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.
This is a special edition as NACCC has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary as a social welfare charity. We thought it would be good to reflect on the successes and challenges of this time and certainly since I became Chief Executive in 2012, we have continued to improve child contact standards, raise awareness and tackle challenges head on, whilst meeting the increased monitoring of services required by our main funders and internal standards required by GDPR and other legislation. Do find out about the origins of NACCC as a charity, the people involved with setting up NACCC and the success and challenges that we face today.
I began my time as Chief Executive of NACCC following a difficult period for NACCC. Funding cuts had forced a staffing restructure and there had been several changes in the government departments providing grants to the organisation – from the Home Office in the early days of Cafcass, to the Department for Children and Families, to the Department for Education and in recent years, the Ministry of Justice. Latterly the government departments who issue the grant to NACCC has required increased monitoring of the services offered, and then there was GDPR.
New supervised standards coming soon for contact centres and services using venues other than a child contact centre.
We have continued to review and improve National Standards to make them more rigorous and to take account of any legislative changes and updates in crucial documents like Working Together. These are reviewed every three years for both Enhanced and Supported Centres, and is overseen by a Standards Panel, chaired by Sir Mark Hedley, the Chair of the Derbyshire Family Panel, and members of Contact Centres. We have raised awareness of Contact Centres with MPs (many of whom have visited centres as a result), Media outlets, Local Government and Local Authorities, and through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Contact and Services. This has led to our foray into parliament through our amendment of the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020-21 which was approved by the House of Lords on two occasions but did not get through the Commons. Despite this the government did concede that centres both accredited and non-accredited needed researching to ensure that all those delivering contact and contact services were safe for those who had experienced domestic abuse (see below):
Contact centres – Report on the use of contact centres in England: 1. The Secretary of State must, before the end of the relevant period, prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals, when they are using contact centres in England, are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm. 2. “The relevant period” means the period of 2 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed. 3. In this section “contact centre” means a place that is used for the facilitation of contact between a child and an individual with whom the child is not, or will not be, living (including the handover of the child to that individual).https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0290/amend/domestic_rm_cclm_0422.pdf
The last eighteen months have been hard for centres, parents and us at NACCC. We could have gone into lockdown ourselves, but we chose to use the time to further develop the services we provide for children, families and our members. With the support of Family Ties Contact Services an app was developed to provide virtual contact for children and non-resident parents. To date nearly 50,000 virtual contact sessions have been provided. This has kept contact alive for so many children. A guide and training was provided in the use of this app. Many centres have had to close their doors – some because their venues are being used for other purposes such as foodbanks. Some have closed because of staff shielding. Fortunately, things are beginning to open up again.
Do check out the training update with all the latest on our courses, coffee shop live and peer support groups you can get involved with. Our training includes bespoke courses for magistrates and the judiciary – raising awareness of how centres should be used. Please also read about the latest on ‘The Rights Idea? which was born through our work with the Presidents Family Law Working Group and an offshoot of this group entitled “working with children”. And if you missed it do read about our very successful Covid Hero award ceremony!
NACCC has a very small but hard-working team supported by a Board of Trustees who are supportive and active. We all have nothing but admiration for our members who do a very difficult job. This is increasingly being recognised by government, partner organisations, Cafcass and the courts, and we will continue to spread the word wherever and whenever we can.
We hope you enjoy this newsletter. Why not tell us your thoughts, its quick and easy, just click here.
Happy birthday NACCC! 1991 – 2021
A look back over NACCC’s 30 years as a social welfare charity. NACCC came into existence on 15th June 1991 and a lot has happened since then. Join us in celebrating the commitment of the whole team – all working with the common belief that parenting shouldn’t end when relationships do.
We’ve put together a couple of videos which celebrate our achievements and challenges over the last 30 years:
If you want to find out more about our founder Mary Lower and what prompted her to set up the first private law contact centre in Nottingham (and then NACCC as a charity) do read her story as told to us back in 2016.
From Lesley, our Chair of Trustees
Congratulations to NACCC on your 30th birthday, a huge thank you to all the Contact Centre staff and volunteers, NACCC office staff and fellow Trustees for enabling this organisation to grow and become the well respected and influential organisation we are today. I am sure all the children we have helped over the years would wish to thank you also.
Although I haven’t been involved in contact centres for all the 30 years, 19 years ago in 2002 I was part of a team that set up two new contact centres in Blackburn and Darwen, Lancashire. Blackburn Diocese, the Church of England in Lancashire received funding from the Government Parenting Fund. I was employed as a Family Support Coordinator setting up a service based in schools. At the same time a colleague developed work with dads and set up the two contact centres.
The work was all very integrated with some families accessing all the services. The contact centres were staffed by the co-ordinator (paid) and a team of volunteers, recruited mainly from the local Churches and some Diocesan staff, including myself, who also volunteered. As a foster carer I was familiar with contact for children with parents but had no idea at that time about the children in private law proceedings. Reluctant children were an eye opener. As a foster carer supervising contact, all children were excited to see their parents! We always attended the NACCC AGM and memorable venues were the Royal Courts of Justice and the Leeds Armoury. We were fortunate to have regional support workers and Judy Birchall held regular meetings with the Local Authority and CAFCASS. Funding for this work came to an end. We now have excellent support through the NACCCC office team and more recently the online coffee shop, and social media groups. Parents are now expected to take on some responsibility for funding access to this valuable service which helps them to make arrangements for their children.
In 2008 I became the co-ordinator of the Blackburn Diocese Supervised and Supported Contact Service and joined the Board of NACCC as a Trustee in 2015. I have been Chair since October 2020. My role with the Diocese ended in 2017 and I now have a sessional post with Pro Contact supervising contact and delivering SPIP. I am full of special admiration for the army of volunteer co-ordinators and staff who run supported contact centres today. The complexity of family problems are so much more challenging now and Contact Centres have moved a long way from the church hall opened on a Saturday with toys and refreshments provided.
Thank you once again. Lesley (NACCC Chair)
From Pauline – Some personal reflections on the early years
Pauline is one of our assessors but has been involved since day as part of the original steering group which set up NACCC in 1991. She shares her experiences here:
Having been interested in social work with children and families throughout my career, in the spring of 1987 I was fortunate enough to be appointed as a family court welfare officer in the Civil Work Unit of South-east London Probation Service. [In those days family court work was undertaken by the probation service and it was only in 2001 that Cafcass was established as a separate organisation]. The unit was forward-looking and innovative having been one of the first to set up a family conciliation (now mediation) service in 1979 and having established access (now contact) centres in 1983. Part of my role was to run the three access centres for a year.
There was one centre for each of the London boroughs covered by the service – Bexley, Bromley and Croydon. The centres were staffed by volunteers from the probation service volunteers’ organisation (SOVA) and during that year I set up training programmes for the volunteers including induction in conjunction with SOVA. A number came with relevant professional backgrounds such as teaching and health visiting.
It gradually emerged that there were about a dozen other contact centres across the country with some run by the probation service and others often inspired by Mary Lower and her initiative in setting up the Nottingham centre. A number of the centres began to meet for support. Again this included a mixture of family court welfare staff such as Gordon Hastings from the Sheffield centre and volunteers from mainly church-run centres as well as a family lawyer, Ian Daniels, from Nuneaton.
In late 1988 my personal circumstances meant a move to Sheffield and I joined the West Yorkshire Probation Service, again as a family court welfare officer and based in Wakefield. We set up a contact centre in Wakefield and I continued to be involved in the support group which soon led to the first national meeting of what then became the Network of Access and Child Contact Centres. This was around the time of the passing of the 1989 Children Act which, in theory, changed the terminology from custody and access to residence and contact. The idea was to make more child-friendly arrangements out of court involving greater parental cooperation and less conflict for children. However, old habits die hard and ‘custody’ is still heard often, never mind ‘Child Arrangements’. However, as ‘access’ was no longer the official term NACCC eventually became the National Association of Child Contact Centres. The basic values established then are still relevant today, stressing such principles as the importance of impartiality and confidentiality but the focus was predominantly on mutual support at that time. It was felt to be important that any management committee members should have direct involvement in a contact centre. Gradually this was reflected in the election of a number of Regional Representatives onto the management committee.
The rest, as they say, is history. The recognition of the importance of standards of good practice for centres led to a NACCC handbook and eventually to the accreditation system. As the organisation grew the need for a greater range of expertise on the management committee was recognised with appointment of trustees with other areas of expertise. It has been hard for NACCC to maintain its funding as a national umbrella organisation but it continues to provide an invaluable service with a very small number of committed staff. I have been pleased to remain involved with NACCC throughout its thirty-year history undertaking various roles over the years. In retirement I have also worked in supervised contact services to keep in touch on the ground. I continue to be committed to its important work of helping to support the children of separated families. Pauline Lowe, NACCC Assessor
The Rights Idea? achieves Quality Assurance and launches in 27,000 schools across the nation
Following on from our winter newsletter feature we are pleased to announce that NACCC’s collaboration with the University of Exeter Law School and National Youth Advocacy Services has resulted in some new lesson plans designed to help secondary age pupils manage the emotions they may feel when their parents separate and ensure their voices are heard during this difficult time. The new resources, ‘The Rights Idea?’ are designed to help schools sensitively tackle parental separation as part of the PSHE and Citizenship curriculum. They have been produced by Professor. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at the University of Exeter Law School in collaboration with The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) and Elizabeth Coe, NACCC’s CEO.
Elizabeth said “The new RSE curriculum recognises the need for children to be prepared for the more difficult elements of relationships. ‘The Rights Idea?‘ helps children to normalise their feelings and understand their rights as their world changes around them when parents separate.”
Dr Jan Ewing told the BBC: “We know that it makes a bad situation just that little bit better. If young people are consulted and are informed they know what the process is going to be, and just normalising the range of emotions that they might be feeling will hopefully help them to get through it” More on this link.
Covid heroes celebration!
It was a fantastic occasion on 19th May as nearly hundred child contact centre workers, NACCC staff and trustees and representatives from Cafcass, The Parenting Apart Programme and more gathered on Teams to witness the winners of the #naccccovidhero awards being announced. We were so humbled to hear about the amazing commitment of child contact centre volunteers and staff during the pandemic.
This was our first ever awards ceremony which celebrated voluntary service, staff service, innovative practice and for outstanding achievement – the CEO Covid Hero Award. We were proud that The Parenting Apart Programme sponsoring the event were able to join us and share about their work with separated families. Lesley Jenkinson, NACCC’s Chair started the proceedings and then handed over to Phil Coleman and Elizabeth Coe to present the awards.
Congratulations to all our winners!
Phil Coleman presented the following awards, sharing the stories behind the nominations:
VOLUNTARY SERVICE DURING COVID-19: For volunteers (including trustees or students) that went (or wanted to go) above and beyond in order to get child contact services to families
The first winner in this category was Andrea at The Contact Zone in Bridgend. The person who nominated Andrea told us:
Andrea’s work in the last 12 months especially during Covid, with her unselfish, drive and determination with debriefs on how to improve and aid contact, communication to both us parents has personally helped myself develop a better relationship with my son. This lady and her team have saved my heart and memories for love I have for my son.
The second winner was Camberley & District Family Contact Centre! The person who nominated Camberley told us:
Camberley’s volunteer co-ordinator found themselves having to close their child contact centre in March 2020. However, they never stopped contacting the families using the centre, regularly checking in on them and making sure that they were ok. This contribution was invaluable in circumstances which have never existed before.
STAFF SERVICE DURING COVID-19: For staff who went (or wanted to go) above and beyond, to get child contact services to families
The first winner in this category was Emma at Parenting Apart Centre East in Norwich. The person who nominated Emma told us:
Emma responded promptly to families requiring support and supervision to maintain a safe relationship between a parent and non-resident parent during lockdown…. This very special person is always on hand to listen to my issues and provide advice and support.
The second winner was Paula at Buzz Sheffield Congratulations to you! Paula received several nominations from parents and this is why:
When a child was too anxious to come to the centre, she made arrangements for it to happen in a school. When a child wanted their bunny at contact, she found a safe way to make that happen, which included sourcing a rabbit run so that they wouldn’t have a furry friend making breaks for freedom… Nothing is ever too much, ever…..
INNOVATIVE PRACTICE DURING COVID-19: For innovating during Covid-19 in order to minimise disruption for children and families
The first winner in this category was Christian at ACC Contact Centre in Dudley. The person who nominated Christian told us:
Hero, Role model, Friendly, Caring, Compassionate and brilliant with children… leading the way in terms of innovation and the way that they recognise and meet the needs of children and families…They worked tirelessly to make sure that people know they were there to serve them and that this could be done safely.
The second winners were Linda and Janine at Craigavon Children’s Contact Centre. The person who nominated Linda and Janine told us:
Linda and Janine quickly realised that lockdown would mean no contact for children and their parents and that potentially this would cause irreparable damage to their emotional wellbeing. They shared their knowledge and skills with the Trust and this learning was implemented at other centres throughout Northern Ireland.
The CEO’s Award
THE COVID HERO CEO AWARD: For embodying all that NACCC and child contact centres stand for
Elizabeth Coe, NACCC’s CEO presented the CEO awards to two organisations which had particularly stood out amongst all the nominations. The first winners in this category was Jane at Family Ties Childrens Contact Services
Jane was chosen to receive this award by Elizabeth who shared at the ceremony:
This new centre has grown quickly and proudly demonstrates the upmost professionalism in all that they do. They have an increasing reputation for quality with the families and professionals using their services. In addition, when the pandemic started, NACCC commenced trying to work out how we could ensure that children were still able to have contact with their family members…
The second winner was Helen at Achieving for Children. Helen was chosen to receive this award by Elizabeth who shared at the ceremony:
It has been a challenging time and a time of great worries & anxieties for children in care, but the contact centre continued to work above and beyond, keeping safe practices and being innovative… They deserve great appreciation for all they do. Thank you.
NACCC’s very own covid hero!
Elizabeth went on to present Phil Coleman with a staff service in Covid-19 award for his huge commitment during the period, supporting child contact centres keyworkers through the time, updating guidance and delivering training sessions on virtual contact and reopening processes. From the NACCC team a very well done!
We are so very grateful to The Parenting Apart Programme for sponsoring the awards and giving a presentation about their work. To access the presentation and to watch the celebration on catch-up check out this link
Training update July 2021
Training has been something that NACCC has given lots of energy to in light of Covid and what this has meant for us. 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 are currently monitoring a waiting list for this. Please let us know if you would like your name to be added to the waiting list for either supported or enhanced co-ordinator training. Check your emails for any further dates.
Volunteer Training Modules
We are currently working on updating the volunteer training modules for supported centres. It will inevitably take a few weeks to complete this, but we are hoping that it won’t be too long before we have a new and exciting range of content, that is more fun and engaging to deliver and can be delivered in a variety of ways. Once this is written we will also be offering some one-off opportunities for NACCC to deliver these for you (online), in response to the pressures you are all experiencing post lockdown, so look out for more news about this and we will be sure to keep you posted.
Coffee Shop Live goes from strength to strength
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.
So, what have we been chatting about in the Supervised Coffee Shop?
During the sessions on 13th April and 26th May we discussed accreditations, Cafcass funding, complaints, Covid Hero awards, insurance, membership templates and forms, office move, Our Family Wizard, photos – consent, standards, the Family Hubs Network, the length of time families use contact centre, training and judges, and where people are with Covid.
So, what have we been chatting about in the Supported Coffee Shop?
During the sessions on 22nd April and 1st June, we discussed accreditations, Charitable Incorporated Organisation Status, Covid 19 – pre visits & social distancing, Covid Hero awards, GDPR Certification, sustainability / succession planning, supported centre grant, The Rights Idea, and training.
Why not find out what’s been going on and book onto the next coffee shop?
Book into future sessions either through the members area or by asking us for the link via firstname.lastname@example.org
NACCC also has thriving communities in our Peer Support Networks. These take place on Facebook and LinkedIn. Contact email@example.com to avoid missing out.
Membership, Standards & Accreditation – are all your services covered?
Please take a moment to refresh yourselves about the agreements that you have in place with NACCC. These have been made in several ways, primarily through signing the membership agreement and by working in accordance with the National Standards. The Memorandum of Understanding and the Judicial Protocol also specify agreed ways of working and it is important that we consistently maintain the standards we have become renowned for. It is important that all members are working within the spirit of the arrangements that you have in place with NACCC and that where you cannot do this you have a conversation with us – we will always be warm, welcoming and usually able to find a solution that avoids too much stress.
We are aware that some (mainly supervised) services are working in geographical areas that they are not accredited to work within, by NACCC. This creates real difficulty for us, because these services are not accredited, if we do not know they exist. If we were contacted by anyone externally about the accreditation status of such a service, we would openly state that this service was not accredited to operate in this specific area. A lack of accreditation will also be apparent by the fact that these services do not appear on the Find a Centre Tool.
NACCC are firmly of the view that it is only contact centres with accreditation that are safe places for children to be spending time with people that are important to them. The fact that these services are not accredited is likely to invalidate insurance and will most certainly put them in breach of contracts with commissioners like Cafcass and Local Authorities. If you are not sure whether NACCC is up to date with the information we have on file, please contact us as a matter of urgency. Cafcass and the Courts (as well as many Local Authorities) will not knowingly work with contact centres that have not achieved accreditation.
Are you interested in being an assessor?
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
The areas where we are most keen to recruit are marked on the map below:
For more information about the role, you are very welcome to contact Phil Coleman on firstname.lastname@example.org . For an application pack (including job descriptions and rates of pay etc) please contact our friendly administration team on email@example.com
Phil Coleman, Service Development Manager
Our most challenging year on record…
Unprecedented centre closures, covid risk assessments and around 50,000 virtual contacts carried out
It has of course been a challenging year to say the least and the figures below are stark reminders of the impact the pandemic has unfortunately had on availability of contact centres to children and families. Never before in NACCC’s history have contact centres had to close their doors in such huge numbers. A huge amount of work has carried on during the year both behind the scenes and in the community to make contact services available again in a safe and secure way.
It is a huge achievement that more than 54% of supported centres and 89% of supervised centres have now been able to reopen. We don’t underestimate the amount of work that has gone on to make this possible. If your supported centre is still closed NACCC is available to help guide you as you feel it is safe to reopen. Please do contact us for guidance or take a look at the ‘reopening’ videos on this link: https://naccc.org.uk/members/naccc-training-videos/
Looking after your well-being
Following a year of such anxiety, stress and uncertainty, on top of managing a contact centre it would not be a surprise if this is affecting the mental health of you and your team. You may have gone over and above this last year as keyworkers but please do take time to look after your own well-being. Please see a few links below which might be helpful:
- NHS https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/
- Wellbeing apps https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/
- Mental Health UK https://mentalhealth-uk.org/
- Virtual College wellbeing guide https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/resources/2020/02/mental-health-and-wellbeing-guide
Feeling isolated in your work?
Running a contact centre can be very isolating if there is not another centre nearby. Please do make use of the peer support that NACCC can offer. You are very welcome to join NACCC’s WhatsApp group or to attend the coffee shop live sessions (for supported and enhanced centres). These have proven to be so helpful this last year. To join the WhatsApp group or to receive details about the next coffee shop live do contact the NACCC office or look out for the emails.
Centre status update
Thank you for sending in details regarding your centre’s status in relation to the pandemic. We have the latest figures (as at 30th April) to share with you. We know that some centres that opened last year had to close again following the January lockdown. These figures reflect a huge amount of hard work that is going on behind the scenes ensuring risk assessments, equipment, new layouts and safety procedures are all in place. We are not wanting to put pressure on centres to reopen as it is of utmost importance that centres reopen safely.
- 54% of supported centres are now open, with 20% making plans to reopen. 26% (69 centres) were still closed for the time being. Of these 69 centres, 18 thought they would be open by the summer, 6 by the autumn and 20 were unsure.
- 89% of enhanced accredited centres are now open, with 2% making plans to reopen. 9% (23 centres) were still closed for the time being. Of these 23 centres, 3 thought they would be open by the summer, 6 were unsure and 5 were not ever reopening.
- 75% of enhanced centres and 29% of supported centres had been able to offer virtual contact during this period. Nearly 50,000 sessions were offered – a remarkable achievement!
Statistics update: Findings and trends for the period 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021
To complement the above we felt it would be helpful to share the findings and trends from the first quarter’s statistics submitted by accredited child contact centres for the period 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021. Please see our website for the full data.
Children using centres down by 10,000
The number of children and families attending centres during 2020-21 halved with a reduction of 10,000 children using contact services. This is of course due to the closure of centres during the initial pandemic and as some centres had to close again due to the January lockdown. Children having supported contact was at 22% compared with pre covid times. Hopefully as 2021 progresses this will pick-up, but it might take a while to get back to pre-covid levels, particularly for children using supported contact centres.
Referrals to centres at 65% overall compared with previous year with the majority for supervised contact
SPOTLIGHT: A year of change as Portland Child Contact Centre recruits new management and volunteers “I’ve felt the responsibility deeply…but am also excited and motivated as things are coming together”
When Covid-19 suddenly hit us last Spring we took the decision to temporarily close our contact centre – a decision made easier by unexpectedly finding ourselves without any families for the first time in a very long time. We kept to the schedule of management meetings every three months or so (on Zoom) and each time the decision on when to re-open was uppermost. We never expected to be closed for 15 months, but when Covid numbers rose in the autumn and then soared in January we realised we were in for the long haul.
We lost 5 long-standing volunteers straight away in March last year, on the grounds of age and/or ill-health, and our chair, treasurer and another management group member were due to step down, so we publicised all the vacancies together, and drew in a charity mentor to review our recruitment process and be part of the interview panel.
We circulated the advert locally and used Reach Volunteering for the management roles. We successfully appointed 5 new management group members with skills and experience in a range of useful areas – treasurer, HR, a former magistrate, a psychotherapist, and a church minister who in retirement from ministry worked in a mental health community team for 9 years. When I say ‘appointed’, strictly speaking they are all in attendance at our management meetings ahead of our AGM in August when they will be formally proposed, seconded and voted upon. We also found four new Saturday volunteers, again with broad experience and empathy for our cause. We had been all-British and all-female – but the new team includes South African, Hungarian, and Indian women and one South African man. We were less successful in gender terms than nationality where diversity is concerned!
Our meeting in April finally felt like the time to set a re-opening timetable. We held pre-opening sessions in the centre on 22 and 29 May and used this time for training and for revising our room layout to be more Covid-safe. We told our local paper of our plans, and they sent a photographer on the second occasion and published a full-page article letting everyone know we had reopened.
Numbers are low. Our plan is to start off with a maximum of three families per week, each family attending fortnightly, and to stagger arrival and departure times then review everything two months in. As I write (9th June), we have booked in one family and one set of pre-visits and are following up several recent enquiries. Alongside all this we are in the process of re-accreditation, which feels both a bit nerve-wracking but also affirming in that we know that we will be given support in any areas we haven’t got quite right.
I’ve felt the responsibility deeply, and have had to consciously do other things to take my mind off fretting about details. But I’m also excited and motivated as I know things are coming together well and I have plenty of support both locally in my ‘new’ team as well as NACCC staff and colleagues in other centres. The Coffee Shop and training events (especially the safeguarding one) have really helped.
Lynne, Co-ordinator Portland Child Contact Centre, Bishop’s Stortford
Lynne has created a handbook for each of her volunteers (in a loose-leaf folder that can be easily updated). With the new covid procedures, team roles, policies and procedures this makes a fantastic resource as they start volunteering again.
She has kindly made this available to any member who might find it useful. See link
SPOTLIGHT: Sam shares what led her to open her supervised centre in Feltham “There have been tears and moments when I thought ‘no more challenges, I’m done, let me get a job’ – but I kept going”
[Sam runs C4C CIC, a new enhanced accredited centre in Feltham, London, open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. We asked her to share what made her decide to open a contact centre]
In my previous life I worked within children’s social care within Early Help managing staff overseeing a vast number of clients. Working within Early Help can be challenging, and some say harder than social work (I agree 100%!) You build a relationship with the children and their families ensuring you are working with your service users and team for best outcomes. It has always been a passion of mine to enable opportunities to support children and their families and for them to have a relationship with their parents/carers even if they live apart. It is so important.
Having worked in social care it is very well evidenced that there is a real need for child contact centres and a shortage of them around the UK. All I can tell you is that a case several years ago has stuck with me, a mum walked for 3 hours to see her children over 15 miles each way! I kept thinking – “Why? What is going on?”.
So that was it, I researched what I would need and started my journey of finding a home for my centre. I secured one, spent a fortune then lost it, so I started again and I found my new home for my centre. I got a personal bank loan and then worried “what if it doesn’t work? I have a mortgage, bills” and it goes on… To be honest it’s taken me several years to finally get the right centre, get it ready to open and then just before we were due to open Covid-19 strikes. Wow! here I go again. I cannot lie, it’s been hard. There have been tears and moments when I thought “no more challenges, I’m done, let me get a job”… but I kept going.
I am already seeing the benefits the centre is giving to so many. We have been open for 2 months now and if you can – do it! My entire career has been to help others and I can honestly say this is the most rewarding job I have ever had. Seeing parents reunited with their children for whatever reason is heart-warming.
I thank NACCC for all their guidance and support. The day Ionie (my assessor) came to complete my accreditation I cried as it had been a very long road and a road I never thought I would get down, but I am there. I am eternally grateful for all the help NACCC has given me to open the C4F phone and the ridiculous phone calls I have made, to the updating of contact details. The WhatsApp group has been a blessing and all the other centres support you. I am highly motivated and committed to giving families the support and guidance that is needed to create better outcomes for them all. Making a difference is what it’s all about!
Sam, co-ordinator, C4C CIC
SPOTLIGHT: Westwood House shares their experience since reopening “it has been worth it for all the children we’ve been able to support”
Westwood House Child Contact Centre (in Congleton Cheshire) held our last full contact session on 14th March 2020 before a 17-week closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the closure we kept in touch with the volunteer team and the families we were working with up to the point of closure. We continued to accept referrals and enquiries, explaining the current situation and opened a waiting list. We are based in a large house owned by Trinity Methodist Church. The building is used by various groups during the week that also had to close. We had continued conversations with the church managers, and after a consultation with The Methodist Health and Safety Officer and naccc, and in line with the government guidelines of the time, we prepared Covid-19 procedures for families and the volunteers.
We reopened for contact on 17th July 2020 and have remained open since then. We have three families attending each Saturday morning with only one family in at a time for a one-hour contact with a twenty-minute cleaning gap in between. We took the decision to only offer families a one-hour contact every fortnight to each family, irrelevant of what was being requested in the referral. This meant we could operate to full capacity within the restrictions of Covid and support the maximum number of families possible. This was only half our normal capacity but was the best option we could do for our families. We reduced the Saturday morning volunteer team to three in attendance from the usual four. We held individual conversations with all the volunteers prior to reopening, and only those who felt comfortable in coming back, returned. In fact, most of the team were very keen to return and only three who were shielding did not return. We continue to chat with the team to ensure they feel safe and supported. During this time, we have also recruited four new young volunteers to the team.
We send all parents our Covid procedure before they attend Preliminary Interview and First Contact and we have found that families are happy to work with this and have fully cooperated. So far, this has worked well. We operate a one-way system in the building. We closed off one of our two family rooms and only use the minimum furniture required. We do not put out toys, games, books and craft stuff. We ask resident parents to supply anything required by the child. In some cases, we keep a marked bag of items supplied by the parents, in our upstairs office to be used at each contact. We do supply any requested items from the centre and these are cleaned before and after use. We have a kitchen area with restricted use. We have a separate interview/parent waiting room and a large garden. These have all helped to maintain social distancing measures and our agreed procedures. Whatever the weather, windows are kept open for ventilation. We continue to monitor the government guidelines and attend the naccc coffee shop meetings to review with naccc and share experiences with other centres.
It has taken hard work and patience to reopen but it has been worth it for all the children we have been able to support in seeing their other parent. It has also been good for the self-esteem of the volunteers who have appreciated being kept involved and informed. Sadly, we have seen two centres in Cheshire close during the Covid crisis so it is so important that we support each other in moving forward. We are happy to share our experience and discuss with any centres who are looking to reopen.
Brian, Co-ordinator Westwood House Child Contact Centre, Congleton
Brian has kindly shared their covid procedures for any member finding this helpful. See link
SPOTLIGHT: New sensory space at Jigsaw Family Support thanks to Children in Need funding
We had to share these gorgeous photos of the new sensory space at Jigsaw Family Support, in Ryde (Isle of Wight). Thanks to funding from Children in Need they have been able to provide a sensory space for children and their families including regular funded sensory sessions. The Jigsaw team hand decorated and constructed this together.
Tina, Jigsaw’s manager told us:
The sensory space is a very comforting environment which particularly helps to calm children who may be anxious, tense or stressed. We have found this helps to boost their communication and social interactions with their family member.
Welcome to new Company Secretary Russell Carpenter
Russell is Company Secretary Trustee and joined in June 2021 and has the same voluntary role at Citizens Advice Buckinghamshire. His full-time occupation is as Trust (Company) Secretary at Royal Free London group of NHS hospitals in London. He is a subject matter expert in corporate and board governance and has been corporate secretary to numerous committees including Quality and Safety, Remuneration and Executive Directors.
Russell previously spent five years until 2021 working in corporate governance and as a Data Protection Officer (DPO) at the NHS clinical commissioning group in Buckinghamshire, which is responsible for arranging and contracting healthcare services for the population that it serves. He has also worked previously in other patient safety, change management and press office roles in the civil service, transport, and utilities. Russell was formerly a charity trustee for a branch of the Relate relationship guidance charity and school community governor in the Watford area, chairing a facilities sub-committee and taking responsibility for policies and procedures. Outside of work and voluntary roles, Russell also leads guided tours of London and the southeast and enjoys hill walking.
Donna has got married!
We are delighted to share the news that Donna (our Deputy Business Administration Manager) has recently got married. Many congratulations to the happy couple!
Please note that you can now contact her via her new name Donna Ryder and her email address has changed from d.moreland@ to d.ryder@
Please do check out the latest news from the website since the last newsletter:
- The Parenting Apart Programme
- NACCC strengthens links with the Asian Single Parents Network
- NACCC’s CEO Elizabeth Coe working to raise awareness of child contact centres as part of the family hubs solution
- NACCC is proud to be one of the founding members of the Positive Parenting Alliance #ParentsPromise
- Children: Child arrangements orders – safeguards when domestic abuse issues arise (England and Wales)
Again, we hope that this newsletter is helpful. Do share it as widely as you can.
Elizabeth Coe, NACCC Chief Executive Office
Views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the NACCC and publication does not imply endorsement. © NACCC 2021 (NACCC member centres exempt)