Monday, 19 January 2015

Child Contact Centres ~ a vital need

National Association of Child Contact Centres - Awareness Campaign

The Children Act 1989 (CA89) came fully into force in October 1991 and it remains, albeit with subsequent changes, the principal statutory framework for dealing in the Family Court with cases involving children.  The court is empowered to make various orders such as a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of the CA89 when the court will specify arrangements concerning with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.  Following the breakdown of the relationship between a child's parents, there is normally a need to enable contact between the child and the parent who is no longer in the family home.  It is here where the network of Contact Centres plays such a vital role.

A contact centre provides
a neutral venue for children to meet with their non-resident parent, or other family members, after a breakdown in a relationship.   They are child-centred environments that put the needs of children first.  A contact centre provides a safe environment where the relationship between adult and child can be developed.

It is disturbing to read that some 40 contact centres have closed over the last 18 months.  This seems to be due to the fact that legal aid has been removed from many family cases.  When legal aid was available, solicitors would often advise use of a contact centre as a means of enabling both parents to have contact with their child(ren).  The Guardian explains the situation very well in an article published on 17th January - Contact Centres are disappearing as legal aid cuts take effect.  Further loss of such centres could prove to be highly problematic.

It is perfectly possible for parents to approach a contact centre without any referral from professionals such as social workers, solicitors or the court.  Please see, as an example, how the Withington Contact Centre in Manchester explains this

What is a Contact Centre

National Association of Child Contact Centres and also see Find a Centre

Please read this link if you wish to become involved in Contact Centre activity

Court Orders and Pre-Proceedings - Dept. for Education April 2014

Children and Families Act 2014 - replaced residence and contact orders with Child Arrangements Orders.

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