Contact centres provide a safe and neutral place for parents to see their children. Contact centres are not just for when there are safeguarding issues to consider i.e domestic violence, but are also widely used when there has been a long gap since the parent has seen the child and the bond needs to be rebuilt, or where the child is young and the parent inexperienced and they simply need a bit of support and advice.
These centres around the country allow many children and parents to have a relationship that they never would be able to otherwise. Contact often breaks down because the parents simply cannot be around each other. A contact centre means that the child can be taken by one parent and then that parent leave before the other parent even arrives, thereby allowing the two parents to have no contact with each other but preserving the parent/child relationship.
A prime example of the effectiveness of contact centres is a client of mine whose child is 6, for one reason or another he has not seen his child for approximately 3 years. This child does not know his father so it is not possible for contact to take place with just the two of them present, the child would not feel comfortable with this. A short period of contact was attempted with the mother supervising, this was not working for the child or either parent. The existence of a contact centre offers a safe and secure alternative where the child is happy and the father can rebuild his bond with his child. There were no third parties whose services could have been utilised so it is unknown what would have happened to this family if the centre was not available.
However this may soon be a reality, a large part of many centres funding comes from county councils, and with various budget cuts this funding appears to have all but disappeared in some areas. In Northampton one contact centre has lost their council funding completely, overnight a third of the funding disappeared. This means all of the staffs hours were cut and the services offered were reduced. A further 14 centres across the country have been closed since the legal aid was reduced in April 2013. This has meant that some families are having to travel over 50 miles to their nearest contact centre, when considering contact sessions are typically 2 hours this is a huge distance, and some contact has had to stop completely because they are unable to get to the centre. It is not all bad news as 20 new contact centres have opened across the country. However, it is often that new contact centres are not available when the olds ones close leaving families with no where to meet.
When a centre was closed in Kings lynn a retired social worker decided to open a new one, however, funding is still a major problem for them and it is not known if they will still be open by the end of the year.
There is call for these centres to be given statutory protection to ensure that families will always be able to make use of the substantial benefits that are offered here. There has been a campaign set up called “Children need contact centres” to help ensure statutory protection. This cause needs all the support it can get so make sure you support it.
Faye Remnant is part of our Family Law team based in Loughborough; our Solicitors in Loughborough are experts in their fields and dedicated to quality client care. If you would like to find out more about our solicitors in Loughborough please contact us.Talk to our legal team
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