could include details of organisations helping you, details about your current circumstances and that of your children.

You can check on our Find a Centre service to see if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. NACCC’s Safe Referral System is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.

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NACCC is not responsible for the direct running of child contact centres as these are all independent organisations with their own management. Contact centres might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC’s role is to ensure that child contact centres work to the national standards for supported contact and supervised contact, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Supported contact will not be suitable for any situation involving risk to children or adults; supported contact centres do not supervise contact or write reports but offer facilities where a family needs this for a defined period of time. They should only be used where safe and beneficial contact for the child can clearly take place.

Generally, the main differences between supported contact and supervised contact are as follows:

Supported contactSupervised contact
Risk levels*Where the risk is low – perhaps where communication has broken down following divorce or separation.Where the risk is high – perhaps following domestic abuse.
Description of serviceTypically in a contact centre possibly run by volunteers where other families might also be present. The adult having contact is responsible for the child they are spending time with.Takes place on a one-to-one basis in a contact centre where the staff are within sight and sound of the child at all times. Also in community locations once contact service is satisfied this is safe.
Type of NACCC accreditationNACCC’s standard accreditation for supported contact.NACCC’s enhanced accreditation for supervised contact.
ReportsOnly dates and times of attendances are recorded. Notes are not made during the session. Safeguarding concerns will be reported to the local authority.Notes are often made during the session which are used to compile a report following the contact.
Length of serviceShort term – can range from a few sessions to around six months. In exceptional circumstances this may be up to 12 months.Although can be short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.
Typical progressionAlthough can be a short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.         

*See also ‘How can I decide which level of contact is appropriate for the family I’m working with?’

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Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.

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It depends if your family is involved with Cafcass or social services or if you have a support worker or similar person assisting your family. If these agencies are involved, then it is likely they will decide which type of contact service is best for your family. If you do not have these agencies involved, then it will be up to you as family members to decide what is appropriate for your situation depending on your circumstances and what has happened.

As a rule, supported centres work with families that do not require direct supervision. This means that staff will not be within sight and sound of children at all times. They will not be making observations or recordings. A supported centre works with families where the level of risk is low and there is a clear plan for the family to be able to move on to more suitable arrangements. At a supported centre it is generally expected that parents will take full responsibility for the child during the session. Supported centre would typically take place within a contact centre where other families might also be present. Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.

Supervised contact is generally used for higher risk families. It might be the case that staff need to be within sight and sound of the child at all times to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. In a supervised session the staff will be within sight and sound of the child at all times. They will be better placed to undertake basic care tasks, to teach parents to do this, or to assess parenting capacity. Supervised contact can be within a contact centre or other building. It is often also possible for families to have contact in community locations, once the contact service is satisfied that this is safe. Typical progression from a supervised centre would be to supported contact although it is also possible to progress to handovers.

NACCC have the following table that can be used as a guide when considering whether to approach a supported or supervised contact centre, although it is also worth discussing this with your local centre co-ordinator who be able to advise further.

No:Reason for ReferralSupervised ContactSupported Contact
1Actual evidence or strong suspicion of Child abuse:  In exceptional circumstances centres would collaborate with LA or Cafcass to help bring about a process of change in a family, eg to provide identity contact
Self-referrals – not accepted
No
2Allegations of any abuse: Physical / emotional but no clear evidenceIn collaboration with LA or Cafcass as part of ongoing assessment or plan. Self referral –  case by case decisionsPossibly, subject to risk assessment
3Allegations of sexual abuse:Yes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managed, or whilst investigations continueNot whilst investigations ongoing. If no proof or ongoing concern – yes
4Actual abductionYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedNo
5Fear of abduction but no real evidenceYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedPossibly subject to risk assessment and safety plan
6Serious long term mental illnessYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesNo
7History of mental illness but now appears stableYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesPossibly. Depends on information available to assess situation re risks to child/other parent/centre staff and volunteers
8Drug or alcohol problems. Either current or very recent pastYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influencePossibly. Depends on level of problem. Also service user will need to be engaging with other agencies
9History of drug or alcohol abuse but currently stableYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influenceYes. If relapse occurs may need to be referred to supervised contact
10Proven domestic violence/abuseNeed to be part of a package i.e: activity direction for DVP Programme and following positive midway review.No unless the centre has suitable qualified staff to carry out a risk assessment and where the perpetrator has demonstrated a willingness to address their anger management issues through the relevant courses.  
11Allegations of domestic abuse: Pending finding of fact  CAFCASS & Self referral –  await outcome of finding of fact before referral considered.Not whilst investigations ongoing    
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If you have been referred to a contact centre by a professional, they might be contractually obliged to refer you to a specific service, these won’t always be accredited by NACCC and might not be the closest one to where you live. Often this will be related to how they are funding the service. If you want to use a centre that is different to the one you have been referred to, it is worth discussing this with the referrer, in case they can help.

If you have a court order, this will sometimes name a specific contact centre. Court orders will always be for NACCC accredited services. If you are unsure, do check the wording of the order though – increasingly they will order a contact centre to be used but not name a specific service.

If you are referring yourself it would be usual to use the closest NACCC accredited contact centre to the child’s home address. Exceptions to this might occur if one parent cannot know the child’s home address.

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Child contact centres are autonomous – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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Child contact centres are autonomous. They might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process that shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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This will depend on your current circumstances. In some cases the person that referred you to a centre will pay for the cost of you being there.

In other cases a court order might outline who is to pay for the cost of using a child contact centre.

Sometimes, one parent will cover the entire cost of this.

Sometimes it might be possible to make an agreement with the other parent where the cost is shared.

Why not speak to the centre or the person who referred you to see what might be possible?

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Some contact centres are run as profit making businesses and others are run as charities. There are also some run by councils. The way that the centre is run and the service you want to receive will have a big impact on the cost of the service.

Charities are often run by volunteers and funded in a number of different ways. When you are asked to pay at a charity, you are often not paying what it will be costing to run the service. Having this charge in place will support this charity to offer you the best service that is possible for them, but also ensure that they are there for children and families that might need them in the future.

Private businesses will be operating based on being profit making. They often have well established centres that are well maintained and well resourced. The people running these centres will be professionals. In these cases, the cost that you are asked to pay with contribute to the sustainability of the service.

Any cost associated with using a contact centre will be understood from the outset. It will be incredibly rare for costs to occur that you could not have anticipated. Sometimes, the person who referred you to a service might cover some of all the cost of using this. If you are ever unsure check with the contact centre or referrer for more information.

If the cost of using a contact centre is something that worries you – talk to them. There might be a way they can help, and you will not have been the first to be worried about this. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suit all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here. We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing are maintained.

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Whilst you are in contact with your child it would not be usual for the other parent to be present.  Often, they won’t be in the session with you, but they might wait in the waiting room. Otherwise they might pop to the shops or find somewhere to buy coffee whilst they wait. The centre will always have a way to contact the person your children live with, so if support is needed it will never be too far away.

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FAQ General

Child contact centres will have measures in place for parents who do not want to meet their ex partner, this can be discussed at the point of first contact with the centre or within your pre visit.

Not wanting to see or speak to the other parent of your children is quite normal when families start to use a contact centre. However, there will come a time when your children will need you to be able to cooperate with their other parent in order to give them the best possible chances in life. Therefore, it might be worth taking some time to think about how you might achieve this in the future.

In the short term a centre will support you in not speaking to or even seeing the other parent, if this is what you want. This can be achieved with staggered arrivals and departures; it is also possible for most centres to take the children from one parent in the waiting room to the other parent in the contact room. So, it can be possible for you not to have to speak to the other parent whilst using a centre.

Why not contact your local centre to share your worries with them? You might be surprised how much they can do to help.

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NACCC has an information line which runs part time (9am to 1pm Monday to Friday). Please try and find out the answer to your query on our website but if you are unable to find what you are looking for please do call the information line on 0115 948 4557. You can also contact us at any time using the Contact form on this website.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example. Children often do not have the capacity to understand these emotions, particularly when they are experiencing several emotions that seem to contradict one and other.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, so far as is possible is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How this might look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children could be supported to visit the NACCC website for more information, or where possible the website of the centre.
  6. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.
  7. Childline also provide a free and confidential service to children who are worried. Often because they are strangers without emotional involvement, they are amazingly well placed to help children develop a sense of perspective and overcome some of the anxieties they may have. Let your child know, its ok to talk to Childline.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

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You can apply to see your grandchildren in a child contact centre, however all parties must be in agreement to make a self-referral successful. If legal assistance is required you can access a free legal conversation with a family law professional on the Family Law Panel Organisations that may also be useful for further advice are Grandparents Plus. Gransnet and Family Lives may be able to provide emotional support regarding lost contact.

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional well-being are maintained.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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We are aware of a charity organisation called Turn2us, who advise on benefits and have recently opened what they call a Response Fund. Please contact them directly for criteria requirements.

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The pre-visit meeting is a chance to relay all your concerns to the centre and for them to ensure that they have all the correct information about your family. You will meet with the co-ordinator of the centre and they will explain how the centre runs and what you can expect. They will also go through the rules and regulations of the centre and if you agree to this they may offer you times and dates of when you can attend. The contact centre agreement form should be signed by yourself and they should also let you know about their compliments and complaints procedure.

The pre visit meeting should also include a chance to view the contact area although this may not always be possible. The young person should also have a pre-visit meeting, ideally separate from the adult’s meeting however individual centres will manage this in different ways.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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A self-referral is where you as parents each complete an application form to request that contact be set up at a child contact centre. In order for this to work well there may need to be some communication between you, in terms of liaising about dates and times of appointments for example.

If you are not allowed to contact your ex-partner, then it may not be possible to do a self-referral and you may need to get a third party such as a solicitor or mediator to complete a referral form on your behalf.

A self-referral application form will ask you to share information with the centre in order that they can set up contact safely for your child. This could include details of organisations helping you, details about your current circumstances and that of your children.

You can check on our Find a Centre service to see if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. NACCC’s Safe Referral System is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.

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NACCC is not responsible for the direct running of child contact centres as these are all independent organisations with their own management. Contact centres might be run by charities, councils or limited companies and therefore, they are usually owned by the people that run them – NACCC is a membership organisation and members choose to be accredited by us. NACCC’s role is to ensure that child contact centres work to the national standards for supported contact and supervised contact, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

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FAQ for children

It is best to check with the centre whether you can take snacks. This will usually be ok though.

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Sometimes a contact centre might be able to support your family in other places. It might be possible for you to spend some time at a bowling alley, or at the beach or park if the centre is near these places.

It’s always best to check with the centre.

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When you meet with the centre before your first session (sometimes called a pre-visit) the staff will talk to you about this. Sometimes they might agree a code word or phrase that you can use to end the session early. This might be that you say you want to go to the toilet for example, when you then go there you can tell any staff member you want the session to stop.

They might talk to you about why you feel this way but would not force you to do something you do not want to do.

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Sometimes a contact centre might be able to support your family in other places. It might be possible for you to spend some time at a bowling alley, or at the beach or park if the centre is near these places.

It’s always best to check with the centre.

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It is usually ok to take a toy or other item to a contact centre with you. We recommend you do not take very valuable things that you would be very upset about if they were lost or broken and we would also advise you to check with your centre before doing this, just in case.

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It’s tricky to say whether you have to go to contact when you might feel like you don’t want to. If you are unsure the best thing to do would be to ask the people you live with, any professionals working with you or the centre and they will help you to understand the situation and what your rights are.

You might also want to talk to Childline if you feel like you are being made to do something that you do not want to do, or that is not safe. Childline would happily provide the support you need. You do not even need to talk if you don’t want too, they have instant chat and email services too.

The LawStuff Website also has legal advice for children. You might find this helpful if you wanted to know more about your rights.

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This varies and is often different for each family. Sometimes sessions might be for an hour, sometimes they might be longer than this. Depending on your circumstances this might change as things progress.

To know the exact plans for your family it is usually best to ask the centre or the people you live with.

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It is hard to say how long you might need to use a centre. For some families we hope that this will not be more than 3 – 6 months however, we know that it can be longer for other families.

It might be a good idea to speak with someone you trust about this to find out more.

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There is no minimum age to apply to use a contact centre. However, the younger you are the more support you are likely to need with setting everything up and actually attending the centre. If you want to call 0115 948 4557, we will do our best to support you. It is also really good to get some help from an adult, if you’re younger than 16. You might want to ask a parent, family member, Cafcass, Social Worker or teacher to help with this. It might also be useful to contact NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) to see if they can help you. They have a helpline and an email service.

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It’s really tricky to say whether you have to go to contact when you might feel like you don’t want too. If you are unsure the best thing to do would be to ask the people you live with, any professionals working with you or the centre and they will help you to understand the situation and what your rights are.

You might also want to talk to Childline if you feel like you are being made to do something that you do not want to do, or that is not safe. Childline would happily provide the support you need. You do not even need to talk if you don’t want too, they have instant chat and email services too.

The LawStuff Website also has legal advice for children. You might find this helpful if you wanted to know more about your rights.

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There is no minimum age to apply to use a contact centre. However, the younger you are the more support you are likely to need with setting everything up and actually attending the centre. If you want to call 0115 948 4557, we will do our best to support you. It is also really good to get some help from an adult, if you’re younger than 16. You might want to ask a parent, family member, Cafcass, Social Worker or teacher to help with this. It might also be useful to contact NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) to see if they can help you. They have a helpline and an email service.

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Yes. Contact centres are nice places to be. Centres work really hard to make their places as good as possible for children. If something is not up to scratch just let them know.

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Firstly, the people you are meeting will want you to be safe and happy, even if it doesn’t seem like that right now, or if they didn’t do a very good job of this in the past.

All contact centres have staff who are trained to keep children safe. Regardless of what type of contact you might be having they will have plans in place to help you be safe and can talk to you about these plans if you would like them too.

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It is perfectly normal to be unhappy with the services you are being provided with and you have the right to talk about this. When you tell people how you feel, they will always listen to you and if possible, they might be able to make changes that make you feel happier or more comfortable.

If this doesn’t happen or if you remain unhappy – complain. Someone might need to help you with this, but all you really need to do is to put some information in writing to the centre to let them know you are not happy and want to complain.

If you have a social worker, Cafcass officer or other professionals in your life, they will be happy to help you to overcome any challenges. Otherwise, the people working at the centre will also be happy to help you. They will not be sad or angry that you have complained, it might even help them to make things better for other children.

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A contact centre is a building and it can look very different depending which one you use. Sometimes, they look like a house, and other times they look like an office building. Contact centres can also be in schools. Because they are all very different it might be best to find out the name of the centre you will be using and then look on google to see what pictures you can find.

A contact room is usually a good-sized space with pictures on the walls. There is almost always a selection of toys and games. Often there will also be other things like art and craft for example. There is often a table and chairs, sometimes there might also be sofas or bean bags too.

If you are having supported contact, you might have an even bigger room where you will also notice other families sharing the space. For supervised contact you will have this space to yourself.

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A contact room is usually a good-sized space with pictures on the walls. There is almost always a selection of toys and games. Often there will also be other things like art and craft for example. There is often a table and chairs, sometimes there might also be sofas or bean bags too.

If you are having supported contact, you might have an even bigger room where you will also notice other families sharing the space. For supervised contact you will have this space to yourself.

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A contact centre is a safe place for you to spend time with people that you care about that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before using their services you will have a chance to go to the centre. This is a chance for you to meet the staff and see the centre. You can check out their toys and games as well as work out where the toilet is. This visit is a good chance for you to find out about how the centre will work with your family and keep you safe. Its also a good idea to think of some questions you might like to ask when you see the centre and meet the people there to support you.

Once you have seen the centre you will then be able to go back there to spend time with those people that care about you. Sometimes you might be in a room with just them and a member of staff at other times there might be more families and fewer staff.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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It is really normal for brothers or sisters to feel differently to you, especially if you are different ages. This is ok. When you get to the centre they will try and support you all to feel ok or even excited about the plans, but if this is not possible they will try and plan to work with you in a way that works best for everyone. There are lots of things that a centre can do in this situation so try not to worry and make sure people know how you feel.

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The person you are having contact with should not be drunk. They will know this before the first session. They are not allowed to be drunk at a contact centre and should not take alcohol there with them.

If they do come drunk the staff on reception will hopefully notice this and deal with this before you see the person you are visiting. If they do not notice this, you might want to help them out by letting them know. If you don’t want to do this, you could always tell the person you live with so that they can work with the centre or the person you’re having contact with to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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Mum and dad will have a meeting with the centre before the first session. The centre will ask them not to talk about things that might make you feel uncomfortable. If they do this in supervised contact the staff will hear and ask them to stop. Otherwise, you can always tell the person you are in contact with that you do not want to talk about that. The staff will always support you.

In supported contact, the staff might not hear the person you are having contact with, saying things that make you feel uncomfortable. So, you might need to help them out by letting them know. If you don’t want to do this, you could always tell the person you live with so that they can work with the centre or the person you’re having contact with to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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When you are about to start using a contact centre, we know that you will have many questions and be feeling lots of difficult emotions. This can be both exciting and scary at the same time and we don’t often feel good and bad emotions all at once.

The centre will understand this, and they will be skilled at supporting you. When you first go to the centre, this will usually be to have a look around and the person it is planned that you will be having contact with will not be there. This gives you a chance to talk to the centre about how your feeling and to ask any questions that are important to you. The centre will always do their best to support with this.

The NACCC website has a range of information that is written with children in mind. You will find answers to many of your questions here. You might want to talk to someone other than your parents or the contact centre. This is a perfectly normal way to feel. If this sounds like your situation Childline would happily provide the support, you need. You do not even need to talk if you don’t want too, they have instant chat and email services too.

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For some families it might be possible to move on from the service and to be spending time with the people you live with away from the centre. This might mean seeing these people with other family, in public places or even at the home of the person you were seeing at the contact centre. For most families this is what we want to happen. NACCC want contact centres to support families for a small amount of time so that you can move on to better things as soon as this is safe.

Your family might be supported to move on from the centre in several different ways. It might be that you stop using them and this happens quite suddenly. It might also be that this happens more slowly and that for a while you spend some time at the centre and sometime away from the centre.

It’s also possible that when you’re starting to not need the centre any more that you just use this as a place to meet up with the person you do not live with any more and then you leave the centre to spend time with this person.

If you do not live with either of your parents and have a social worker, it might be the case that you always use a contact centre or another service that works in a similar way. This is ok. They will support you with this and hopefully make this as good of an experience as it can be for you.

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Whilst you are in contact the person who took you to the session may do a number of different things. Often, they won’t be in the session with you, but they might wait in the waiting room. Otherwise they might pop to the shops or find somewhere to buy coffee whilst they wait. The centre will always have a way to contact the person you live with, so if you need support it will never be too far away.

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Firstly, the people you are meeting will want you to be safe and happy, even if it doesn’t seem like that right now, or if they didn’t do a very good job of this in the past.

All contact centres have staff who are trained to keep children safe. Regardless of what type of contact you might be having they will have plans in place to help you be safe and can talk to you about these plans if you would like them too.

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Your parents might be arguing for lots of different reasons. This might not mean they are going to split up though. Whatever, it is that makes your parents argue, it does not mean that they do not love you.

It’s not ok for your parents to be arguing around you and we know that this can be quite scary and confusing. It’s important to let people know what’s happening for you at home and how this makes you feel.

If your parents are hitting each other, this is not ok, and they might need some help to make things better.

Whatever your situation is there are lots of people able to help. Why not talk to another family member, or a professional like a teacher or social worker.

If you want to talk to someone confidentially, Childline can be there whenever you need them. Childline would happily provide the support, you need. You do not even need to talk if you don’t want too, they have instant chat and email services too.

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Sometimes things happen and this can lead to your parents not loving each other anymore. We know that this can be really hard to accept and the changes that happen in your world can be quite scary.

At the moment you might not believe this, but in time you might prefer them when they are not together, they might become better parents and less stressed people.

When your parents decide to separate it is important to remember that this is not your fault. Even if other people say differently, adults are responsible for their actions and the problems that come along when people do or say things, they might later wish they hadn’t.

It’s important to remember though that your parents still love you and you are probably the most special thing they have in their lives. They might be forgetting to tell you this or make you feel this way if they are hurting. This isn’t ok, but things will get better in time.

Keep talking about what life is like for you. There are lots of people that want to listen, that care and will want to help.

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It would not be usual for the person you live with to stay with you whilst you are having contact. This can happen sometimes, but it is quite rare.

Whilst you are in contact the person who took you to the session may do a few different things. Often, they will not be in the session with you, but they might wait in the waiting room. Otherwise they might pop to the shops or find somewhere to buy coffee whilst they wait. The centre will always have a way to contact the person you live with, so if you need support it will never be too far away.

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If you are having supervised contact the staff will write a summary of what happened at the session. You might see them writing or typing notes that help them remember what happened, but sometimes they have a great memory and won’t need to take these notes.

If you are unsure whether notes are being taken its ok to ask about this and the centre will be able to tell you if they are taking notes and who they will be sharing these with.

If there are no other professionals working with your family the centre will have agreed who to give the notes too. If there are other professionals, they would usually be able to see these notes. These professionals might then use these to think about the future and what might be best for you.

Top Tip – professionals will always want to know what is best for you and if you do not tell them they might try to work this out for themselves. If you have ideas about how you want things to be, make sure people know about this. They might not agree with you about what is best, but if you tell them they should record this and take what you say seriously.

If you are having supported contact, you won’t usually see any notes being taken. Supported centres will make notes about dates and times that you use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself.

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Sometimes there might be other children at the centre. Whether or not they are there and whether or not you get to see or spend time with them might vary on a number of different factors.

Usually if you are having supervised contact you will not see any children apart from those you are having contact with.

Usually in supported contact you will see other children there.

It’s always best to ask the people you live with or the centre directly if you are unsure.

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FAQ Professionals

Supported contact centres do not provide direct supervision and they are usually run by volunteers. With this in mind they tend to work with less complex families that are assessed to pose a lower level of risk.

Supervised contact centres are particularly skilled at working with high risk or complex families. Each centre has specific skills and expertise so may be able to offer slightly differing ranges of service. Centres also produce risk assessments as part of the referral process that are regularly reviewed, this allows them to ensure that they understand any potential risks and that they have the appropriate resources to manage these.

The NACCC ‘Find a Centre Tool’ will provide information about services near you. We always advise speaking with them to find out what services might be available locally.

here.

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Most child contact centres accept private law (divorce & separation) and public law (child protection) based referrals. However, all centres have the right to decline any referral that they feel are not appropriate for their centre, so it is always worth checking this with the individual centre. All referrals are subject to a risk assessment.

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Most child contact centres accept private law (divorce & separation) and public law (child protection) based referrals. However, all centres have the right to decline any referral that they feel are not appropriate for their centre, so it is always worth checking this with the individual centre. All referrals are subject to a risk assessment.

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As a rule, supported centres work with families that do not require direct supervision. This means that staff will not be within sight and sound of children at all times. They will not be making observations or recordings. A supported centre works with families where the level of risk is low and there is a clear plan for the family to be able to move on to more suitable arrangements. At a supported centre it is generally expected that parents will take full responsibility for the child during the session. Supported centre would typically take place within a contact centre where other families might also be present. Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.

Supervised contact is generally used for higher risk families. It might be the case that staff need to be within sight and sound of the child at all times to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child. In a supervised session the staff will be within sight and sound of the child at all times. They will be better placed to undertake basic care tasks, to teach parents to do this, or to assess parenting capacity. Supervised contact can be withing a contact centre or other building. It is often also possible for families to have contact in community locations, once the contact service is satisfied that this is safe. Typical progression from a supervised centre would be to supported contact although it is also possible to progress to handovers.

NACCC have the following table that can be used as a guide when considering whether to refer a family for supported or supervised contact, although it is also worth discussing this with your local centre who be able to advise further.

No:Reason for ReferralSupervised ContactSupported Contact
1Actual evidence or strong suspicion of Child abuse:  In exceptional circumstances centres would collaborate with LA or Cafcass to help bring about a process of change in a family, eg to provide identity contact
Self-referrals – not accepted
No
2Allegations of any abuse: Physical / emotional but no clear evidenceIn collaboration with LA or Cafcass as part of ongoing assessment or plan. Self referral –  case by case decisionsPossibly, subject to risk assessment
3Allegations of sexual abuse:Yes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managed, or whilst investigations continueNot whilst investigations ongoing. If no proof or ongoing concern – yes
4Actual abductionYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedNo
5Fear of abduction but no real evidenceYes if safety plan can be agreed with resident parent and risk can be managedPossibly subject to risk assessment and safety plan
6Serious long term mental illnessYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesNo
7History of mental illness but now appears stableYes if can be managed as part of a package with MH ServicesPossibly. Depends on information available to assess situation re risks to child/other parent/centre staff and volunteers
8Drug or alcohol problems. Either current or very recent pastYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influencePossibly. Depends on level of problem. Also service user will need to be engaging with other agencies
9History of drug or alcohol abuse but currently stableYes as long as the person can abide by ground rules re; presenting as not under the influenceYes. If relapse occurs may need to be referred to supervised contact
10Proven domestic violence/abuseNeed to be part of a package i.e: activity direction for DVP Programme and following positive midway review.No unless the centre has suitable qualified staff to carry out a risk assessment and where the perpetrator has demonstrated a willingness to address their anger management issues through the relevant courses.  
11Allegations of domestic abuse: Pending finding of fact  CAFCASS & Self referral –  await outcome of finding of fact before referral considered.Not whilst investigations ongoing    

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, (so far as is possible)  is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

In order to support children, some of the following might assist:

The NACCC website has a range of stories and other information that a resident parent could look at with their child. This would allow the child the opportunity to understand the role of the child contact centre and how they will be supported whilst using this service.

There are a range of stories on Amazon about family break up. These can be helpful in terms of helping children to understand what has been happening in their family and what will be happening in the future.

Sesame Street do a range of cartoons that cover some of the difficulties that families face, these can be readily accessed through an internet search engine and these do an excellent job at presenting information in a way that is accessible to children.

The NACCC website also has resources for children. Our website has been specifically designed around the needs of children. We know that sometimes the people caring for children are not best placed to support those children to prepare for contact sessions. This is not a reflection on the parenting capacity of that person, or a judgement of their character. The reason that parents often find this difficult relates more to their own feelings and emotions following the end of the relationship and therefore their ability to share positive information with their children which will help them to become excited about contact. There is a wealth of information there that is accessible and designed to reassure children whilst also helping them to anticipate what the future might look like. Additionally, NACCC also has an app and a range of stories that parents could support children to be able to access.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

As a professional, there are also a range of tools and resources that you might use when working with children. Many of these have already been mentioned, others might include tools like “three houses”, which can be utilised to make sense of a child’s world and their view of this with a view to supporting them to be able to move on.

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Professionals are able to mediate between parents and initiate referrals at a child contact centre. You might be able to access a referral form from the website of the centre you want to use. In this case there would also be some complimentary information helping you to understand the referral process. Regardless of whether you can access a referral form from a website, it is often worth calling the centre and having a discussion with them prior to completing the paperwork. They will be able to guide you through the referral process and often they will be happy to help you ascertain whether they are the most appropriate service for your family, if not, they will usually know who is.

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Parents and children will naturally be anxious about being separated from one another, this anxiety is often increased where there has been past trauma. It is often helpful to reassure people who might be anxious that child contact centres are safe places that have the interests of the child at the core of their work.

Centres will be quite familiar with supporting adults and children that need a little reassurance and often they will have tried and tested ways of helping individuals to engage and feel safe. Bearing in mind your professional knowledge of family, centres will often welcome any guidance you might be able to offer in meeting their needs. Centres often feel that external professionals do not work closely enough with them, so will often wholeheartedly embrace offers of support from proactive professionals.

On the NACCC website you will find information about the basic processes that centres go through in order to prepare families for the services they will receive. This information can often be helpful and reassuring. At the point of pre-visit parents’ emotions can run particularly high so parents might appreciate you supporting them to prepare or checking in with them after the session.

It is also wise to contact the centre, or to encourage the parent to do this. They will have a range of information about their service and how this operates that they will be happy to go through with you in the interests of being supportive.

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Child contact centres work on the basis that they are providing a short term stepping-stone in families’ lives. In most cases it should be expected that a centre will be needed for no more than 3-6 months, although this is obviously different for some families and for Looked After Children. Every case is assessed and planned for on an individual basis and centres are usually well placed to meet the needs of the families using their services.

Contact centres often have a review session where they consider the contact moving forwards. This could be from supervised contact to supported contact. Contact centres also offer handovers into the community. The young person can be signed into the centre on the register and then the contact person can take the young person out for the time of the contact session and then sign the person back in. This helps to build confidence before contact progresses without the centre.

The contact centre also provide parenting plans and these consider many areas of a young person’s welfare. This is a helpful tool to help the adults make informed decisions for the young person and how to safely move contact forwards. The parenting plan can be found on the NACCC website and it would be beneficial for every parent to have sight of one before contact commences.

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Often the amount of time that it will take to process a referral with vary based on a number of factors. Typically, the best advice is to contact your nearest centre and discuss this with them so that they can give you the most accurate answer.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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Typically, it is allowable for external professionals to sit in on child contact sessions, in both supported and supervised contact. There are many reasons why this might be necessary, which can vary from gathering information for PAMS assessments to making observations for a section 7 report.

It is advisable to contact the local centre to see what arrangements can be put in place. The family you are working with, will have been told what information is being recorded and how this will be shared. It is therefore, important that you also make sure people are aware of the scope of your attendance and how you will be using any observations made.

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You do not need any particular qualifications to work as a Supported Child Contact Centre Co-ordinator, but co-ordinator training and annual safeguarding training will be mandatory once you start work. You will also need to complete the mandatory NACCC training programme. You should have appropriate qualifications and/or experience in working directly with parents or children. A knowledge of child development and good team-working skills would be helpful. Many supported child contact centres are open at weekends so the ability to work weekends and unsocial hours would be helpful.

If you want to apply to be a Supervised Child Contact Centre Contact Worker, undertaking supervision of contact, then you must be able to demonstrate that you have an appropriate vocational or academic qualification. The minimum requirement is an NVQ Level 3 in Child or Social Care with GSCE English and Maths Grade C or above. The following skills, experience and personal qualities are also likely to be either essential or desirable:

  • Understanding of family dynamics, the impact on children and parents of family breakdown and current related issues.
  • Demonstrable knowledge and understanding of Family Law, in particular as it relates to separated families and the provision of contact.
  • Ability to make detailed observations and provide accurate reports.
  • Demonstrable competence in identifying need and assisting in support of an overall programme of intervention and casework.
  • Knowledge of safeguarding children and child protection, with an understanding of key risk factors.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the role of the (Local Authority) Designated Officer.
  • Capacity to anticipate, diffuse and manage conflict.
  • Knowledge and understanding of other related initiatives and fields, e.g. adult mental health, parenting techniques, domestic violence, family law.
  • Ability to work closely and non-judgementally with other people, showing an understanding of boundaries and a commitment to equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory working.
  • Excellent communication skills with all ages and ability to provide clear, written information.
  • Ability to deal sensitively with people under stress.
  • IT skills.
  • Positive attitude towards training and development.
  • Willingness to work flexibly and outside office hours.

If you want to apply to be a Supervised Child Contact Centre Co-ordinator a formal qualification is desirable (Dip.SW,CQSW or other recognised social work qualification). The following skills, experience, and personal qualities are also likely to be either essential or desirable.

  • Minimum of three years’ experience working with children or caring for children within a statutory setting.
  • Experience in child-centred work with specific knowledge/and or experience in fostering, adoption, teaching or family work.
  • Experience of managing a team of volunteers and staff.
  • Experience of reporting to a board and/or committee.
  • Ability to demonstrate a good understanding of the impact of race, culture and religion on families and children.
  • Good understanding of safeguarding procedures and processes.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of people.
  • An understanding of parental and carer conflict following family breakdown.
  • Ability to support families with signposting to appropriate agencies.
  • Ability to work directly with traumatised children in a sensitive and supportive manner.
  • Excellent recording and report-writing skills.
  • Ability to lead and develop a team through regular support.
  • Excellent time management and organisational skills.
  • A commitment to the welfare of the child as a priority in the work and decision-making.
  • Ability to work alone and as part of a team.
  • Ability to work flexibly in accordance to the needs of the role.
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You do not need any qualifications to volunteer at a supported centre. All the training that is needed for the role will be provided by the people who run the service. NACCC has a range of training modules available to support this process.

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Supported contact will not be suitable for any situation involving risk to children or adults; supported contact centres do not supervise contact or write reports but offer facilities where a family needs this for a defined period of time. They should only be used where safe and beneficial contact for the child can clearly take place.

Generally, the main differences between supported contact and supervised contact are as follows:

Supported contactSupervised contact
Risk levels*Where the risk is low – perhaps where communication has broken down following divorce or separation.Where the risk is high – perhaps following domestic abuse.
Description of serviceTypically in a contact centre possibly run by volunteers where other families might also be present. The adult having contact is responsible for the child they are spending time with.Takes place on a one-to-one basis in a contact centre where the staff are within sight and sound of the child at all times. Also in community locations once contact service is satisfied this is safe.
Type of NACCC accreditationNACCC’s standard accreditation for supported contact.NACCC’s enhanced accreditation for supervised contact.
ReportsOnly dates and times of attendances are recorded. Notes are not made during the session. Safeguarding concerns will be reported to the local authority.Notes are often made during the session which are used to compile a report following the contact.
Length of serviceShort term – can range from a few sessions to around six months. In exceptional circumstances this may be up to 12 months.Although can be short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.
Typical progressionAlthough can be a short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.         

*See also ‘How can I decide which level of contact is appropriate for the family I’m working with?’

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Every centre will have an established referral process and this will be slightly different at every centre so it is always worth checking with them to be sure.

A typical process might look similar to the outline below:

  1. Referral form completed and sent to centre.
  2. This will be reviewed by a senior person or another person administering the referral process.
  3. Contact will be made with parents and professionals to review and confirm information in referral form.
  4. Risk assessment will be written so that the centre can understand and plan for any potential risk.
  5. Contact plan will be drafted.
  6. Pre-visit will be planned.
  7. Pre-visit with both parents will take place. Often referral information will be confirmed here. Plans and agreements will be signed.
  8. Risk assessment will be reviewed following pre-visit.
  9. First session will be planned.

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The range of services available at child contact centres will vary from centre to centre. Often contact will be one of many services that are provided at a centre.

Other services accessible at different centres might include:

  • Parenting assessment.
  • Drug or alcohol testing.
  • Parenting support / teaching.
  • Play and stay.
  • Toy library.
  • Life story.
  • Counselling / therapy.
  • And so on.

However, every centre is different. Why not contact your local services to find out how they might be able to help?

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Visiting a centre to plan for child contact can be something that parents feel very nervous about. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. It is worth remembering that parents will still be going through the stages of loss and separation in terms of their relationship with the children’s other parent. It is also possible that they will have a range of feelings or emotions toward this person.

Parents will often have their own reasons for not wanting to use a contact centre and will often feel judged or under the microscope. It is also the case that resident parents might be worried about using a contact centre because they are concerned that domestic (or any other) abuse will continue to take place whilst at the centre.

Prior to visiting the centre, and depending on the specifics of a family the following might be helpful:

  1. Speaking with the centre co-ordinator by phone can often be reassuring. The parent will be able to make sense of what the meeting will be about and how the time will be used. Centres are very used to supporting people in this way and will not have a problem with providing reassurance.
  2. The centre may have a website, that parents might find helpful.
  3. The NACCC website has a range of information. This will be reassuring for parents visiting a centre for the first time and help them to prepare.
  4. The NACCC website also has resources for children. Our website has been specifically designed around the needs of children. We know that sometimes the people caring for children are not best placed to support those children to prepare for contact sessions. This is not a reflection on the parenting capacity of that person, or a judgement of their character. The reason that parents often find this difficult relates more to their own feelings and emotions following the end of the relationship and therefore their ability to share positive information with their children which will help them to become excited about contact. There is a wealth of information there that is accessible and designed to reassure children whilst also helping them to anticipate what the future might look like. Additionally, NACCC also has an app and a range of stories that parents could support their children to be able to access.
  5. The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How these look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:
    • It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
    • Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
    • Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
    • Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
    • Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.

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Preparing children for the use of child contact centres is key to the service going well. Children will be experiencing a wide range of feelings and emotions and these can be exacerbated by previous experiences of trauma for example.

Children will often worry about upsetting one or the other parent by having contact and will often place themselves in the impossible situation of trying to appease the needs of both parents at once. Where this happens, this can be particularly upsetting and distressing for children and in some circumstances their parents too. For example, children might choose to tell a parent that their time with the other parent is “horrible” or “boring”, they might also share experiences that are reportedly occurred when spending time with the other parent that might be out of context or not factual. They do this because they think this is what the parent wants to hear, and in some cases this might well be true. However, what this also does is creates an environment where parents are increasingly fractious towards each other and the situation, therefore making it harder for them to be able to communicate and work together in the interests of the children. In some cases, the child’s perceived need to appease their parents like this can lead to child protection referrals or police investigations. 

Understanding the needs of children and working with them to ensure these needs are met, (so far as is possible)  is crucial for the whole family, their ability to engage with services and most importantly their ability to be able to move on from services.

In order to support children, some of the following might assist:

The NACCC website has a range of stories and other information that a resident parent could look at with their child. This would allow the child the opportunity to understand the role of the child contact centre and how they will be supported whilst using this service.

There are a range of stories on Amazon about family break up. These can be helpful in terms of helping children to understand what has been happening in their family and what will be happening in the future.

Sesame Street do a range of cartoons that cover some of the difficulties that families face, these can be readily accessed through an internet search engine and these do an excellent job at presenting information in a way that is accessible to children.

The NACCC website also has resources for children. Our website has been specifically designed around the needs of children. We know that sometimes the people caring for children are not best placed to support those children to prepare for contact sessions. This is not a reflection on the parenting capacity of that person, or a judgement of their character. The reason that parents often find this difficult relates more to their own feelings and emotions following the end of the relationship and therefore their ability to share positive information with their children which will help them to become excited about contact. There is a wealth of information there that is accessible and designed to reassure children whilst also helping them to anticipate what the future might look like. Additionally, NACCC also has an app and a range of stories that parents could support children to be able to access.

The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:

  1. It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
  2. Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
  3. Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
  4. Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
  5. Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.

Child contact centres will also have a range of ways that they support children to access services. These can vary and might include pre-visits or the use of resources. Other centres might also offer introductory sessions where children are prepared for the contact, prior to this taking place. This can happen face to face at the centre, or increasingly centres are finding innovative ways of using technology to support families to feel safe and supported when accessing services. The key is that every child and every situation is different, and centres will have the skills to develop their responses to families to ensure they are supported in such a way that best meets their needs.

As a professional, there are also a range of tools and resources that you might use when working with children. Many of these have already been mentioned, others might include tools like “three houses”, which can be utilised to make sense of a child’s world and their view of this with a view to supporting them to be able to move on.

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The individual contact centre should be able to give you a time frame of when you can expect contact notes. Hopefully, the arrangements for sharing contact notes will have been made clear in the pre-visit meeting. The NACCC standards state the following:

“All records of contact should be completed and signed by the paid/unpaid staff responsible for supervising and recording the contact within two hours of it finishing wherever possible and within 48 hours at the latest. All contact records should be checked and co-signed by a senior worker/coordinator /centre manager before being sent to the appropriate parties.”

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Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.

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If you are referring for supervised contact the staff will write a summary of what happened at the session. These are written into specific templates. As a professional a report can help you to do your work. Centres will often be happy to provide you with these so that you can use this information to help this family. Alternatively, it might also be possible for you to visit the centre and make your own observations. 

Staff will record anything they consider relevant and this will often extend beyond just the session itself.

If you are unsure whether notes are being taken its ok to ask about this and the centre will be able to tell you if they are taking notes and who they will be sharing these with.

If you are referring for supported contact, the centre will not take notes or share information about the progress of the family at the centre. However, they will usually be able to share information about dates and times that your family use the centre, but they will not make any notes about what happens within the session itself. Alternatively, it might also be possible for you to visit the centre and make your own observations. 

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A supported contact centre will not record or report what happens in the contact centre. Parents can ask for a breakdown of their attendance at the centre and this will usually be provided. If more information than this is required, then supervised contact may be necessary.

If a centre has safeguarding concerns these will be shared in writing with relevant authorities in order to ensure the safety of children.

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FAQ Volunteers and staff

It is best if you do not volunteer at a centre that you are currently using to see your children. This is likely to be considered a conflict of interest. We would advise that you make your most of the time you have there with your children and make sure they are getting the best you can offer for the time being.

In the future it is beyond doubt that you will have an amazing range of experience that would be invaluable to a centre. On this basis, you might want to consider volunteering at a centre once you are no longer using this.

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You don’t personally have to be accredited but the centre or organisation where you volunteer/work may wish to become accredited. NACCC’s accreditation for supported child contact centres and enhanced accreditation for supervised child contact centres is considered as a good practice quality mark for child contact centres in the UK.

There is currently not a legal requirement for contact centres to be accredited but Cafcass will only make referrals to centres that have achieved NACCC accreditation. The Courts also recognise the value of NACCC Accreditation and will usually seek to ensure this is in place prior to working with a contact centre.

NACCC is responsible for the accreditation of child contact centres in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. For information on child contact centres in Scotland please contact Relationships Scotland.

For further information on joining NACCC and achieving accreditation status click here.

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  • Click here to find your nearest centre.
  • Search using your postcode or town – this will then display your local centres.
  • Contact the centre directly to see if they have any vacancies at this time.
  • The co-ordinator or manager at the centre will answer any queries you may have, explain the application process and will ask you to complete some paperwork.

Thank you for your support – it is much appreciated.

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Volunteering at a contact centre has the potential to be one of the most rewarding things that you will ever do. It is proven that volunteering is good for your emotional wellbeing and you will get to meet interesting and passionate people. You will also have the opportunity to learn new skills.

The recruitment process for volunteering at a contact centre is similar to applying for any other role. This is deliberately robust to ensure that the people using contact centres are safe and appropriate. To volunteer you will need to complete an application form and attend an interview. DBS checks will be undertaken, and references will be sought.

There is more information about volunteering on the NACCC website. You might also want to contact your local centre in order to understand what opportunities might be available.

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Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with the level of salary or pay-scale that child contact staff are awarded. Please check with your local centre regarding any enquiries on potential vacancies that they might have.

Staff at some contact centres work there on a voluntary basis. This is often essential in terms of making sure services can be delivered to families in a cost-effective way. NACCC is incredibly proud to work with thousands of volunteers that help us to ensure that, the ability to pay is not a barrier to child contact.

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It is likely that your local centre will have a rota system where you will be required to volunteer say once every four to six weeks. However, every centre runs differently so please check with your local centre.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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We currently do not have a central listing of vacancies on this website. Please contact your local centre to see if they have any vacancies at this time.

  • Click here to find your nearest centre on this website.
  • Search using your postcode or town – this will then display your local centres.
  • Contact the centre directly to see if they have any vacancies at this time.
  • If there are any vacancies, the co-ordinator or manager at the centre will answer any queries you may have, explain the application process and will ask you to complete the necessary paperwork.

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You do not need any particular qualifications to work as a Supported Child Contact Centre Co-ordinator, but co-ordinator training and annual safeguarding training will be mandatory once you start work. You will also need to complete the mandatory NACCC training programme. You should have appropriate qualifications and/or experience in working directly with parents or children. A knowledge of child development and good team-working skills would be helpful. Many supported child contact centres are open at weekends so the ability to work weekends and unsocial hours would be helpful.

If you want to apply to be a Supervised Child Contact Centre Contact Worker, undertaking supervision of contact, then you must be able to demonstrate that you have an appropriate vocational or academic qualification. The minimum requirement is an NVQ Level 3 in Child or Social Care with GSCE English and Maths Grade C or above. The following skills, experience and personal qualities are also likely to be either essential or desirable:

  • Understanding of family dynamics, the impact on children and parents of family breakdown and current related issues.
  • Demonstrable knowledge and understanding of Family Law, in particular as it relates to separated families and the provision of contact.
  • Ability to make detailed observations and provide accurate reports.
  • Demonstrable competence in identifying need and assisting in support of an overall programme of intervention and casework.
  • Knowledge of safeguarding children and child protection, with an understanding of key risk factors.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the role of the (Local Authority) Designated Officer.
  • Capacity to anticipate, diffuse and manage conflict.
  • Knowledge and understanding of other related initiatives and fields, e.g. adult mental health, parenting techniques, domestic violence, family law.
  • Ability to work closely and non-judgementally with other people, showing an understanding of boundaries and a commitment to equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory working.
  • Excellent communication skills with all ages and ability to provide clear, written information.
  • Ability to deal sensitively with people under stress.
  • IT skills.
  • Positive attitude towards training and development.
  • Willingness to work flexibly and outside office hours.

If you want to apply to be a Supervised Child Contact Centre Co-ordinator a formal qualification is desirable (Dip.SW,CQSW or other recognised social work qualification). The following skills, experience, and personal qualities are also likely to be either essential or desirable.

  • Minimum of three years’ experience working with children or caring for children within a statutory setting.
  • Experience in child-centred work with specific knowledge/and or experience in fostering, adoption, teaching or family work.
  • Experience of managing a team of volunteers and staff.
  • Experience of reporting to a board and/or committee.
  • Ability to demonstrate a good understanding of the impact of race, culture and religion on families and children.
  • Good understanding of safeguarding procedures and processes.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of people.
  • An understanding of parental and carer conflict following family breakdown.
  • Ability to support families with signposting to appropriate agencies.
  • Ability to work directly with traumatised children in a sensitive and supportive manner.
  • Excellent recording and report-writing skills.
  • Ability to lead and develop a team through regular support.
  • Excellent time management and organisational skills.
  • A commitment to the welfare of the child as a priority in the work and decision-making.
  • Ability to work alone and as part of a team.
  • Ability to work flexibly in accordance to the needs of the role.

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The qualifications needed to work at a centre will vary from centre to centre, therefore, it is a good idea to speak to your local service and get some guidance from them.

However:

In terms of supported contact centres – no qualifications are needed. The people running the service will provide all the training you need.

To work as a contact supervisor in a supervised centre, you will ideally have an NVQ L3 in Health and Social Care (or equivalent).

To work as a co-ordinator or manager of a supervised centre, you will ideally be a social worker, or similar professional.

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As a volunteer you would need to be cheerful (but not artificial), assertive (but not dominant) and be reassuring to family members using the centre. You should be able to understand the various issues that affect separating families and have the skills to build relationships with them whilst remaining impartial. You need to be able to deal with difficult situations particularly involving parents and children under stress. You need to be prepared to work as part of team where people exchange information and support one another. You need to be aware of and prepared to follow any policies or guidelines the child contact centre has in relation to safeguarding, confidentiality, equal opportunities etc. And finally, you should be prepared to attend and participate in any training events either at the centre or via home learning.

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Supported Co-ordinator training

All CCC Co-ordinators (including deputies) running supported child contact centres must attend the NACCC Co-ordinator training once every three years. It will equip them in their role to run their centre safely. Part of the Co-ordinator training is designed to enable them to disseminate the training of the modules to their staff and volunteers

Volunteers or staff members working at a supported child contact centres should be given access to appropriate training including an annual safeguarding refresher to ensure that you are confident about what you should do if you have a safeguarding concern regarding a child using your centre.

The training you will be provided with will provided with will vary from centre to centre and often include a combination of face to face, workbooks and e-learning. NACCC has 10 modules which your centre will ensure are covered within the learning that you undertake in your role with a supported centre.

Additional online training links can be found in our A-Z LINK

Supervised co-ordinator training

All CCC co-ordinators (including deputies/seniors) running supervised child contact centres must attend the NACCC co-ordinator training once every three years. It will equip them in their role to run their centre safely.

Volunteers or staff members working at a supervised child contact centres should be given access to appropriate training including induction and ongoing annual safeguarding training to ensure that you are confident about what you should do if you have a safeguarding or child protection concern regarding a child using your centre

Your centre should support you in completing a robust induction before starting your role which will help you to understand the basics of the service and the way that it is delivered. Furthermore, this induction process often included an element of shadowing or mentoring to allow you to learn from more experienced people at the centre. 

Your centre should also have a rolling training programme which will cover a wide variety of things including safeguarding children (annual), domestic abuse, health and safety, conflict management and working with children.

You should be provided with additional approved training to take account of changes in legislation, working practices and the needs of families.

For more information about the training requirements at a supported or supervised child contact centre, please refer to the appropriate standards or contact us and we will endeavour to support.

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As a child contact centre volunteer you would help prepare the centre in advance of people arriving, welcome and register family members coming to the centre, explain the use of the facilities and toys. You may also be asked to help serve refreshments.

Where appropriate your role may involve talking to, listening to and helping alleviate any anxieties family members may have. You may also help by supporting family members in playing with their children and keeping a watchful eye throughout the contact rooms. At the end of the session you would probably help with tidying up the toys and equipment.

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This is likely to be different at each centre.

Some centres offer only voluntary work. In this scenario you will either not be paid at all, or you might get some expenses reimbursed.

Other centres offer paid work, and in this case you will have a contract with them specifying how much you will be paid and how often.

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Newsletters

FAQ for centres

You don’t personally have to be accredited but the centre or organisation where you volunteer/work may wish to become accredited. NACCC’s accreditation for supported child contact centres and enhanced accreditation for supervised child contact centres is considered as a good practice quality mark for child contact centres in the UK.

There is currently not a legal requirement for contact centres to be accredited but Cafcass will only make referrals to centres that have achieved NACCC accreditation. The Courts also recognise the value of NACCC Accreditation and will usually seek to ensure this is in place prior to working with a contact centre.

NACCC is responsible for the accreditation of child contact centres in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. For information on child contact centres in Scotland please contact Relationships Scotland.

For further information on joining NACCC and achieving accreditation status click here.

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Once your centre is accredited and up and running you can promote your service in the following ways:

  1. Contact local referring agencies (Cafcass, family law solicitors, mediation services, court) explaining how they can make a referral.
  2. Contact local agencies and voluntary groups working with separated parents (health centres/doctors surgeries, children’s centres, schools) explaining how their service users can make a self-referral and how to support them in doing this.
  3. As it is likely that family members will be referring to you direct via self-referral you will need to advertise in places where members of the public go regularly (for example, doctors’ surgeries, supermarkets, libraries, community centres). NACCC has awareness posters which can be ordered on request.
  4. Don’t forget your online presence – make sure you have a social media account for your organisation and a website with photographs explaining what you do.
  5. If you are a not-for-profit organisation, you can run a fundraising drive to help promote what you are doing and raise money for your service at the same time.
  6. Make contact with your local constituency MP to let them know about your service. See if your details can be added to their regular email newsletter.

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Accreditation must be achieved within a six-month period. On becoming a candidate member of NACCC you are allocated an assessor who checks and signs off your portfolio. They will also complete a site visit before signing off your accreditation.

By joining NACCC you can access various membership benefits including the provision of national standards and accreditation support – practical support and advice helping your centre achieve and maintain accreditation.

Organisations or individuals that are seeking membership of NACCC are normally in one of two positions. They are either established services or they are looking into setting up and running a service. We have therefore created two different routes that individuals or organisations need to follow to secure their accreditation by and membership of NACCC:

1. Are you looking to set up and run a new service? Click here to learn about the action points you need to have taken before joining as a Candidate.

2. Are you an established, existing centre? Click here to learn how to join us as a candidate.

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Setting up, managing and running a child contact service is something that needs to be carefully planned. Your overall objective needs to be the creation of an environment where families and children will feel both comfortable and safe.

You need to begin by acting on the following points. Once you have completed these actions you can become a candidate member and become accredited.

The need for a service in your area

  • Have you spoken to Cafcass, local solicitors, local courts and other child contact services operating in your area at present?
  • If you are planning to open a supervised child contact centre, have you spoken to local authorities in your area to see whether they would use your service to facilitate contact for looked-after children?

Premises

  • Have you identified anywhere?
  • Where is it?
  • When is it available?
  • What facilities does it have?

Staffing

  • Will you be using volunteers, paid staff or a combination of the two to run your service?
  • How many volunteers/staff will you need to run your service?
  • How will you be recruiting?

Funding

  • How much is it going to cost to set up and then run your service for a year?
  • Where is this money going to come from?

By joining NACCC you can access various membership benefits including the provision of national standards and accreditation support – practical support and advice helping your centre achieve and maintain accreditation.

Accreditation must be achieved within a six-month period. On becoming a candidate member of NACCC you are allocated an assessor who checks your portfolio (containing all your policies and procedures). They will also complete a site visit before signing off your accreditation.

Find out how to join as a candidate.

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Any organisation can open a child contact centre providing the national standards for either supported or supervised contact are met. There are standards regarding management, staffing, training, new workers, trustees, policies, operating procedures and systems in place to safeguard children.  Find out more.

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News for Members

FAQ Find a Centre

Many of the child contact centres we accredit accept self-referrals. This means that either party can initiate a referral. However, for a referral to be successful, both parties should be in agreement. Without a court order in place, a contact centre referral is only successful where both parties are in agreement. Neither NACCC nor a contact centre have any powers to make anyone attend a child contact centre. In this instance you would need to seek some legal advice.

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You don’t have to have a court order to use child contact centre. You can set up contact direct by referring yourself (we call this a self-referral) or by getting a family solicitor or mediator to help you. However, if it is difficult to reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding contact then it may be that you will need a court order.

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Yes, supported and supervised contact centres accredited by NACCC will have a set of rules. The rules will be explained to you during the contact pre visit/agreement meeting and then you will be asked to agree to the rules of the centre and sign the pre-visit agreement to confirm that you understand and are agreeing to adhere to them. Failure to do so will lead to the service being withdrawn.

Sample rules for parents using a contact centre – it is worth noting that any rules at a centre you might attend might vary from this list.

The rules are likely to include the following but do check with your local centre to be shown a copy of their rules:

  1. Please do not bring any other person with you unless previously agreed at the information meeting.
  2. Any person displaying violence, bad language, intimidation or aggression inside or directly outside of the contact centre will automatically lose their place at the centre.
  3. Aggressive and intimidating conduct towards staff will not be tolerated and may lead to place being withdrawn.
  4. Any person arriving at the centre under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave immediately and will lose their place.
  5. Smoking is not permitted inside the grounds of the centre.
  6. You must not access any other part of the building apart from the waiting room and the toilet if you are the person escorting the children.
  7. If you do not attend 2 contact sessions without informing the contact centre of a valid reason, your place will be allocated to another family.
  8. Children are the responsibility of parents at all times. Staff are at hand to help if needed.
  9. If contact has been delayed for whatever reason, the session may still go ahead only for the remaining time left.
  10. Visitors must arrive 10 -15 minutes prior to the escorting person and child arriving. The visitor must stay behind 10 -15 minutes after the session has ended.
  11. Please switch off mobile phone during contact sessions. Videoing is not allowed on our premises.
  12. Please DO NOT bring any balloons, flying toys, toy guns etc while at our centre.
  13. Please note staff (at supported contact centres) do not write reports or comment on contact sessions unless we feel there is a safeguarding issue. Only dates and times of attendance will be given out upon request.
  14. Please do not ask your children to pass gifts or belongings, money or messages (either verbally or written) to your ex-partner.
  15. Supported contact is a temporary measure used to re-establish trusting relationships. You are expected to move on and make your own contact arrangements in the near future.
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The people who run child contact centres do this because the safety of children and families are important to them. They will do all they can to ensure that services are safe and effective.

NACCC child contact centres and services have an accreditation process which shows that all NACCC services work to agreed and approved national standards, which ensure that families using the services are safe. The national standards are updated by NACCC in line with legislation and good practice.

Centres engage in training in relation to the running of their services. They also have close working relationships with Local Safeguarding Children Boards to ensure that they understand how their practice protects children and that they are working to the best possible standards.

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Your local centre may have published the costs of contact on our ‘Find a centre’ service. Do search to see if the centre’s prices are showing or contact the centre direct for full details.

The price of child contact is often dependant on several factors and the cost can vary significantly. Elements that can effect cost can relate to how the centre is funded, the range of services on offer, the expertise of staff offering a service as well as the cost of all of the usual overheads associated with running a service. 

Sometimes, this cost will be covered by Cafcass or Social Services, on other occasions you might be responsible for paying any associated fees.

Being a membership organisation, NACCC does not have any involvement with charges for services. Please check with your local centre for any enquiries on costs for their services.

Many centres are aware of how finance can be a barrier to children having contact and they might have a way of being able to support with this or signposting to other services that have the resource to be able to support. Whilst, we can’t guarantee a solution that will suite all, it might be worth having a discussion with your local centre.

Other organisations like Families Need Fathers, Match Mothers and Only Mums or Only Dads might also have information that might assist here.

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A contact centre is a safe place for children to spend time with people that they care about that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before contact starts the centre will invite you to have a look round, meet the staff and see the centre. We call this a ‘pre-visit’. Your child and the family member that they live with will have a separate visit at another time. This visit is a good chance for you all to find out about how the centre will work with your family but it is also really important that you are able to share about your situation so that the centre staff can make sure that their service is going to be right for your situation. (See our other questions about what happens at a pre-visit for more detail)

As long as the pre-visits go well and the centre is still happy to accept your application you will be invited to come for your first contact session. A contact session is where you and your child can spend time together, do an activity or play a game.

Depending on if you are using a supported or a supervised centre (and also on the layout of the centre) there might be several families using the centre at the same time, or you might have the contact room to yourself with a member of staff observing.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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A contact centre is a safe place for children to spend time with people that they care about that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before contact starts the centre will invite you to have a look round, meet the staff and see the centre. We call this a ‘pre-visit’. If your child lives with you then they will be invited to come at the same time in order that the centre can become more familiar and safer to them. This visit is a good chance for you all to find out about how the centre will work with your family but it is also really important that you are able to share about your situation so that the centre staff can make sure that their service is going to be right for your situation. If there are aspects of your situation that you would prefer to discuss without your child overhearing then it might be advisable for another adult to accompany you so that they can stay with your child while you discuss your situation with the co-ordinator. The person who your child will be seeing at the centre will have their own separate visit. (See our other questions about what happens at a pre-visit for more detail)

As long as the pre-visits go well and the centre is still happy to accept your application you will be invited to bring your child or children for their first contact session. A contact session is where your ex-partner and your child can spend time together, do an activity or play a game.

The centre staff will check all your details off on the register and it may be that you will be shown to a waiting room or separate area whilst they wait for your ex-partner to arrive and be shown into the contact room. If you do not wish to see your ex-partner at the centre then a member of staff can help bring your child or children to the contact room.

Because centres are all different it might be best to ask them about how they will support you and what will be happening there.

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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A self-referral is where you as parents each complete an application form to request that contact be set up at a child contact centre. In order for this to work well there may need to be some communication between you, in terms of liaising about dates and times of appointments for example.

If you are not allowed to contact your ex-partner, then it may not be possible to do a self-referral and you may need to get a third party such as a solicitor or mediator to complete a referral form on your behalf.

A self-referral application form will ask you to share information with the centre in order that they can set up contact safely for your child. This could include details of organisations helping you, details about your current circumstances and that of your children.

You can check on our Find a Centre service to see if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. NACCC’s Safe Referral System is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.

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Supported contact will not be suitable for any situation involving risk to children or adults; supported contact centres do not supervise contact or write reports but offer facilities where a family needs this for a defined period of time. They should only be used where safe and beneficial contact for the child can clearly take place.

Generally, the main differences between supported contact and supervised contact are as follows:

Supported contactSupervised contact
Risk levels*Where the risk is low – perhaps where communication has broken down following divorce or separation.Where the risk is high – perhaps following domestic abuse.
Description of serviceTypically in a contact centre possibly run by volunteers where other families might also be present. The adult having contact is responsible for the child they are spending time with.Takes place on a one-to-one basis in a contact centre where the staff are within sight and sound of the child at all times. Also in community locations once contact service is satisfied this is safe.
Type of NACCC accreditationNACCC’s standard accreditation for supported contact.NACCC’s enhanced accreditation for supervised contact.
ReportsOnly dates and times of attendances are recorded. Notes are not made during the session. Safeguarding concerns will be reported to the local authority.Notes are often made during the session which are used to compile a report following the contact.
Length of serviceShort term – can range from a few sessions to around six months. In exceptional circumstances this may be up to 12 months.Although can be short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.
Typical progressionAlthough can be a short-term, in some circumstances can be delivered over long periods of time depending on the risk.Contact often progresses to handover sessions prior to families moving on from the service.         

*See also ‘How can I decide which level of contact is appropriate for the family I’m working with?’

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If you have been referred to a contact centre by a professional, they might be contractually obliged to refer you to a specific service, these won’t always be accredited by NACCC and might not be the closest one to where you live. Often this will be related to how they are funding the service. If you want to use a centre that is different to the one you have been referred to, it is worth discussing this with the referrer, in case they can help.

If you have a court order, this will sometimes name a specific contact centre. Court orders will always be for NACCC accredited services. If you are unsure, do check the wording of the order though – increasingly they will order a contact centre to be used but not name a specific service.

If you are referring yourself it would be usual to use the closest NACCC accredited contact centre to the child’s home address. Exceptions to this might occur if one parent cannot know the child’s home address.

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This will depend on your current circumstances. In some cases the person that referred you to a centre will pay for the cost of you being there.

In other cases a court order might outline who is to pay for the cost of using a child contact centre.

Sometimes, one parent will cover the entire cost of this.

Sometimes it might be possible to make an agreement with the other parent where the cost is shared.

Why not speak to the centre or the person who referred you to see what might be possible?

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Are you finding that conversations regarding your children’s arrangements result in arguments? Is it impossible to reach an agreement about contact? If you are finding it difficult to discuss arrangements regarding your children with your ex-partner or family then it may be that a child contact service would be helpful in the short term. Supported child contact centres can provide a safe neutral place for contact where you as family members do not have to see each other face to face if this is going to be easier for you.

If you have experienced domestic abuse and need somewhere safe for your child to spend time with your ex-partner or family member in a supervised environment, then it might be worth discussing this with your local supervised centre. If you are concerned that your child might be at risk of harm, then a supervised centre might be a way of re-establishing contact whilst ensuring that your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing are maintained.

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FAQ Stakeholders

NACCC has an information line which runs part time (9am to 1pm Monday to Friday). Please try and find out the answer to your query on our website but if you are unable to find what you are looking for please do call the information line on 0115 948 4557. You can also contact us at any time using the Contact form on this website.

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We are a membership body for around 350 child contact centres and services located throughout England (including the Channel Isles), Wales and Northern Ireland. It is the largest child contact accreditation body in Europe. We oversee nearly 3,000 volunteers and 1,500 staff. Our mission remains that parenting shouldn’t end when relationships do.

We were set up to in 1991 to keep children in touch with parents following divorce and separation.

Accredit child contact centres help parents and children in five main ways:

  • Provide a safe, neutral, welcoming space for children to spend time with parents (or other people important to them).
  • Support parents to help them prioritise the needs of their children post separation.
  • Promote mediation so that long-term solutions can be found to keep children in touch with both parents.
  • Offer resources, information and advice for families dealing with separation.
  • Provide specialist supervised interventions where children may be exposed to a higher level of risk.

We also provide the following services;

  • As part of our accreditation services, we have also delivered training sessions for approximately 300 judges and 1,300 volunteers undertook 10 training modules over the last year.
  • We run an AGM and conference which provides updates and training for all our members.
  • We have a national information Line for parents and carers and a members’ information line.
  • We also have a safe referral online system and hub support programme.
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There are approximately 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain including 3.5 million children (Department of Work and Pensions 2020). Many of these children risk losing contact with a parent within the first two years of separation; this could be as many as 1 million young people (Centre for Social Justice, 2013).

The majority (92%) of all lone-parent households with dependent children are headed by mothers meaning that there could be nearly 1 million children/young adults in the UK growing up without any meaningful contact with their father. A lack of contact or exposure to conflict, has a negative impact on a child’s emotional health (RCPsych, 2017) and educational wellbeing (Institute of Education, 2009), as well as having a negative impact on the wider economy (Relationships Foundation, 2016). These negative impacts can start from 6 months-old and last into adolescence and adulthood (Action for Children, 2017).

Children who experience family breakdown are more likely to experience behavioural problems, perform less well in school, need more medical treatment, leave school and home earlier, become sexually active, pregnant, or a parent at an early age, and report more depressive symptoms and higher levels of smoking, drinking and other drug use during adolescence and adulthood.

NACCC provides robust and detailed statistics on the operation of accredited child contact centres across the UK. We collect statistics from accredited centres on a quarterly basis. Information is collected online and is provided to The Ministry of Justice, Cafcass and available on request. Centres are required to submit statistics as part of their accreditation process to meet NACCC’s standards. We capture the number and origin of referrals for contact, capturing referral sources including ‘online’, ‘self’ referrals, ‘Cafcass’, ‘solicitors’, ‘local authorities / children’s services’, ‘family mediation’ and ‘courts’. We also monitor the number of children, families, volunteers, and paid staff working in supervised and supported centres.

Additional research links;

Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being: Evidence Review

Coronavirus: Separated Families and Contact with Children in Care FAQs (UK) October 2020

MoJ Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases Final Report June 2020

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A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown. 

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Child Contact is a short-term intervention, following divorce or separation, to keep children in contact with their non-resident parent. Child contact is designed to ensure children retain meaningful relationships with their non-resident parent and establish safe and beneficial contact when this is difficult to do on their own. 

There are two types of contact services supervised and supported. Supported contact is direct contact which gives some support from a child contact centre worker to adults so that they can meet the needs of their child(ren). Supervised contact is used when it has been determined that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm during contact. Parents can ‘self- refer’ to a contact service or be referred via a third party such as a family solicitor, mediation service, court, Cafcass officer, local authority or another child contact centre.

Child contact is often used as part of a range of interventions including Separated Parenting Information Programme (SPIP) and mediation.

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NACCC 2020 Registered Charity Number 1078636 and a company limited by guarantee no 3886023.

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Local authorities discharge their statutory obligation under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989, to promote contact between children and their parents and relevant others and are subject to legal, inspection and accountability frameworks to protect and safeguard children in their care. However, there is no specific provision for standards for child contact centres and services. There is also no requirement for the oversight of child contact centres and services for self-referred cases outside the court system. In private law cases a judicial protocol has been in place for nearly two decades, guiding courts to refer families to child contact centres and services that are members of NACCC and so subject to the agreed national standards and an accreditation process.

This raises concerns around safeguarding and the quality and consistency of standards, which impact the outcome of services to children and families. This current framework creates a number of adverse outcomes;

  • There is a postcode lottery of standard in the provision of child contact centres and services, presenting risks around safeguarding and quality of services;
  • there is a lack of agreed standards in the provision of public law child contact even where it overlaps with private law contact for example, in the area of special guardianship;
  • there is no requirement for Child Contact Centres and Services to be subject to quality or safety standards through a process of accreditation.

Child Contact Centres are run by a variety of independent organisations that form the membership of NACCC, along with affiliated members such as family lawyers, Cafcass, Cafcass Cymru and the judiciary.

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There are currently 340 Child Contact Centres which operate at a local level. To view a map of where the NACCC accredited centres are located click the find a centre link below:

Find a centre here

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Child contact centres and services benefit a wide range of children and families. While we hold robust statistics on the number of children and families we work with, we know less about the types of children and families we support. In line with our values of continual improvement to our services and the quality of child contact across the UK, we are reviewing our data collection and statistical output, with a view to develop a more granular statistical base, to evidence the impact of our work and the communities we support and to inform thinking and improvements to service delivery.

This may include collecting data on the ethnicity of communities we work with and understanding the issues families and children engaging in supervised and supported contact are facing, such a domestic abuse, mental health, drug and alcohol use, socio-economic factors, quality of parenting and parental conflict and the number of family transitions children experience and family stability. The objective is to developed a greater understanding of the children and families we work with and to inform how we can better tailor our services to improve the quality and impact of Child Contact Centres and Services.

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More than a million children have no contact whatsoever with one or other parent after separation. Unfortunately, some children experience behavioural issues including antisocial behaviour, distress, unhappiness, and both physical and emotional problems. NACCC is the only charity in the UK dedicated to solving this problem, by providing safe spaces where children can meet the parents they don’t live with.

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