The 45 Child Contact Centres are run in Scotland by a range of local charities, most of them members of the Relationships Scotland network. They provide a place for children to have contact with one of their parents. This type of contact is ordered where it is felt by the court that some supervision is necessary because of concerns about that parent or because there has been a long period without contact.
One of the key changes in the 2020 Children (Scotland) Act is the introduction of minimum standards for accommodation and staff training in these Child Contact Centres. Shared Parenting Scotland has responded to the current Scottish Government consultation about these changes and our full response is available here.
We agree that there is benefit in establishing standards for the premises where contact takes place and training requirements for staff although this should not be taken as an indication that current services are poorly run or deficient in other ways.
However we are very concerned that this process risks have a severely negative impact on the availability of places for children to have court-ordered contact with one of their parents. The charities who run the centres will have to find additional funding to carry out the necessary changes to their premises and to carry out extra staff training.
There are already significant gaps in the provision of contact centres across Scotland and existing centres are currently struggling to deal with the backlog caused by closure during the pandemic. Although they provide an essential part of the family court system by arranging contact and providing court reports, these centres have no guarantee of forward funding.
Our response calls for Scottish Government to recognise this role and provide a significant amount of financial support on a long-term basis. We also emphasise that child contact is about relationships not buildings, and standards should always bear this in mind. The quality of staff and volunteers is also very important, and this should be uppermost in the consideration of the new regulatory body.
Contact centre staff can provide additional support to the children and parents using their centre, and we suggest that this role is encouraged and funded under the new arrangements.
As a contribution to the discussion that will take place on child contact centres over the next few years, Shared Parenting Scotland will publish our new guide for child contact centre users this Autumn.6 likes