Napo, the trades union and professional association for Family Court Staff and Probation Officers, is supporting a campaign to promote the statutory provision of funding to Child Contact Centres and the adoption of minimum standards for the training, support and supervision of Child Contact Centre co-ordinators. The campaign is being co-ordinated by Napo member and retired Family Court Advisor, Peter Barker.
Child Contact Centres, which are largely run by volunteers, provide a safe and neutral location for children to maintain relationships with their non-resident parents following separation. The centres adopt a non-intrusive approach to overseeing contact, aiming to re-build the confidence and trust of resident parents and to help parents develop an agreed plan to move contact out of the centre to other suitable venues. On occasion the centres are used for handovers.
In a statement on its website, the association said:
'A contact centre is an essential resource for children, who are already in a highly vulnerable situation, and may lose contact with their "absent" parent. The long term damage to a child can be colossal, leading to behavioural problems, failure to achieve at school, and mental health problems in current or later life. The lack of a loving and reliable parental role model can also lead to criminality.
Napo is concerned that this vital resource for children, their parents and the Family Courts is by no means secure. The provision of Child Contact Centres is uneven around the country, and their continuity of service is entirely dependent upon poorly resourced, poorly supported and often unsupervised volunteers.
In the recent Family Justice Review, the vital contribution made by CCCs was almost completely overlooked. In drafting new legislation for enforcement of contact no regard was taken of the important role CCCs could make towards resolving difficult cases. Napo believes that the time has arrived when both Parliament and the Courts should acknowledge the role taken by CCC volunteers is both invaluable and indispensible, and needs to be recognised in statute as a service to children, parents and the Courts.'
Full information about the campaign can be found on the Child Contact Centre campaign website http://www.childcontactcentrescampaign.co.uk.
Napo have lodged an online petition to place contact centres on a statutory basis and provide funding for them at www.change.org. To date the petition has reached 750 signatures. There is a link to the petition on the Child Contact Centres campaign website.