What are child contact centres?
A child contact centre provides a safe and neutral meeting place for families that have experienced an acrimonious divorce or separation. There are more than 400 contact centres across the UK, used by more than 20,000 children each year. There are two types of contact centres; supported and supervised. The latter are used where child protection concerns have been raised about one of the parents.
Who runs them and how are they funded?
They are often run by charities and are funded by grants, although some funding does come from government. Most contact centres offer a free service but some charge a fee, and in the case of centres which offers supervised sessions there is always a charge. If a referral to a supervised contact centre is necessary however, and is as a result of court proceedings, the government will pay for a number of sessions sometimes determined by the court.
While there is no statutory provision of funding for child contact centres, there have been calls to put this in place. All centres are expected to be affiliated to the National Association of Child Contact Centres, and abide by their National Standards. All are accredited every three years, and courts and Cafcass do not use non-accredited centres. Training for all workers and volunteers is mandatory.
How do they work?
In supported contact the child is brought to the non-resident parent by a volunteer and the volunteer is not involved in the contact further.
Contact centres enable a non-resident parent to maintain and build a relationship with their child when they no longer live together and communication between the two parents may not be possible. In some cases, after the support of a contact centre, a non-resident parent and their child can move to unsupervised time together and the child can visit the non-resident parent’s own home.