AG Contact Centres have not only survived the lockdown, but we believe we are now set to expand our services as we come out of it. There are good reasons for this, including careful planning, a clear strategy and sufficient resources.

Firstly, AG Contact Centres (AGCC) do not operate in isolation and this has perhaps been central to our effective business strategy. We are a branch of our umbrella company, AG Family Support (AGFS), which is a social-work-founded and managed national provider of independent social work, family support and child contact services. As such, when the lockdown hit, we found we were able to quickly and seamlessly switch to video-based contact, given that AGFS as a whole has been reliant on video technology, to support recruitment, training, supervision and general communication, for years. In fact, we have now decided to continue to offer video-based contact sessions going forward, for those families whose circumstances and needs might require it, though we recognise and support the principle that an opportunity to physically interact with their family members should be prioritised wherever possible.

AGCC Hassocks centre coordinator, Trina at the office part of the centre

Secondly, because our parent company also offers other specialist, statutory services to local authorities and the courts, it has been able to continue with other revenue sources when all contact centres had to shut their doors for months. This ability to subsidise a dormant business branch with revenues from the others has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of our overall business model. We hope this should reassure our service users and service commissioners that our child contact centres are here to stay, no matter what the challenge.

Arthur at the AGCC contact room, reviewing a children’s book

Thirdly, because AGCC is part of a larger, versatile and social work run company, all our contact supervisors are also trained in family support work. This ensures that our contact services are staffed by well trained, experienced, competent and very well supported staff, many of whom are bilingual and able to engage with families in their native tongue. Our contact centres are set up in geographical areas where our contact supervisors/family support workers are most concentrated, which also enables us to rapidly set up outreach contact centres where the demand might call for it. This is precisely what is currently happening in Sussex, where our Hassocks Centre has expanded with outreach satellites in Haywards Heath, Eastbourne and Hastings. This expansion pattern is likely to be repeated in East Anglia (out of our Bury St. Edmunds Centre) in the very near future. Our contact centres serve as community hubs for training and family support in areas other than child contact. As a proud NACCC member, we are also passionate about facilitating group and individual supported contact sessions at all our centres.

Arthur Gajewski, AGFS/AGCC managing director, Independent Social Work Consultant

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