Child Contact Centres
A child contact centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. They are child-centred environments that provide toys, games and facilities that reflect the diverse needs of children affected by family breakdown.
A relationship breakdown between you and your partner should not affect your bond with your child. You still have an important part to play in the child's life. Children who do not have access to both parents are prone to behavioural and emotional problems. Finding a place that allows the parent without everyday care of your child(ren) to be a parent can sometimes be hard. Child contact centres can provide this place. Contact Centres are set up for the benefit of the children and generally operate a policy of confidentiality.
Whilst some centres and services do charge for attendance, others provide their service free of charge. Most supported centres are free or low cost. Around 90% of a Contact Centre's client-base are fathers. Half attend under the provisions of existing court orders. The remainder are referred by solicitors, social workers and court welfare officers, with some referrals through Family Mediation and Counselling organisations. Very few centres accept self-referrals.
Visit the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) website for further information.
Supported contact takes place in a variety of neutral community venues where there are facilities to enable children to develop and maintain positive relationships with parents without everyday care and other family members. These contact centres are usually run by voluntary organisations. They are suitable for families where no significant risk to the child or those around the child have been identified. These facilities will also only be offered where a family needs this for a defined period of time. Basic elements:
- Staff and volunteers are available for assistance but there is no close observation, monitoring or evaluation of individual contacts/conversation.
- Several families are usually together in one or a number of rooms.
- Encouragement for families to develop mutual trust.
- No detailed reports made unless risk of harm.
Supervised contact is used when it has been determined that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm during contact.
Watch a video produced by Relationships Scotland which shows supervised contact taking place.
Sometimes parents who have been referred to contact centres are also required to attend an introductory meeting about mediation to assist them and the other parent to discuss, negotiate and work out arrangements for contact with their children.
National Family Mediation is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
National Family Mediation services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact National Family Mediation direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.