The Domestic Abuse Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 5th January 2021. NACCC’s Vice President the Baroness McIntosh of Pickering has sponsored an amendment to the Bill which calls for all child contact centres and organisations in England and Wales that offer facilities or services for child contact to be accredited, ensuring domestic abuse and safeguarding protections for children and families. Currently there is no requirement for oversight of or specific provisions for child contact centres and services for self-referred cases outside the court system. This raises concerns around safeguarding, the quality and consistency of standards and training, and the handling of domestic abuse and drug and alcohol cases.
Baroness McIntosh echoed the words of the former President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, who has said in NACCC’s written submission to the Bill that the strengthening of the regulatory framework and contact system could ensure that
every child can experience the same high level of care and safeguarding where circumstances have necessitated their involvement with the family justice system and Child Contact Centres or Services.
Sir James Munby, President of NACCC (June 2020)
She went on to say that “a more professional contact system and a stronger framework, ensuring the appropriate training and oversight of standards, could better manage the impacts of these issues on children, especially in domestic abuse situations. I hope fervently that the Government might support the thrust of these provisions, which we will propose in Committee.”
The published amendment (in Clause 55, Page 35, line 19) will now be considered at the committee stage of the Bill. It has been tabled by Baroness Finlay (cross bencher) and Baroness McIntosh (Con), Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) and Baroness Burt of Solihull (Lib Dem) are sponsoring the amendment. It reads as follows:
at end insert—“(d) ensure all Child Contact Centres and organisations that offer facilities or services for child contact are accredited, to ensure domestic abuse and safeguarding protections for children and families.”
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff’s amendment in Clause 55 (Unnumbered)