A contact centre provides a neutral venue for children to meet with their non-resident parent, or other family members, after a breakdown in a relationship. They are child-centred environments that put the needs of the children first. The contact centre provides a safe environment where the relationship between adult and child can be developed. The centre only provides a venue and space for the contact to take place. Some families are able to use this as a temporary venue and move on to make their own arrangements for the meeting between adult and child, but others continue to use outside agencies (e.g. solicitors, courts) to determine contact arrangements. Contact centres do not get involved in determining meeting arrangements: they merely provide a venue which may be used for the meetings.
What is it like at a contact centre?
The most important people in the contact centre are the children. We aim to create a warm, sociable atmosphere where you and your children can relax and enjoy yourselves. The centre provides comfortable rooms with toys, games and books for children of all ages. Light refreshments are sold during contact. You may want to bring along a some favourite toys, special drinks or other things you might need.
The centre is fully accessible to wheelchair users and has toilet facilities for the disabled. There are also baby changing and child toilet facilities. If your child still uses nappies, please bring some along to the contact as the centre don't keep any.
How much does it cost? For how long can I come?
__We do not charge anything, since the centre is run by volunteers who are not paid. There is also no limit to how long families can use our Contact Centre.
Before contact starts, parents will be asked to attend pre-contact visits. These are opportunities for parents to see the Contact Centre, and to discuss the particulars of their contact arrangements. Parents attend pre-contact visits separately, so you will not be meeting your ex-partner during these visits.
Who runs the centre? Will someone be making reports?
The Contact Centre is staffed by trained voluneers from the local community. They receive no financial compensation, are impartial and do not take sides. They work to a strict confidentiality policy and have been through enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks. The centre also has safeguarding policies in place.
The Contact Centre is independent of the courts, CAFCASS, or any statutory agency. The Contact Centre therefore does not make any verbal or written reports about visits, apart from the dates and times of attendance. The only exception to this is when we believe a child is at risk, or if a volunteer or centre user is at risk of harm. However since our centre offers Supported Contact only, such risks are minimal.
What happens if I don't want to see my ex-partner?
Sometimes parents do not wish to meet, even though they have agreed that contact should take place. Before contact begins, arrangements for staggered arrivals and departures will be discussed during the pre-contact visit so that parents do not have to meet when arriving at or leaving from the centre. However it will be the parents' responsibility to adhere to these arrangements - the contact centre volunteers cannot enforce them.
As this is a special time for children to spend with the parent they no longer live with, try to make sure that they are not exposed to disagreements. If not meeting your ex-partner will help avoid disagreements, then this should be discussed at the pre-contact visit and the necessary arrangements made. We also ask that new partners do not attend the centre as this frequently causes problems. It is important for the child to have fun and a happy time during contact.