Welcome to our newsletter

The aim of the newsletter is to highlight the best of what we do and to act as a teaser, for bigger stories, which you will often find on our website or social media. We have developed so many different ways to communicate with our members and we hope that there is something that appeals to you all. 

Government review

Dear colleagues, you will recall in April last year we went to the government with an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which was around making it illegal not to have some sort of accreditation to run a contact centre.  We were partly successful in that because although the government did not feel there was sufficient evidence that there were a lot of centres operating that were not accredited (although I think our experience differs), they decided to order a review with a completion date of April next year.  I think that date will slip but nevertheless a review there will be.  The review will be conducted by a professional body, yet to be identified, and will be jointly commissioned by the Dept of Education and the Ministry of Justice.  Although they will be looking for unaccredited centres, they will also be including some of our already accredited centres. 

I therefore wanted to alert you to the fact that you might have a researcher seeking to visit you.  I have information from the Ministry of Justice about what they will be looking for, remembering that this is about domestic abuse and risk.  Please also note that even though a centre is accredited this does not mean that bad practice does not exist, and researchers will find it if it is present.

Below are the areas the researchers will be investigating:

  • Types of arrangements – whether they come from courts, self-referral, mediation or solicitors. 
  • Places of contact – whether centre based or in the community.
  • The management of risk.
  • Centre’s knowledge of safeguarding
  • How incidents are managed. 

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.

The researchers will look at all contact centres including those provided by the local authority which is why the Department for Education is to be jointly involved in the review. 

Succession Planning and Sustainability

I am sorry to be like a broken record, but we keep losing centres – especially supported contact centres – because of an inability to recruit coordinators.  Supported centres are of course vital for move on from supervised. Can I make a plea, that you always have a back-up coordinator who can step into the role when you decide to finish? 

You have all been such great supporters of centres and it is a shame for a good centre to close for want of coordinator.  It doesn’t mean you are being pushed out of the door, but that your legacy will continue after you leave because the contact centre will continue to exist and thrive. 

Supported centres are the backbone of the organisation and their value is huge for a number of reasons not least of which is that they are local and children do not have to travel miles and miles to have contact.  There are so many gaps now in provision that we cannot continue to lose centres.  It also puts pressure on existing centres that have built up waiting lists which as we know is not good for children as it adds to delay they have already suffered through the various court cases etc.   It is well known that I think coordinators should be paid, in some instances this would work and ensure a centre continues.  Some centres I know have struggled with numbers because so many cases coming through have Domestic Abuse as an issue.  Might there be some value in considering becoming a centre that can offer supervised contact as well?  This would of course mean having a person suitably qualified to join your team, but this could be one possible solution. 

We have still not heard from the MoJ about the grant that used to be distributed by Cafcass.  They are waiting their funding allocation from the government.  When this is sorted out, we will be clearer about how the contact centre grants will work in the future.  NACCC has put in a bid to distribute these funds, but the MoJ will put caveats on that and succession planning and fundraising is likely to be a requirement of obtaining grants. 

We hope you enjoy this newsletter. Why not tell us your thoughts, its quick and easy, just click here.  

Child contact services keeping families out of court

The new Justice secretary Dominic Raab stated in the Commons recently that he wants to do something ‘drastic’ to stop up to half of family law cases reaching court. He wants to prioritise those with safeguarding and domestic abuse. Unfortunately, in a nine-months period last year 25% of all supported referrals had Cafcass or court involvement. What proportion could have come direct to centres if the parents had known about contact centres to start with or had been given the support to navigate their way towards one?

Supported referrals tend to be cases where safeguarding and domestic abuse are not significant issues but where communication between parents has become impossible or very difficult. NACCC has been campaigning for some time to raise awareness that child contact centres, alongside mediation and parenting plans can be an out of court solution for families if they only knew about them. Unfortunately, our voice is one of many and there are only so many people we can reach. it will take an information awareness campaign with substantially more clout to help spread the word.

We need Government, on both a national and local level to understand and promote the work of NACCC and the centres it accredits. Family solicitors, the courts themselves, children and family centres, children’s social care, schools, doctors, health visitors, family support workers… (the list goes on) need to be made more aware of their local child contact centres and the importance of accreditation to keep children safe.

Cafcass and Court referrals received by child contact centres so far this year (1 April – 31 December 21)

Most referrals to contact centres are self-referrals without court involvement. However, in the nine months between April to December 2021 25% of supported referrals and 29% of supervised referrals had court or Cafcass involvement.

Supported referrals: Self-referrals = 1027 (44% of all supported referrals). Referrals from Cafcass or with court involvement = 117 (Cafcass) + 315 (Court involvement) = 573 referrals (25% of all supported referrals).
Supervised referrals: Self-referrals = 1917 (28% of all supervised referrals). Referrals from Cafcass or with court involvement = 1147 (Cafcass) + 797 (Court involvement) = 1,944 referrals (29% of all supervised referrals).

We asked some of our accredited members to comment on their experience working with families coming through court and if in their view some of these could have come direct to them if the parents had known about contact centres to start with:

Drastic action is long overdue and I hope we can have long term and solid commitment from government. We do receive a high proportion of referrals where bitter divorce proceedings are happening and where domestic abuse and safeguarding issues are evident. Many of these have completed or are going through the court system as they ought. Others are referring to us after being directed to us or have searched independently. We discuss with these families whether supported or supervised contact is the most appropriate and why. Some we do then redirect for supervised contact.

Brian, co-ordinator at Westwood House Child Contact Centre

Brian went on to say: “The answer to your question is yes; I firmly believe that coming direct to centres would be greatly beneficial to families. We have a good proportion of enquiries/referrals that could, or indeed should, have not gone anywhere near the courts. Many parents just see court as a means of getting their own way and do not realise all the implications of taking this route.  Where parents talk of going down the legal route to court, we discuss with them whether this is what they really want and is it actually in anyone’s best interests? Many parents will then understand that courts are not required and are not the answer to their problems if they are willing to work with a Contact Centre in the best interests of their children and shifting the focus away from parental disputes. Experience tells me that many of our referrals over the last decade could have been made successfully and sooner had they been made direct to us earlier: Hence we could have worked together in the best interests of their children in a much shorter timescale and often achieved a more positive and less stressful outcome for the family.”

“If we, both directly, and through other services working with families, can make parents more aware of our work, then children would greatly benefit from a more child focused approach. We are on Cheshire East Council’s ‘Livewell Cheshire’ website and have received two referrals from parents in the last three months who searched on there for support. This has been one way that we have informed parents.”

Please may I endorse what Brian has said as we have discussed this. There is much work that is completed in the contact centre which is listening and signposting and may not translate into a contact. Equally there are many self-referrals for whom the process of contact involves working their way towards an agreement. Contact centres can facilitate this.

Liz, deputy co-ordinator at Westwood House Child Contact Centre

Liz went on to say: “Time with parties to disseminate clear, independent information as a pathway forward prior to court is a priority. (This is not addressed during a mediation assessment should this be followed). It would help both parties impartially to understand the time, cost, harm and emotional involvement involved in the completion of a case through court. As would an understanding of the long-term parenting challenge. Keeping the ultimate well-being of the child at the centre is key and not focusing on the disputes and upsets of adults. Contact centres are very good at bringing this realisation home as they work closely with the parents gradually building up trust. The SPIP is vastly useful and would help all families (used in many cases but not DA cases) it has many principles that are applicable to all.”

Most of the families that attend our contact centre have been through court.  Even if families are aware of contact centres, if the resident parent is not willing to allow the non-resident parent contact, this will inevitably end up in the hands of the court. We have had cases of self-referral where the resident parent does not agree to the contact so contact cannot go ahead. 

Sandra, co-ordinator at Uxbridge Child Contact Centre

Sandra went on to tell us: “It is difficult to say whether any of our families where courts were involved would have come to a contact centre of their own accord without court though it is doubtful (given the fact that many of the parents do not wish to come into contact with each other), unless they had perhaps engaged in mediation first.”

Many families really don’t need to bother the court system. A large number of our families have court orders, and we have noticed that there are some who seem to rely on the courts to make their decisions for them. They can’t seem to discuss forward planning without a court date.

Nicolette, co-ordinator at Avenue Child Contact Centre

Nicolette went on to say “I think it would be great if parents could come direct to contact centres. I have often wondered though, how would this happen? I know NACCC do a great job getting the word out about centres, but a lot of families just don’t know about us until ordered to find their nearest centre. Some kind of move to make people know about child contact centres, how to find out what we do, and how to find their nearest centre would be really helpful. But how do we do that? I would be happy to help if there was a way to get the information out there.”

I have only recently dealt with private law cases as my background is in social care. The transition from public to private law has been a real eyeopener for me as private referrals are so very different compared with local authority. Local authority cases are very structured with the social worker guiding the referral throughout and proceedings have to be resolved within 26 weeks (in my experience). This time scale will be explained to parents at the beginning which manages expectations. This is a much better time scale for a child. Planning of interventions happen in parallel with different services happening at the same time if necessary to ensure that the case is resolved within the timescale.

Jennifer, Director at Support & Supervised Family Contact Centre Ltd

Jennifer went on to tell us: “Private supported and supervised contact referrals do not have this structure, no neutral party guiding the process and can be very hard. The timescale and amount of money the service will cost is open ended and it means that in order to get a decision parents sometimes have no option but to go to court. Once the judge has spoken and the court decision is in place events tend to move much quicker. I have worked with parents nearly at the point of losing their house as the case has been extended until the point that they have no money left. Even if parents undergo a MIAM in many cases these are not effective as they should be as the situation is so raw. The non-resident parent may not have anywhere to live at that point, and it can be very emotional.”

“A shake up is certainly needed. There is a huge place for supported and handover contact but something needs to be done to provide more structure, progression and after care. Unfortunately, some parents continue using a contact centre after it is really needed as it provides security of not being accused of anything.”

Family Solutions Group – better outcomes for separating families

The Family Solutions Group (a multi-disciplinary group with practical experience of working with separated parents and their children outside of the court arena) has come up with some core recommendations covering five key areas – that children come first, there should be early information and assessment, positive parenting relationships, public education and language and political oversight.

The group agrees that:

Court is not the right place for all families.  Some need court intervention, but a significant number need other forms of support, and court proceedings will only intensify difficulties for the family… Families need support that is not purely legal, such as therapeutic support, information about parenting when separated, managing emotions, conflict resolution, plus information about support pathways for their children.

Family Solutions Group

The group have put together recommendations to ensure that all families get access to information and assessment of issues at an early stage before issues escalate.

Find out more on their new website.

Parental separation on the national curriculum for both primary and secondary pupils

Primary age pupils in Key Stage 2 can now learn and discuss the difficult subject of parental separation as part of their relationships education (RE) curriculum and personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) curriculum. This material has received quality mark approval from The PSHE Association and has been devised by Family Solution Group members Prof. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at Exeter Law School in collaboration with NACCC and The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS).

Rosie’s Story

Lesson 1 introduces pupils to Rosie, aged 9, whose parents have separated. The lesson normalises the range of emotions that children may feel if their parents separate. This should help children come to terms with parental separation or support others going through this transition. In an age-appropriate way.

Lesson 2 introduces pupils to their rights under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to information, consultation, and, if needed, representation when parents separate. The lesson aims to demystify the legal processes and provide children with details of sources of support (including NACCC) and how to access them when parents separate.

Both lessons have slides and a Teacher Guide to assist in preparation. Using a ‘rights’ theme, a fun infographic reinforces learning from the lessons.

The key message teachers are giving is that most parents agree arrangements themselves. This is to bust the myth that parents need to go to court to sort out child arrangements.

Key Stage 2 Lesson Plan: Parental Separation
Screen shots from Lesson Plan 2 explaining how child contact centres can help.
Children learn that they can go for further help and support from various people within school and are also given information on websites (including NACCC’s) to search up outside of school.

An infographic has been produced to support the lesson. Laminated A3 copies of the infographic for classroom walls are available free of charge by emailing J.Ewing@exeter.ac.uk

These materials build upon the success of the Key Stage 3 material (‘The Rights Idea?’ and ‘Tom’s Story’) introducing secondary pupils to their rights and how mediation and child contact centres can help them and their family.

For more info, go to The University of Exeter’s Law School website.

New Affiliates and Friends programme launched

We have been working recently on our affiliates scheme to better engage and work with our existing partners and reach out to family mediation services and solicitors working with families. With different levels of membership, we are hoping that this will help raise awareness of the work of NACCC and child contact centres, strengthen the working relationships with these crucial organisations and raise vital funds to ensure NACCC’s sustainability going forward. Do let us know if you work with any local partners or agencies that you believe would benefit from being an affiliate.

Please see links below for information on the scheme:

We have also taken the opportunity to acknowledge the like-minded organisations that we work with and signpost families to on our website. These organisations help us to ensure that we have maximum reach enabling children and their families to access the right service at the right time.

For further details checkout our Friends of NACCC

Introducing new standards and accreditation – CCS

NACCC’s supervised standards and enhanced accreditation for child contact centres has been in place for many years seeking to ensure that all child contact centres operate to a standard that is safe and effective. In more recent years we have been aware that supervised contact can be provided in different ways in the community by organisations and individuals and have adapted our enhanced accreditation to accommodate this development.

We now have a new set of standards and an accompanying accreditation and believe passionately that these will support, promote good practice and safeguard the interests of children and adults using supervised child contact services and the staff providing the service. It is hoped that organisations (operating without a fixed venue) and individuals (such as foster carers, social workers, mediators, parenting assessors and so on) providing supervised contact services for families in the community will be interested in achieving this accreditation. Members can search for the new supervised standards in the members area of our website. Organisations and individuals seeking to apply can find more information on this link https://naccc.org.uk/open-a-centre/

Search for local services with CCS accreditation by clicking on ‘Supervised – Community Based’ on our Find a centre tool

Income generation ideas for your service

  • Are you running a child contact centre and want some ideas on growing your service? Checkout our top tips ‘Growing commercial contact centres’ which can be downloaded from the members area.
  • Are you a not-for-profit organisation and want some fundraising tips? Checkout out our FREE fundraising pack to help enable you with your own fundraising with resources on fundraising best practice and legalities, fundraising ideas, trusts and grants including links to free resources to access potential funders. Download from the members area.

Safeguarding helpline for supported centres

Did you know NACCC provides a safeguarding helpline to help provide support if your centre is open at the weekend. The helpline is open every Saturday and Sunday for any NACCC member child contact centre but predominantly supported contact centres. It is a dedicated phone-line to help you safeguard everyone using or working at your centre. You are advised that if there is immediate risk of harm to a child or adult during contact or once contact has ended and the family have left their premises to contact the out of hours Children’s/Social Services team or the local police.

The helpline number that you can call between 10am and 6pm is on the members area. You can call the helpline for various reasons:

  • To check if you are unsure what to do regarding a safeguarding concern.
  • To let us know that an incident has occurred and what you have done about it.
  • The person on the helpline will possibly advise you to complete the Safeguarding Reporting Form with as much detail as possible and send this to any agency as agreed with a copy being sent in any event to NACCC on contact@naccc.org.uk as soon as possible but by the Monday following the call.

Children’s Mental Health Week

Place2Be launched the first Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. We got on board this year trying to spread the word.

During the week we ran a week of resource sharing and promotion on LinkedIn. Do checkout our content and why not follow us and keep up-to-date with all our news!

If you’ve not come across Children’s Mental Health Week before why not put something in your diary to look out for it next year? This will give you an opportunity to raise awareness of your vital work supporting the mental health of children and young people affected by divorce and separation. Check out their free resources for families

Family Law Language Project

The Family Law Language Project has recently launched online and across social media. The aim of the Project is to help make family law more accessible and reduce parental conflict by improving the understanding and use of language.

One of the key methods of doing this will be to identify and inform people about misuse of family law terms in mainstream media, particularly terms that can be used aggressively or raise the temperature in family proceedings. An often-misused term is ‘custody’ which has not been part of the law in England & Wales since 1991 but which is often misused by parents and professionals alike and which can cause conflict as parents think they have to ‘fight’ to be one who ‘wins’ custody.  This language also reinforces the idea that disagreements about children must inherently be confrontational and that is damaging to the children involved and put unnecessary strain on the family justice system. There are numerous other examples.

The Project also wants to hear from anyone who has experienced an issue with language and family law whether from the point of view of a parent, child or professional. There must be lots of terms which the legal community take for granted but which can cause confusion and make people feel alienated from the system which is supposed to be there to help them.

If you would like more information or would like to get involved then you can visit their website or follow the Project on Twitter (@TheFLLProject), Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or e-mail.

Training update March 2022

Training has been something that NACCC has given lots of energy to over the last 18 months. Like all of you we have had to be creative in how we provide this and how we reach people during times when participants cannot come together.

Have you had your co-ordinator training yet?

We’ve recently held co-ordinator training for both supported and enhanced members which have been a really helpful experience for co-ordinators, deputies, team leaders working at child contact centres. Thanks for your feedback from the supported training:

Very much enjoyed the training and it was a great opportunity to learn more and gain a better understanding from people more experienced. I found the open discussions and listening to people’s experiences, their advice and their queries very useful.  

Thank you for the sessions. As I was rather thrown into this position I feel that there is a huge amount of information that NACCC provide that I have under used.  One of the top tips I have taken on board is Succession Training.  I think I need to start with looking at the Members Pack.  

It was so much better to complete this via Teams rather than travelling to Nottingham. Having been a coordinator for 9 years now quite a bit of the content was familiar to me, but it was a good refresher and there was also some interesting new material.  

If you still need to attend your training, don’t worry, new dates are being announced all the time and can be found by checking the events section on the members area.

Introduce us to experts for your coffee shop live!

We recently appealed to members to introduce us to any experts who could speak at our regular coffee shop meetings. Kay (from Pilgrims Corner Group in Herne Bay) got in touch recommending we chat with Scott King from Section 31 Training so that he could share his experiences as a child in care:

“Scott’s expertise and experience had made a big impression on my work colleagues and although I’d not met him personally, I thought that he would be ideal to introduce to Phil at NACCC”.

Kay, Pilgrims Corner Group

We got in touch and were delighted to welcome him to our January sessions which were really well received and helped us to think about best practices when supporting these young people.  Kay told us: “I’m so pleased it worked out, Scott’s presentation was great, and it was good to put a face to the name!”

Find out more about Scott’s work on this video ‘Growing Up In Care: Lived Experience

Do you know an expert who we could invite along? They might work for the family courts, mediation, CAMHS – the list is endless. Please do get in touch! If you missed the session, do checkout the coffee shop recordings in the members area for a truly memorable session.

At this newsletter goes live we want to take the opportunity to thank Sarah Chamberlain, Head of Family Team & Partner at Blackfords LLP for her superb coffee shop live chat (including Q&A) on the process of making court orders in family law. Introduced to us by Sam at C4F CIC, Sarah helped us to anticipate the laws and orders that are used as well as understand some of the difficulties that can be encountered along the way.

What is Coffee Shop Live and what have we been chatting about in the coffee shop?

Our live version of the Coffee Shop provides a space for attendees to decide on their own agenda. Using the experience and knowledge of those in attendance support is provided, examples given, and best practice shared. It’s a supportive environment that has created a community to be proud of. The sessions are hosted by Kelly Williams, Elizabeth Coe and Philip Coleman and take place 6 weekly. We try to plan the times of sessions to ensure that the majority of people are able to attend.

During the supervised coffee shop sessions on 10th November, 16th December and 24th January we discussed: accreditation assessments, assessor roles, changes in behaviours, children’s resources – website, co-ord training, covid, DBS & demand at contact centres, future coffee shop sessions attendance – themes, LAC children, links for 2022, mental health first aid, MOD Families, parenting apart programme, preparing children for contact, training (incl modules), trustees, types of accreditations and provision of services, video content available, Wales and WhatsApp group.

During the supported coffee shop sessions on 18th November, 14th January and 23rd February we discussed: affiliates programme introduction, Buzz CCC at BBC Radio Sheffield, centre charges, charging for supported contact, children’s stories, coffee shop live 2022 dates and themes, co-ordinator recruitment, covid and reviewing restrictions, MoJ review of centres and grant, referral numbers post covid, standards, supported contact off-site, training (co-ordinator, safeguarding and volunteer module) and WhatsApp discussions.

Find out what’s been going on and checkout when your next coffee shop is planned

Coffee shop dates and links can also be found in the events calendar which can be found on the members area, but we will continue to email these to help people remember. If you are not sure do get in touch via contact@naccc.org.uk

Watch past sessions here

NACCC also has thriving communities in our Peer Support Networks. These take place on Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Contact p.coleman@naccc.org.uk  to avoid missing out.

In the Midlands area? Are you interested in being an assessor?

We still are in need for assessors in the Midlands area (Shropshire, West Midlands, Staffordshire. Warwickshire. Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, and areas nearby). Being an accreditation assessor provides you with a unique opportunity to learn more about the work of other child contact centres, spreading good practice and pearls of wisdom as you go. You will be joining a friendly and passionate team of assessors lead by Phil Coleman, undertaking accreditation assessments. This provides NACCC with reassurance that centres are maintaining high standards, it provides the centres with feedback and guidance, and it ensures that children are safe when using services.

The role is self-employed, meaning you can pick and choose when you work or where you are willing to travel too. All that required is for you to gather a portfolio, visit the centre and then write a report. Those best equipped for this role will be:

  • Experienced and interested in child contact centres
  • Understand the NACCC standards
  • Able to plan own time
  • Able to travel
  • Have a basic ability to use IT (mostly word and email) and a PC or laptop of your own to type observations.
  • Attend training and supervision (mostly remotely)
  • Offer feedback
  • Make recommendations (linked to standards)
  • Write reports

For more information about the role, you are very welcome to contact Phil Coleman on p.coleman@naccc.org.uk. Please see application pack (including job descriptions and rates of pay etc) on this page for further details https://naccc.org.uk/current-opportunities/   

Phil Coleman, Service Development Manager

SPOTLIGHT: Arts and crafts reducing anxiety and encouraging bonding at Support & Supervised Family Contact Centre, Spalding

Jennifer, co-ordinator at Support & Supervised Family Contact Centre, Spalding particularly specialises in supervised contact sessions for families that are going through court proceedings both within public and private law. She told us how they use creative activities to alleviate anxiety and help families to re-bond:

“Our contact sessions are focused on creative activities (in particular arts and crafts) to minimise the stress and pressure on both parents and the children particularly where contact has been ordered by the court and our centre is not their normal environment to spend time together. We are seeing parents grow in confidence – giving their child/ren as much focused interaction and quality time as possible for the brief period they have together which tends to be once a week. They are supported and guided by our experienced staff who not only have a background in social care but also have experience, skills and knowledge in child development – drawing on and combining them both.”

“We have found that a play-centred approach and setting is beneficial. Understandably most parents who come for their first contact are nervous and unsure as to how they should respond to their child/ren whilst being watched by a supervisor. We know from our own experience and other studies that art and creative interactions help to minimise the impact that anxiety might be having on family members.”

“At the pre-visit stage we explain in a child friendly way firstly why they are coming to a contact centre. We then give them an insight into what we have available and for them in turn to advise us what sort of activities and play they are interested in. When starting the first contact session, we see the children feel more comfortable and will often show and tell the parent they are having contact with what they had played with on their pre-visit. They are already able to confidently navigate their way around the room and show the parent/s who they are having contact with what there is to do. We also give the parent/s the opportunity to hear their ideas and what sort of activities they and their children normally like to do together and encourage them to bring in any activities or toys the child/ren like or is familiar with.”

“Sometimes a parent may struggle to reconnect with their child/ren especially if they have been apart for an extended period. They may be unsure of what their children are into and like to do which means at times this can seem like a barrier. We actively encourage and have had positive outcomes for parents and their children by using play and activities as a way of strengthening and rebuilding positive relationships.”

“Child/ren can speak freely and verbalise their concerns, feelings and ask questions that they might have in a safe setting. This has often been observed when engrossed in their play or an activity. We feel that the child’s voice is paramount, and we encourage the parent/s to listen and allow them to express themselves as they wish. Supervisors are there to support and help parents respond and explain in a child friendly way. We also supply a range of links to various other agencies and videos to help both parents and children understand what is happening, the process of the court, legal teams and other professionals.”

“We believe in a calm and interactive way of supervising contacts. Our staff are friendly and non-judgemental, explaining to both the resident and non-resident parent that the contact is centred around their child /ren so that they can maintain a positive relationship within a safe and playful setting whilst legal proceedings are ongoing, whether that be in private or public family law.”

Find out more at https://www.ssfamilycc.com/

SPOTLIGHT: Avenue Child Contact Centre on being the only centre in Essex “It would be nice for everybody if these families had more local centres to go to”

Nicolette, co-ordinator at Avenue Child Contact Centres gives us a look round her supported contact centre in Westcliff on Sea, Essex. She gives us an insight on running this busy centre, working with her fantastic volunteer team and the impact on being the only centre in Essex:

“We have been running Avenue Child Contact Centre for nearly 18 years. We currently have fourteen volunteers who have all been with us some time. Volunteers don’t come and go very regularly here, so I assume we are doing something right! We are a friendly bunch, and I really think we consider each other friends.”

“Parents are welcomed by the coordinator when they arrive, accompanied by a volunteer who staffs reception and records their arrival time and checks their contact number. The non-resident parent is shown into the contact room, where they wait until their children arrive. There are always three or four volunteers in the room, which is laid out with a variety of toys. There is a mat with baby toys at one end of the room. We also have table football, Happy Land buildings and figures and a home corner which is always popular. We have two Playstations set up with some age suitable games. Children enjoy the scooters and ride on toys we provide.”

“When the resident parent arrives, the children are shown into the contact room by a volunteer. We have a small outside space, which we allow one family at a time to use. We keep the door open every session since Covid, to ensure there is fresh air. We supply sandwich lunches, plus drinks and snacks. We do not charge for refreshments but do ask for a donation of £2 per family.”

“We are open twice a month on a Saturday and currently have 10 families on our books. Since the second lockdown we have found our families have changed a lot. A large number of our families moved on to having unsupported contact then, and we have had a number of new families since.”

“Our mission statement is: We aim to enhance relationships following family breakdown, by offering contact in a safe and comfortable environment for parents who are not living with their children. Our families are usually happy here. Some, of course, come along very defensive, not wanting to be here, but for the most part they soon warm up and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in the contact room.”

“We are the only local supported centre. In fact, we recently seem to be the only centre in Essex! We are getting more and more referrals from the Thurrock area, which is 20 miles away. It would be nice for everybody if these families had more local centres to go to, as travelling to Southend on a Saturday is no joke, especially in the summer when everybody wants to go to the beach.”

“Our main issue these days is getting referrers to understand the difference between supported and supervised contact. Social Services are the worst culprits, and we get at least two or three requests from them each week for supervised visits.”

“We would struggle to function without our paid administrator who works 13 hours a week and is available to solicitors and social workers, as well as to the families who have queries or want to refer themselves here. Part of her job is to apply for grants to raise funding. Partly this is to cover her wages, but also to pay our rent, replace worn out toys and cover the food we buy.”

Find out more at https://avenuechildcontactcentre.org.uk/

And finally…

Farewell and thank you to Hazel

I joined the NACCC Board of Trustees in 2009 as the NE Regional Rep as a managed a number of supported and supervised centres in the area.  In December 2012 I agreed at a board meeting to hold the post of Chair of Trustees for a six-month period until a more suitable Chair could be found!  I ended up staying in the role until 2019 and found I really enjoyed the strategic role of both being a Trustee and Chair. I learnt a lot from my colleagues on the board as we had a diverse range of backgrounds.  I also enjoyed meeting with the MOJ, President of the Family Division and Cafcass Commissioning Team and understanding how NACCC and its members supported them to do their jobs within family justice. Every year Elizabeth seemed to find a role for me at the AGM, running workshops on areas such as domestic abuse, working with reluctant parents, engaging with dads and many others!

In 2019 the board elected a new Chair and I stepped into the role of General Trustee and also sat on the Standards Panel.  Following lockdown and the reopening of child contact centres there was a backlog of accreditations and reaccreditations to be done and I felt that my skills could be used there.  Unfortunately, this meant that I could no longer be a Trustee so I stepped down in September 2020 and continue to be an Assessor.  I love visiting the centres and talking about their work and of course accrediting the centres.  I hope to continue to be involved with NACCC in the coming years.

Please do check out the latest news from the website since the last newsletter:

How to teach children about divorce

NACCC innovates to keep children and families safe

New website launched for Family Solutions Group – better outcomes for separating families

Trustees for national children’s charity – NACCC

Christmas day contact at Westwood House

Christmas markets and radio – helping to spread the word about child contact centres in Bucks and beyond

Family Law in Partnership supports NACCC through new ‘Schedule 1 to the Children Act’

Long service of volunteers celebrated at Littlehampton’s 15th birthday

Again, we hope that this newsletter is helpful. Do share it as widely as you can.

Elizabeth Coe, NACCC Chief Executive Office

The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the NACCC and publication does not imply endorsement. © NACCC 2022 (NACCC member centres exempt)

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