Ms Fields’ Family Story

 “Mum wasn’t getting better so I knew something was going to change…”


For as long as I could remember, I had always lived with my Mum. When I saw her  mental health getting worse and worse, I realised she could no longer take care of me the way she once could. It broke my heart to say goodbye, and I had to move in with my Dad. I had not seen him in quite a while, and things were really hard at first. I missed my Mum so much but I didn’t know what to do.

Someone told Dad about a charity called Voice of the Child that helps families, and we got their details. Soon after, we organised something called Supervised Contact at their family centre.

 

We all lived pretty far away from the centre, and Mum tried to travel to see me there many  times, but she never did make it. Her anxiety had gotten so bad she could no longer travel.  I was heartbroken but felt entirely helpless.

Then, something amazing happened! VOC contacted all the churches in Mum’s local area,  and one of them had said we could use one of their rooms. A family support worker would  meet us there with Mum, and help support me with the Contact session. Mum and I both felt safe there, and we were able to see each other far more regularly after that.                       

I loved spending time with her at the church. We played games, did homework and I told her all about my new friends at school. The support lady was there with us the whole time, which made us stay calm and happy.

 After some time, she told us that Mum and I could see each other on our own now. I was sad to say goodbye to the lady, but so happy Mum and I could spend more alone time together!

 

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Ms Shaloome’s Family Story

“After Mummy left us, Daddy stopped talking, too. I had no one to talk to…”

I had just turned five years old when Mummy left. She had been fighting with Daddy for a long time and she just got up and left us. We stayed with Daddy and didn’t see Mummy for nine, whole months. I know there were more fights with them but Daddy hid it from us. I was scared sometimes because Daddy would be out late and I didn’t have anyone talk to as my brother, Nick, went quiet.

After a while, we were told we were going to see Mummy again at a family centre. I did not want to see Mummy. I was angry that she left us and she never told me why. I knew my parents didn’t agree on things, but what did that have to do with us? We were left scared and alone, and I didn’t know how to say this to her. My brother Nick didn’t want to go either, and he didn’t come to the first meeting.

I decided to go to the first meeting, but I was scared. The nice people at the support centre told me just to say hello and see how I felt. So I did. The first time I saw Mummy, I burst into tears and ran right into her arms! It felt so good to be cuddled by her again. When I told Mummy that Nick wasn’t coming, she cried. It made me feel so bad. 

When I went home, Nick made me feel really bad again for seeing Mummy, and I told Daddy I didn’t want to see her again. We had to go speak to the support people at the centre and talk about why we were upset. Daddy was told to talk to us more and remind us that we were allowed to make our own decisions.

Next time, Daddy and Mummy spoke together at the centre first. Voice of the Child helped my parents talk to each other better, and learn how to agree on what was best for us as their children. I am really grateful for the help from the centre, as after that things got a lot easier for all of us.

Nick and I both wanted to see Mummy now, so the next session was very nice. Nick and Mummy cried a lot, and I was just happy to see my family together again!

From today, our sessions aren’t supervised anymore, and Nick comes to every session now. We see Mummy every two weeks, and we have other support whenever we need it. I really enjoy our VOC sessions at the centre as they are helping bring my family back together. I already can’t wait for next week!

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The Martell’s Family Story

“Something about The Martell’s circumstances blew us away and we knew how much we had to help them…”

The Martell’s story is something that stood out to us, even as we work with them to do this day. We’ve helped many families with a history of domestic violence, but this was different. The pain was incredibly visible and we knew how badly they all needed our help.

There had been alleged domestic abuse between Mum and Dad, and they had separated. They had agreed on regular contact with their child until the Mother discovered photos of the Father using drugs on social media. Shortly after, the Father was caught speeding with their child in the car. This only fueled the negativity in the family and it soon became a stalemate. The Father went for drug tests to prove his innocence, and he came out trumps. Contact was resumed despite the circumstances even though the Mother was extremely nervous. The family had decided to come to us as opposed to trying independently, and we believe this helped them tenfold.

The date of their first session with us came around and tensions were high. The Mother arrived early and grew increasingly emotional about leaving the child to go into contact with the Father. We reassured her this was what was best for her child, and she slowly agreed. We watched as the Father nervously approached his child, and slowly introduced toys and games to ease the tension. The child played happily but didn’t speak a word. We see this often at VOC, so we weren’t too worried. We encouraged Dad to keep trying, so he showed his child some old photographs and we remember seeing a couple of smiles! This was progress nonetheless. 

Despite this, during the next time of contact, the child refused to leave their Mother and was crying uncontrollably. We decided to call off contact that day because the child was in clear distress, and we always focus on the child’s needs before others.

A while after, we arranged for the Father to be placed in a contact room that was connected to another room where the child’s Mother was. This time, the Father had brought along his own Mother for moral support, as she had developed a strong relationship with the child. When the Mother and child arrived, we explained the room set up to them, and that their child could choose to go between each room as they pleased. This system worked well and the Father was able to engage well with his child. We watched as they played games and chatted away merrily, and smiled as we saw the little one occasionally poke his head around the door to check Mum was still there. This little bit of reassurance was all the child needed to feel comfortable around their Father again.

Following this form of contact, we put a plan in place to slowly remove the Mother from the situation to allow the Father and his child to rebuild the trust in their relationship in a secure and stable space. This was a great success, and the family has now completed four sessions with us in this capacity. We are extremely hopeful for the future of the Martell family and hope we can continue to do everything we can to help them.         

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How to set up contact for your child

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 assessmentindirect contactescorted 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.

We need your help to keep our Child Contact Intervention Centre open

The scale of the COVID19 crisis is unprecedented. Typically, we depend mainly on income generated from Child Contact Intervention and Advocacy Services delivered to a wide range of Local Authorities across the country and some fundraising activities to support the Child Contact Centre Intervention Project and Organisational Overheads . Sadly, we have now lost these income streams due to the Corona-Virus pandemic.

We Must Raise £100,000.00

Over the last 10 years, we have partnered with approximately twelve UK Universities across Berkshire and neighbouring Counties to offer 70 -100 days Social Works Placements / Training for five to seven undergraduate and post graduate students a year. With a rolling group of trainee social workers working 3-5 days a week,  plus volunteers and a small staff team, the Contact Centre Project and Operational Cost were covered. Unfortunately , due to the impact of COVID19 we have lost a significant source of our revenue, including university student placements / funding. With a long waiting list of children and families needing our support, we are significantly short of project workers to support the families who desperately need help.

Helps us to nurture the child’s VOICE without making them CHOOSE between separated parents

Sadly, the dark side of COVID19 social isolation has resulted in over 50% increase in domestic violence reports, with more women and children at risk with the worst yet to come. For children and young people trapped in the middle of high conflict couple relationship breakdown and separation, life is a living nightmare. We are now experiencing an exponential 50% increase in referrals for Child Contact Centre Intervention support for children and families experiencing chronic parental conflict.

Help secure the future of children

The stark reality is that the future of Voice of the Child-Child Contact Centre Intervention services is at stake as we are struggling to offer desperate families the support they need.

We are under enormous pressure not only to secure adequate resources to meet increasing demands and reach out to more families,  but to simultaneously support existing families during this difficult time and  beyond whilst safe-guarding the Child Contact Centre from drowning from the unprecedented financial impact of COVID19.

Please support us today to help ensure the survival of vital services we offer to children, young people and families.

Families do not need to travel any further

Voice of the Child is the only Nationally Accredited Child Contact Intervention Centre within a 75 miles radius of Reading, Berkshire. We generally open and accessibly Six days a week and providing a wide range of Child Contact Intervention Support Services to separated families in Reading, Berkshire and Surroundings and across the country through established partnerships with over 40 Local Authorities, 30 UK Courts and 300 Solicitors. But in response to Covid19, we are currently open four days a week and under enormous pressure to open 7 days a week.

How your contribution would help save the Child Contact Intervention Project

Averagely, each family benefits from 2 hours weekly Supervised Contact for up to 12 months prior to transitioning into independent family arrangements which are exclusive of third-party support. It costs approximately £357.00 for two hours contact x 52 weeks (£18564.00 per year) per family. The cost covers, a private room for contact, pre and post session support for parents and child, a key project support worker @ 6hrs work per each contact including contact observation, report writing for court purposes, pre and post session work. Other running cost / overheads include: general administrative support, management cost, utility bills, Centre hire, monthly accreditation, accounting subscriptions, cleaning, groceries, management cost, rents.

Every penny you give counts towards one child or a sibling group reconnecting and enjoy quality time and building positive memories with a parent they no longer live with, week after week.

The more we raise the more contacts we can offer and the more families we can reach.

Donate or Fundraise4us and watch every child smile as they hug the parent they no longer live with.

For Every £1 you raise, a child or a sibling group get to spend quality time with their dad or mum they no longer live with, with the support of our child contact centre.  For some children, this will be the first time ever they meet their father or reconnected to their mother or father after a good few years.

Do you know a #NacccCovidHero?

Every day in child contact centres across the NACCC Network, Magic happens. This is only because of the commitment dedication and professionalism of our members.

We know that 2020 has been a challenging year for all and we are equally sure that things can only get better from here.

We’re looking to celebrate those centres, members and individuals. If you know of an example let us know.

We’re hoping to hold an event in April 2021 where we will celebrate these achievements and issue some awards.

So far we really don’t have enough nominations for our colleagues working on a voluntary basis and we really want to change this. Nominations can be completed here and our focus for this inaugural event will be those going the extra mile during the current pandemic.

So that plans do not change, this will most likely be a virtual event this year, but we plan to continue this indefinitely and future sessions will be integrated into the NACCC AGM.

Nominations will close in February, but please do not wait till then nominate your colleagues or centre, whilst it’s fresh in your mind. You can nominate more than one person, or for more than one achievement.

NACCC supports campaign for free relationship support to help parents locked in conflict #SortItOut

The NACCC team are proud to be supporting the #SortItOut campaign. We are acutely aware of the damage that parental conflict can have on children and the very ethos and existence of accredited child contact centres is to provide a safe place where parenting can continue away from the conflict.

The #SortItOut campaign calls for immediate action to reduce the damaging impact of parental conflict on an estimated 1.25 million children in Britain.

We are backing the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Supporting Couple Relationships and Reducing Interparental Conflict which is calling on the government to make relationship support free of charge to all parents in ongoing conflict.

Family relationships are consistently in the top three most common reasons why children contact ChildLine and campaigners want to highlight the damaging effect of warring parents on children’s mental health.

Research by the Department of Work and Pensions overwhelmingly demonstrates that exposure to frequent, intense and poorly resolved conflict between parents has a long-lasting and negative effect on children’s mental health and development.

This research [1] states that how “couples communicate and engage with each other in managing relationship conflicts both affects their ability to engage in effective parenting practices and can influence children’s mental health outcomes in infancy, childhood, and adolescence, with extended impacts on academic/educational attainment, physical health and well-being, employability, and future relationship stability in later life”.[2]

#SortItOut has the support of a broad spectrum of organisations including Tavistock Relationships, Relate, The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association of Child Psychotherapists. The Sun newspaper’s Agony Aunt, Deidre Sanders (Dear Deidre – also agony aunt for ITV’s This Morning programme) is also both backing the campaign.

The central objective of the campaign is to ensure relationships support is available – free of charge – to all parents in conflict. We are joining the campaign to call for the following:

  1. Parental conflict to be assessed for in child mental health services and other settings such as schools
  2. Local authorities, NHS services and courts to offer relationship support services to parents
  3. The government Reducing Parental Conflict Programme to be offered nationally

If you would like to help parents #SortItOut you can support the campaign by:


[1, 2] Harold G, Acquah D, Sellers R, and Chowdry H (2016) What works to enhance inter-parental relationships and improve outcomes for children? DWP ad hoc research report no. 32. London: DWP.

NACCC supports published amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill

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.”

Baroness McIntosh’s speech during the second reading.

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)