The Northern Ireland Network of Child Contact Centres is an umbrella organisation, supporting those groups, or individuals, who wish to work together to provide Child Contact Centre services.The Network provides a framework to share best practice, campaign on child contact issues, publicise and provide educational material regarding child contact.
The first Northern Ireland Child Contact Centres were opened in 1998 and today there are 16 centres (with contact sessions in 23 locations) throughout the province that operate on a weekly basis (midweek and Saturdays) providing Contact Centre Services.
All the centres rely on committed, skilled and trained volunteers who are fully vetted as suitable to work with children and families.
- Child Contact Centres provide supported contact as distinct from supervised contact. No one-to-one supervision occurs or can be facilitated.
- Child Contact Centres are child centred and staff and volunteers will manage the environment to ensure no distress or risk is presented to children or other users of the service including terminating contact sessions that are disruptive.
- Child Contact Centres may be able to facilitate observation sessions during normal contact hours within the contact centre setting. This is at the discretion of individual centres and must be requested in advance by the CCO carrying out the observation, providing details of the clients attending. Failure to do so will result in access to the centre being refused. Centres cannot provide separate rooms for observed visits, nor accommodate supervised contact.
- Child Contact Centres will always attempt to facilitate contact but this requires the understanding and cooperation of all stakeholders and potential users of the service. Individual centres will apply their own risk assessment to any application and on the basis of the outcome of the assessment will decide the suitability of the individual centre to host the contact. Due to the individual nature of applications and centres this may result in differing outcomes at centres.
- Child Contact Centres do not issue reports on contact other than to provide details of dates and times of attendance. Typically any issues of concern in relation to contact will be raised with referrers, social workers or Children’s Court Officers if involved. Where there are child protection concerns cases will be referred to the local Gateway team.