Elizabeth Coe, NACCC CEO heads up the staff team at NACCC

Welcome to our newsletter. Again, this is a shorter version than normal, but we are trying to keep you as up to date as possible. Do let us know what you think and please do share as widely as you can, to your staff and volunteers, management committee and supporters. We want to spread the message far and wide…

As you may be aware in the last two years six centres providing supported contact took the difficult decision to close because they were unable to find a new co-ordinator. In response to this I have written an article below on succession planning. I do hope this is helpful and gives some pointers to ensure that your centre is secure in this area.

Phil Coleman, Elizabeth Coe and Patrick Myers at the NACCC office

We were pleased to meet with Patrick Myers (from the DWP’s Reducing Parental Conflict Team) in January to discuss approaches to supporting separating families and how links could be strengthened between the team and NACCC and child contact centres. Please do check out Patrick’s Reducing parental conflict article below.

Private Law Working Group

I am currently working on the Private Law Working Group with people from NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service), mediation services, judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Department of Work & Pensions and researchers.  This group is looking at ways to divert parents from court proceedings using the services that are readily available in the community such as child contact centres, mediation, SPIP (separated parents information programmes) courses and counselling.  This group has now divided up into several other groups, each with a different focus: 

Group 1 – Education

  • The need for public education/culture change
  • Accessible and clear information and videos for parents
  • Education for legal profession
  • Other touchpoints – schools, GPs, CABs…

Group 2 – Children

  • Increased child consultation at an earlier stage
  • Summary of what’s out there for young people
  • Accessible and clear information and videos for children and young people
  • Education through schools, mobile apps, youth workers etc

Group 3 – Parenting programmes and reducing parental conflict

  • What’s out there?  Coordination of existing parenting programmes
  • The need for nationally consistent quality standards
  • Resources for reducing parental conflict

Group 4 – the triage/assessment meeting (MIAM)

  • Clarity over the key elements, to include assessment of emotional readiness, DA or other vulnerabilities, parenting support, the range of suitable DR options, possible child consultation
  • Professional skills needed for these triage/assessment meetings
  • When should they happen and how will that work in practice?

I am involved with the Children group and have been tasked with developing a resource pack for children for whom there is precious little.  Any information that would add to this pack would be gratefully received.  The hope is that it will be produced both as hard copy to go to schools, doctors’ surgeries and contact centres and online. 

Succession planning

Because retirement is no longer a clear-cut, black-and-white issue, the flip side is that many centres are not properly planning for retirement and succession. Some centres are either, brushing it under the carpet until it’s too late or making assumptions that coordinators, chairs and management committees will carry on indefinitely, thus causing stress, frustration or worse for both parties. Whether you’re a small or large centre, effective retirement and succession planning is vital for your centre’s continuing success in being able to provide a service for children and families, and your people’s health and happiness.

I have pulled together this list of key considerations to take on board when managing your staff and thinking about succession planning. This is not me telling centres what they must do, I only offer this in the hope that you find it helpful. 

1.  Start early

One of the most common problems is people not giving succession planning the time it deserves early enough. Unless forced to discuss it by a co-ordinator or volunteer approaching retirement, many management committees bury their heads in the sand. Essentially, missing the opportunity to plan for a smooth transition well enough in advance. This can lead to intense pressure later on, or at worst the closure of a much-needed centre.  Start thinking about it as early as possible. Typically, 2 or 3 years ahead of an expected retirement point within your centre.

2.  Be honest

Sometimes the hardest thing is starting the conversation about what people really want to do. Are they looking to leave as soon as possible, whether it’s to sail around the world or spend more time with their family? Or would they like to carry on working as long as possible? If it’s the latter, what are the possibilities and options? What would they be willing to do? And what’s manageable from the centre’s perspective? Whatever you do, don’t make assumptions – sensible, open conversations are key.

3.  Harness your senior workers’ expertise

Think about how experienced co-ordinators and volunteers can pass on their skills and expertise, so it doesn’t leave your organisation when they do. Be sure to allow enough time for them to pass on their contacts, processes, tips and to help smooth over any issues while they’re still around.  Could the experienced volunteers help with inducting and training new staff? Whether the focus is on using equipment or their experience in working with children.   This insight can be invaluable – so don’t waste it.

4.  Develop your deputies

If your centre has a deputy don’t assume succession is a simple matter of a deputy stepping up to a leadership position when a leader retires. Deputies can sometimes be more used to working in the wake of their leader and haven’t had enough opportunity to be challenged in the leadership role before stepping up to the position permanently. So, invest in their learning, development and leadership training before that leader retires, and give them the opportunity to make key decisions, coached by their leader if necessary.

5.  Find an effective way for generations to learn from each other

If you recruit younger workers from colleges, use their expertise in technology and social media, whilst they in turn can learn from more experienced workers. However, there are plenty of ways older workers can develop further to sharpen their talents and keep their skills fresh. Experienced workers need the humility to accept that younger, less experienced colleagues may be able to see a faster, better way of doing something. It’ll promote positive communication and collaboration.

6.  Explore all options

Keep an open mind about how succession could work; it’s not always a case of appointing an individual successor and planning a smooth transition.  Discuss your situation with as many people as possible to see if you’ve thought about all the options that might be open to you.  Consider whether there is a centre near to you who would be prepared to share their co-ordinator.  Think about whether in your area the development of an area coordinator, properly paid, for several centres with deputies in the centres.  Explore the options.  Talk to your near neighbours.  Accept that keeping it in the family might not be easy and you have to go outside.  It is important to keep the conversation going, and nobody feels that they are not wanted or undervalued.

8.  Learn to let go

One of the biggest challenges with succession planning is the difficulty many people have in letting go – especially if they’ve started the centre themselves and see it as their ‘baby’. If someone has been in a role for a long time, it’s easy to feel that there are lots of tasks only they can do. Emotions can run high, clouding judgment and making it harder to focus on coaching and passing on knowledge – so an objective third party can help keep these feelings out of the planning process.  Possibly someone from the management committee. 

9.  Give it the time it deserves

Planning an effective succession strategy can be difficult to balance with more immediate practical needs. But that’s no reason to put it off. Little and often is the key – allow time for regular conversations (followed up with simple actions), sharing contacts, debating standards training and so on. This will be much easier to manage than doing nothing and consequently getting to a point where it’s urgent and takes over everything.

10.  Be flexible

Your succession plan doesn’t have to be carved in stone; it’s an evolving conversation, not a binding contract. Update it regularly as circumstances change. Both the centre and the individual will need the flex to adapt to the unexpected – but doing this within a clear strategy is always more effective.

Reducing parental conflict

Patrick Myers, Reducing Parental Conflict Team, Department for Work & Pensions patrick.myers@dwp.gov.uk

I am really pleased to be given the opportunity to share with you the work that I am currently involved with at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). I am an Assistant Director from Dorset Council Children’s Services Department seconded to work on the Government’s Reducing Parental Conflict programme, and I want to share with you the aims of the Government’s work to reduce parental conflict, as well as the scale of the issue. Having been involved in the early pilot work with DWP and now the roll out of the national programme, I know that the programme has been built around strong evidence and as such will have a clear impact on family dynamics and improve children’s lives and outcomes.

Inter parental conflict that is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is not good for children and can result in negative outcomes that can be felt across the life course.  It can affect their early emotional and social development, their educational attainment and later employability – limiting their chances to lead fulfilling, happy lives. Our goal is to reduce conflict between parents, and we know that this is important whether the child’s parents are together or separated. We know that sometimes separation can be the best option for a couple, but even then, continued co-operation and communication between parents is better for their children.

Backed by up to £39m, the Reducing Parental Conflict programme is encouraging councils and their partners across England to integrate evidence-based services and approaches to addressing parental conflict that work for their local families. The Government has already announced plans to transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse, and the focus of the Reducing Parental Conflict Programme is on conflict below that threshold. Parental conflict can range from a lack of warmth and emotional distance, right through to swearing and shouting.

And we also know that this is a significant issue. Where a child lives with both parents in the same household, more than one in ten children have at least one parent who reports relationship distress – and children living in workless families are three times more likely to experience parental conflict than in families where both parents are in work.

The poor outcomes for children exposed to parental conflict can also lead to increased pressure on public services, and yet we know that support to reduce parental conflict is not yet fully reflected in the local services offered to families.

Early pilot work with 12 local authorities has informed the various strands of the programme. There are four primary strands.

  • Funding to support strategic leadership across local authorities’ footprints to make effective plans with partners to address the issues related to inter parental conflict
  • Practitioner training across all 149 local authorities to equip frontline staff with skills and knowledge to help families where conflict is evident
  • 4 areas (31 local authorities) piloting a range of interventions to reduce inter parental conflict with the express intention of improving children’s outcomes
  • Specialist training in those pilot interventions should they prove to be effective.

In addition, the department is collaborating with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care on the Innovation Fund for Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents, which has provided 9 areas with support to work in this challenging area.

And our £2.2m RPC Challenge Fund is funding 10 innovative projects, to support families who face particular disadvantages, as well as digital support to reduce parental conflict.

For further information, please contact me.

Coronavirus concerns

Any centre with concerns that the Coronavirus should be present at your centre should call NHS 111 immediately for further advice and let NACCC know so that we can support with any operational matters.


Stakeholder campaign

We are very excited to share the news that a stakeholder engagement campaign is starting this month. Campaign Collective (a media agency that has been working with NACCC over the last year) will be contacting stakeholders (including Directors of Children’s Services, Funders and referral agencies umbrella bodies on NACCC’s behalf.

The aim of the campaign is to get the work of NACCC and child contact centre in front of the people that matter including potential funding organisations and partners. This work will build upon the public affairs work already underway with Members of Parliament and other agencies. Depending on the organisation specific asks will be included relating to the need for further funding support and to see if the organisation would like training for staff/members working with families needing child contact centre intervention.

This work also seeks to raise awareness of the need and purpose of child contact centres and to encourage them to share a standard briefing (with links to social media infographics and standard tweets) with their members. In due course a full social media pack for child contact centres to use will be available.

For further details of the stakeholder campaign please see this page.

MP engagement programme and photo competition

Winner of the 2019 MP Photo competition (Yorkshire Children’s Centre – Huddersfield. Barry Sheerman MP)

Building on the stakeholder work described above, our engagement campaign with local members of Parliament continues. We are continuing to engage with local MPs to encourage visits to their local constituency contact centre. Visits are already underway and to encourage this we are launching our second MP photo competition! Details will follow in due course.

Statistics update: 98% response rate for quarter 3 2019

We had an excellent return for the third quarter of this year (1 October – 31 December) with a 98% return for supported contact and 100% return for supervised contact. Thank you for your support in supplying your statistics which now give a true reflection of the work being achieved by child contact centres nationwide. Self-referrals remain the main source of referrals for supported contact (48%) with 24% from family solicitors. There remains an even split of supervised referrals between self-referrals (29%), Cafcass (30%) and children’s services (24%).

The NACCC statistics are now broken down by type of contact provider (centres providing supported only, supervised only or centres providing both supported and supervised contact). Figures show that already this year over 17,000 children have used child contact services with 44% using supported contact services and 56% using supervised contact services. 74% of children receiving supported contact were using a service providing supported contact only.

Figures show that 91% of volunteers are volunteering for a centre providing supported contact only, with 9% volunteering at a centre providing both supported and supervised contact. 8% of staff are employed by a centre providing supported contact only with 92% of staff being employed by centres providing supervised contact.

*Please note that these figures are not for the full year, they just reflect the three quarters for the period 1 April 2019 – 31 December only

Data source: NACCC accredited centre statistics data summary (for the period 1 April 2019 – 31 December 2019 only)

Venue information accessible on new website

As you may be aware we are working to launch our new website in July time. This will include an improved ‘Find a Centre’ service https://naccc.org.uk/find-a-centre. When surveyed in 2019, 83% of centres were happy for their centre’s venue address to be available to parents and family members. The new web service will therefore include your centre’s venue address to make the information more accessible.

If you DO NOT wish your centre’s venue address to be accessible on the public part of the NACCC website please tick the appropriate box on the Directory Information Form (see ‘Venue details’ section). The Directory Information Form (DIF) will be mailed out to your centre shortly.

And finally…

NACCC achieves the IASME Governance Gold Standard for GDPR

NACCC is delighted to announce that it has achieved the Gold award for IASME Governance Standard for GDPR. By gaining the Audited IASME Governance certificate NACCC has achieved IASME’s highest level of certification and was awarded the certificate of assurance on 10th February 2020. NACCC has worked with the organisation Information Age to achieve this certification. Information Age continue to support accredited child contact centres with their compliance.

Funding success for Halton

Joan, Vice Chair at Halton Child Contact Centre (providing supported contact in Runcorn and Widnes) has been in touch to share that they have been successful with two grant applications. This funding will allow them to continue providing their service in the immediate and foreseeable future which is great news! 

She told us “We had success with a ‘one off’ grant of £1000 from CFLM (Community Foundation for Lancashire and Merseyside), a local organisation, towards room hire and Co-ordinator’s salary in February/March and was much needed because we didn’t receive Cafcass funding as expected in 2019 and were facing a shortfall.”

“We’ve also had success with the Steve Morgan Foundation, which is specifically for North Wales/parts of Cheshire and Merseyside. They funded HCCC a few years ago and have agreed to do so again for the next couple of years. This relates to payment of the Co-ordinator’s salary, our major expenditure. Applications involve a lot of effort and hard work but are worth it in the end.” Congratulations!Again, we hope that this newsletter is helpful. Do share it as widely as you can.

Elizabeth Coe, NACCC Chief Executive Officer

Views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the NACCC and publication does not imply endorsement. © NACCC 2020 (NACCC member centres exempt)

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