Depending on your situation this process will vary but generally you will need to do the following to set up contact arrangements at a child contact centre.
Step 1: Work out which type of contact service you need
- It is important that your child is safe using our services so you will need to make sure that you work out which type of contact service you need.
- You may have been told what type of service to look for or you may want to look on this website to work out which contact service is going to be best for your situation.
- It is likely that you will need either supported contact or supervised contact. But you may need one of the other specialist services offered such as a supervised assessment, indirect contact, escorted contact or life story identity contact. If you are looking for a safe meeting place for your child to be collected by their other family member then it may be that a handover service would be helpful.
Do check our FAQs for more guidance on which contact service is best for you. For example What is the difference between supported contact and supervised contact?
Step 2: Find your local centre
- Click to find details of your local centre. You can tick which contact service you require and then enter your town or postcode to find the nearest centres to you.
- Please note, we recommend that a centre is as close to where your child lives as possible.
Step 3: Apply (see if you can self-refer)
- You have to apply to go to a contact centre. This application is called a ‘referral’. If you apply yourself this is called a self-referral.
- Decide if you can self-refer or if you need your solicitor, family mediator or Cafcass officer to make the referral on your behalf. The grid below may help you to decide if you can self-refer:
|Communication is OK between me and my ex -partner. We can communicate via email/text||We have a friend/family member who can assist with communication about our child||My ex-partner and I cannot communicate at all||My ex partner and I are not allowed to communicate or meet face to face|
|You should be able to self-refer as long as your local centre accepts self-referrals||You should be able to self-refer as long as your local centre accepts self-referrals||If there is no means of communicating between you as parents you will need to be referred by a solicitor, family mediator, Cafcass officer or another organisation helping you.||A court injunction may be in place preventing you and your ex-partner from communicating. You will need to be referred by a solicitor, family mediator, Cafcass officer or another organisation helping you.|
- Check if your local centre accepts self-referrals and whether you can apply to them direct or if you need to apply via NACCC’s Safe Referral System. This is a website which helps you to apply to child contact centres registered on the system.
- Make your application to the centre
- If your local centres do not accept self-referrals then you will have to be referred by the organisation helping you or another professional such as a mediator, solicitor, Cafcass, family support worker.
Step 4: The centre co-ordinator decides if they can offer you a place
There may be a delay whilst the centre co-ordinator goes through your form and carries out their risk assessment. They may have to contact you to find out a bit more about your situation.
If they are unable to offer you a place, they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.
Step 5: Go for your pre-visit meeting
- If the centre can accept your referral, the centre co-ordinator will invite you and your child to attend the centre for a meeting to have a look round, chat about your situation and explain what they can offer. We call this a pre-visit.
- If you don’t live with your child, your visit will be at a separate time to your child’s visit.
- At this meeting you will be able to go through any queries or concerns you might have and for how long you can use the centre. They will complete some paperwork with you which they will ask you to sign. This paperwork confirms what is going to happen during contact and will help them make sure it is set up properly.
Step 6: Acceptance by the centre
- The centre co-ordinator will then write to you and your child to let you know if you are able to use their service and if so when this can start.
- If the centre cannot accept your referral they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.
Please also see our fact sheet ‘Service delivery flowcharts’. This document is provided as guidance to what a NACCC accredited child contact centre might look like, whilst recognising all families and services are different and this should be celebrated. The flowcharts describe the following processes which are carried out by the child contact centre on receipt of a referral. They also describe the pre-visit, risk assessment and review processes that form part of the service. As shown, it may be the case that a supported contact centre may have to refuse a referral depending on the outcome of the referral process. If they are unable to offer a place to a family, they may suggest other options or alternative services that may be able to help.