Supervised Contact Centres: What are they? How to use them?
Updated: Mar 26
What is a contact centre and when may one be used?
What is a contact centre and when may one be used?
Contact Centres are categorized into two types of contact: Supervised Contact or Supported Contact.
Supported Contact refers to a low level of supervision of the child by adults while children meet their non-resident family members inside the contact centre.
On the other hand, Supervised Contact is observed and supervised by a trained professional. If this form of contact is utilized there may be a potentially high risk to the child, or there is a need for family support.
A family court may order a contact centre in any of the following cases;
Where the contact is being resumed after taking a break.
When there are allegations by any of the parties of ;
Spousal Abuse or Domestic Violence
Child Abuse includes emotional abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse
How does a child contact centre work?
The child contact centre helps children and parents by giving them a safe and neutral environment from the conflicting situations so children can meet their parents or family members who they no longer live with.
What happens in a contact centre?
As mentioned earlier, a contact centre is a safe and neutral place for children to spend time with a non-resident family member. They ensure that the children are kept safe while still being able to spend time with the people who care about them.
Before starting the contact, the contact centre will invite the parents or guardians of the child to explore and have a visit to the contact centre and meet the staff. This is known as a ‘pre-visit’. The family members and children with whom they are living with will have separate visits. These visits will provide a good opportunity to explore and find out how the centre will work with the family and also it is really important to see if one can share the situations to the centre staff to ensure that the services they are providing are going to be correct for the provided situation or not.
As long as all goes well with the pre-visit and the centre is happy to accept the application, they will discuss and choose a time and date for the first contact session It is to be noted that a contact session refers to a session where a child and a parent or guardian can spend time together, play a game or do a (safe) activity.
Considering the type of contact centre and whether it is a supported or supervised centre, there may be several parents using the centre at the same time or one might have a contact room to oneself with alongside a staff member observing the whole activity or conversation.
Is contact centre only for supervised contact?
No, they will also allow for Supported Contact, which is less strict in regards to the level of observation of the conversations and activities.
What are the rules of a contact centre?
The rules of contact centres may differ thus it is advisable to check with your local centre to find out the exact rules. However, the following are some of the general basic rules of a contact centres;
It is advisable not to bring any other person along with yourself until and unless it is previously agreed at the information meeting
Smoking is prohibited inside contact centres
Anyone displaying aggressive behavior, intimidation, violence or bad language at the premises of the contact centre are likely to lose their place at the contact centre automatically.
Aggressive behavior, violence or intimidation with the staff members will not be tolerated and this may lead to withdrawal of the place at the contact centre.
No person is allowed inside the centre under while the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs
If a parent does not show up for at least 2 contact sessions without informing the contact centre with a valid reason, the session slot can be allocated to another family.
It is to be noted that parents are responsible for the children all the times. Staff members are only there is help if required or needed.
If the contact has been delayed for any reason or the child or parent is late, then the session can still continue with the remaining time of the session.
The visitors must reach the centre before 10 to 15 minutes before the session commences. The visitor should also stay behind for 10-15 minutes after the session concludes.
Mobile phones must be switched off during contact sessions. Taking videos of the premises is also not permitted.
It is not allowed to bring toy guns, flying toys, balloons etc etc to the centre.
Passing messages and notes to ex partners through children is not allowed (eg. telling a child to tell their other parent a message, or give the other parent a note or letter is prohibited).
Do both parents have to pay for contact centre?
This entirely depends on the circumstances at hand.
In some cases, the person who referred the contact centres will pay the cost for the use of the contact centre.
Whereas, in some other cases, the court may order who must to pay the cost of using the contact centre.
Often, one parent pays the entire cost of the contact centre. However, it is possible to draw up an agreement with your ex partner regarding shared cost of contact centres
Can the court force a parent to pay for a Contact Centre?
Yes, the court can force a parent to pay for a contact centre.
How much does a contact centre cost? Does supervised contact cost more?
A contact centre's costs will depend on the individual contact centre.
Yes, supervised contact often costs more than supported contact due to the increased need for observation.
How long will I have to see my child in a contact centre?
This depends on the court order or CAFCASS recommendation of your case, however normally contact centres are used as “stepping stones” for proper contact so a contact centre will generally support a family for 3-6 months.
However, please remember that this is entirely dependant on each individual case and in some exceptional cases, some people will use contact centres for years.
Do I have to agree to a contact centre?
If there is no court order which requires contact via a Contact Centre, going to a contact centre can only happen when both the parties agree to it.
Ultimately, neither the contact centre nor NACCC have the powers to force any adult to attend a contact centre.
What is Self-Referral at Contact Centres?
A self-referral is when both parents submit an application form asking for contact to be arranged at a contact centre.
This will require communication between both parents or both parties, so in the case where the parties are not communicating with each other, this will most likely require going through a third party such as a mediator or even a solicitor to make the referral application for you.
Can you self refer to a contact centre?
Yes, one can self apply to go to a contact centre, this process of application is known as self-referral.
Can you use a contact centre without a court order?
Yes, a court order is not required to use the child contact centre. As mentioned earlier, one can also apply as self-referral or can choose to do it through a mediator who may guide you to use a contact centre.
How do you arrange visitation through a contact centre?
The process of arranging a visitation depends on the situation at hand and can vary from case to case.
We have a detailed step by step article here on arranging contact through a contact centre here, but here is a very brief overview:
Find out which type of contact service you need
Find your local centre
Go through the application process
After the Submission of the Application, The centre co-ordinator decides if they can offer you a place
Go for your pre-visit meeting
Acceptance by the centre
Note: This article is not a piece of legal advice and must not be treated as legal advice.