Why are contact centres shut in Scotland but open in England and Wales?

All contact within Scottish contact centres has been stopped since mid January 2021, when contact centres were added to the list of premises required to close under level 4 restrictions. The Scottish Government guidance on contact centres was also updated in early January.

Scottish contact centres are now only allowed to run outdoor supervised contact sessions and handovers.  They may also help to arrange online contact sessions.  In contrast, contact centres in England and Wales are still allowed to remain open as noted by the National Association of Child Contact Centres.

Scotland’s Strategic Framework was updated in late February 2021 to reflect the current situation and provide information on the way ahead.  This document mentions contact centres but gives no date for reopening although it does give some indication of how decisions will be made in a phased easing of protective measures.

Shared Parenting Scotland has been told that “The regulations are currently under review, including the restrictions that apply to child contact centres, to ensure they do not remain closed for longer than is necessary.  However, it is difficult to say at this time exactly when the reopening of these services will be.” 

We are receiving many enquiries about this. One father, who has only seen his children twice in the last four months commented: “I’m very disappointed that my children are not seeing me, especially since they are now getting to go to school.  They can’t return to normal contact with me until the contact centre reopens and a report goes to court.”

We continue to call for Scottish Government to allow reopening of contact centres happen alongside the reopening of early learning and childcare.  Children still need to see both of their parents during the stress of the Covid pandemic.  Contact centres can be just as safe as nurseries and primary school classrooms.