Child contact services play a vital role for some children in separated families
Gwenda Thomas AM
Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
I recently announced changes to the funding of child contact services in Wales, to ensure consistent, high-quality provision across the country. The changes will mean funding is spread more evenly, and provision will better reflect the level of need for services.
I’m now pleased to welcome CAFCASS Cymru’s introduction of an all-Wales approach to the provision of child contact services in Wales, by appointing the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) as the network manager for Wales.
As the accreditation body for child contact centres, the NACCC has the appropriate expertise to provide advice around levels of need and ensure services are consistently delivered to a high standard across Wales.
NACCC is the supporting and accrediting body for around 350 child contact centres and services located throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a registered charity and the largest organisation of its kind in Europe.
Child contact services are classified into two distinct categories, supported and supervised, so that families can be referred to an appropriate environment and level of support.
The NACCC accreditation for supported contact and enhanced accreditation for supervised contact is recognised by CAFCASS Cymru, ensuring the needs of children and families come first.
It can be quite hard for many of us to understand why contact centres or services are needed, but there can be quite serious circumstances surrounding family separations. Therefore different levels of contact will be required.
For example a supervised contact service is used when it has been determined a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm during contact. Supervised contact ensures the physical safety and emotional well being of a child. It also assists in building and sustaining positive relationships between a child and members of their non-resident family. This service requires supervisors who are skilled and confident enough to intervene immediately and firmly if necessary and can work professionally in a planned way with vulnerable children and distressed adults.
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 non-resident parents and other family members. Staff operating within supported contact services facilitate or set up the arrangement. Supported contact services are suitable for families where no significant risk to the child or those around the child has been identified, but a neutral venue is desirable for a variety of reasons.
Indirect contact services are also offered by some of the contact service providers. Indirect contact is used where direct contact is either unsafe, unworkable and or not in a child’s best interests. The process will involve children having contact with their non-resident parent through a third party by way of letters, cards, gifts and possibly emails.
Child contact centres are neutral places where children of separated families can enjoy time with their non-resident parents and sometimes other family members, in a friendly and safe environment. For some parents, this type of arrangement will be their only opportunity to have contact with their children and it is a vital service. Relationships can be maintained and even strengthened with the positive and well-managed supervision NACCC will ensure.
Child contact centres and services are run by a variety of independent organisations and bodies across Wales, and all of those currently funded by Welsh Government are accredited with NACCC.
CAFCASS Cymru has commissioned NACCC to oversee this work, to manage the network and ensure consistent and quality services across Wales.
Childhood is such a special time, and one that should be valued and protected. It is so vitally important we help our young people to stay part of a family if it should unfortunately break down. I’m thankful CAFCASS Cymru and NACCC can help make these essential centres and services the best they can be.