Napo, the professional association for family court advisors and probation officers, has voiced support for a campaign to promote the statutory provision of funding to child contact centres. The campaign is also aiming for adoption of minimum standards for the training, support and supervision of child contact centre co-ordinators.
Child contact centres, which are largely run by volunteers, operate around the country providing a neutral, safe environment in which children can maintain a relationship with a non resident parent after separation. They offer various services, including supported contact (where staff are available for assistance but there is no close observation) and supervised contact, where it is has been determined that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm during contact. They can also simply be used as a venue where contact handovers can take place.
Contact centres are used for many reasons. In some cases there may be concerns for the child’s safety. In other cases it may be all that can be achieved for the time being in oreer to secure some contact in the presence of extreme parental hostility. In both cases child contact centres offer the child some chance of keeping in touch with the other parent.
In a statement on its website, Napo said:
“Napo is concerned that this vital resource for children, their parents and the Family Courts is by no means secure. The provision of Child Contact Centres is uneven around the country, and their continuity of service is entirely dependent upon poorly resourced, poorly supported and often unsupervised volunteers.”
The statement went on:
“Napo believes that the time has arrived when both Parliament and the Courts should acknowledge the role taken by Child Contact Centre volunteers is both invaluable and indispensible, and needs to be recognised in statute as a service to children, parents and the Courts.”
I regularly utilised contact centres whilst I was practising. In fact, they often provided the only sensible option in contact disputes, and quite what we would do without them I don’t know. To think that such an important item in the toolbox available to courts dealing with such disputes relies upon volunteers and donations is both extremely worrying and typical of a family justice system run on a shoestring.
You can sign a petition in support of the campaign here.