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.