“I am pleased I attended, speakers were very good – enhanced my knowledge.”

 “It was evident that a great deal of work went into organising this event and everything went smoothly and I felt well taken care of.”

“Really interesting day, full of variety and real information. Somewhat crowded programme and therefore intense but very worthwhile.”

“Very much enjoyed the day and went quickly. Very interesting and useful comments, tips and information which I will be implementing at our centre.”

 “I think it is a really good event and it’s a shame more people did not attend.”

“Best practice – going forward in a changing world”

(Elizabeth Coe, CEO NACCC)

Co-ordinators, volunteers, trustees and staff representing over fifty accredited centres from across the UK were gathered at NACCC’s ACM and conference on Saturday in Derby. Elizabeth Coe, NACCC’s Chief Executive welcomed delegates to the conference. She acknowledged that it has been a tough year and sadly that during the year some centres had taken the decision to close. There have been a number of reasons for this but for some it was due to a difficulty in recruiting, for some it was a lack of funds and for some it was because of lack of referrals.

Priority to raise awareness both politically and publically

Elizabeth said “this has been a year in which I believe we have raised the profile of Child Contact Centres through a fierce awareness campaign with interviews in the press and on the radio…I have also written a couple of articles for Family Law,  attended several Parliamentary Groups and am a key note speaker on a Parliamentary debate on Monday called “What about Henry” which is a debate around contact where there has been domestic violence and whether Contact Centres work in DV cases and could they be improved.  Where are the pressure points and are there opportunities for looking at how we manage things.”  Elizabeth went on to say “we have produced a video called #lostparents. This has been a big success having had 1424 hits on YouTube and over 10,000 tweets. The lostparents film was launched at an event at the House of Lords which was attended by our Minister, The President of the Family Division, many from the legal profession, and a number of charities.”

Elizabeth said that she is occasionally asked by members what they get for their membership fee and thought she would highlight some of what NACCC does provide for its members. She went on to say that “This is achieved by a very small staff group who do a magnificent job of keeping NACCC going”.

Membership benefits

  • The provision of National standards and quality benchmarks. Standards are regularly updated
  • Practical support and advice in achieving and maintaining accreditation and standards
  • Training modules which are in the process of being updated
  • DBS service free of charge
  • Information line giving support to parents, carers and members
  • Safeguarding helpline
  • Website updates
  • Safe Referral System for members who wish to use it
  • Coffee Shop – providing an opportunity for on line networking
  • Advice and information on important changes in legislation, and useful articles
  • Provision of leaflets and posters
  • Long service volunteer certificate service (free of charge)

Priorities, membership and achievements of NACCC

(Hazel Hedley, Chair of NACCC)

Elizabeth then introduced Hazel Hedley, the Chair of NACCC.  Hazel outlined the priority of the Board of Trustees in raising awareness of child contact centres in both the political and public arenas. She explained how NACCC was funded and then listed the following statistics and achievements of NACCC during the last year which she thought would be useful to members.

During 2015-16 NACCC had 366 member centres:
  • 217 supported centres
  • 34 supervised centres
  • 113 offer supported and supervised facilities
  • 46 centres were lost
  • 29 new members joined 
  • National Standards for Supported Centres updated
  • The Safe Referral System (SRS) supported 58 centres
  • Accreditations: 4 supported and 15 supervised
  • Reaccreditations: 74 supported and 36 supervised
  • Training courses delivered: 1 Complaints; 5 supported; 3 supervised co-ordinator training 

“Use the lostparents film as a tool for your centre”

The lostparents film was shown throughout the conference and the Chair encouraged centres to make use of it as a tool – to share it with their supporters and put it on their own websites if possible. The film is an excellent resource and describes the mental health benefits that centres bring to children whose parents have had a difficult separation. Do check the campaign page for further details.

Parental alienations – high conflict child arrangement disputes

Neville Hall (Assistant Director, Cafcass)

Following the AGM the CEO introduced NACCC’s Keynote Speaker, Neville Hall  who spoke on issues around parental alienation and how this affects children from separated families. Parental alienation syndrome was first described as a disorder in the 1980s. It was not recognised as a disorder by either the medical or legal professions. More recently however, parental alienation has been recognised in family separation or divorce and some centres have experienced this. Neville described the court cases where this issue arises as ‘high conflict child arrangement disputes’ and how Cafcass officers have the challenge in identifying the child’s position in the situation and also any negative influence and risk to the child or children involved.

“This is not your responsibility”

Neville discussed the guilt that children can feel caught in the middle of their separated parents and how this guilt can be carried by children about something they have said or not said right into adulthood. He said that they have to tell children that “this is not your responsibility”. Work has been done with the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) and different tools have been used to help children communicate their feelings. It was acknowledged that the impact on a child could be horrendous and if a centre identified this behaviour to remain neutral, use the questioning tools and report any safeguarding concerns immediately.

Diversity London based research

Patricia Ross (NACCC Service Development Manager)

After the break, NACCC’s Service Development Manager, Trish Ross discussed a research project commissioned by City Bridge Trust (still underway) particularly looking at complaints made by ethnic minority families using contact centres in London. She thanked the centres involved in the research and explained that many worries that families had were familiar and that pre-visits could often be used to resolve the concerns that families might bring. Although the research is still underway, much of the feedback has been particularly positive. Diversity training had been suggested by the centres interviewed and a full report regarding the research was to be published in the new year.

Contact in America – how the system works

Joe Nullet (Executive Director, Supervised Visitation Network)

We were then pleased to welcome Joe Nullet who shared how supervised contact is provided in America. He explained that they were also a membership organisation with over 800 members across USA and Canada and were also celebrating their 25th anniversary. He described the stress that parents face of ‘being observed with their children’ in an artificial environment and acknowledged that the neutrality of contact services was essential. As with the UK, some states have great provision with others being minimal. The SPN are encouraging a global conversation between contact service providers sharing the same goals to help children keep in touch with separated parents and offer a free ‘Global membership’.

Glasspool Charity Trust – small grants making a big difference

Julie Gilson (Chief Executive, Glasspool Charity Trust)

Our final speaker Julie Gilson was welcomed to the conference who explained how their charity small grants scheme was supporting individuals in need around the UK. The charity works with agencies representing parents and is looking to widen their scope and research whether there are separating parents who can be helped. 

Networking and exchange of good practice/ideas

“It is always good to meet other centres. I enjoyed the lunch slot to have a chat.”

“[The complaints] workshop was timely for me – I really valued the thinking space that all of these gave me and I think I can put improvements in place that will help us provide a better service to parents.”

“Great to hear about SPIP [Separated Parents Information Programme] and good to hear that we at Supported Centres can help parents move on, become more involved.”

Following lunch and a chance to network with centres in similar locations, delegates then attended workshops on complaints, the SPIP process, the importance of pre-visits and family mediation. These proved to be very popular with attendees who appreciated the chance to exchange experiences and ideas. Elizabeth Coe closed the conference by thanking everyone for coming – especially those who had travelled a long way.

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