Written by Philip Coleman

Service Development Manager at NACCC

Phil has considerable experience in setting up and managing contact centres. His work with NACCC has been to undertake enhanced and supported accreditation inspections.

Times are difficult for families across the nation, and this is not being helped by the restrictions in place. It seems likely that there will be an increase in child protection concerns and divorce rates will raise as a result of the current ‘lockdown’ measures.

In the article on the NACCC Website, based around the statement provided by Sir Andrew McFarlane (President of the Family Division) it is suggested that where it is safe and appropriate parents should work together to make arrangements for children and that children should be enabled to move between parents homes for the purposed of being able to see one and other.

However, we know for some families that this will just not be possible and that now more than ever children are likely to need the support of services in order to be able to spend time with the people that are important in their lives.

In order to meet the needs of children and families whilst also complying with government advice NACCC has worked with our members to develop a range of technology enabled solutions to Child Contact.

Different centres are able to provide this service and you are welcome to contact NACCC to locate these services. We have highlighted the practice of some of these centres on this page of the NACCC website.

So How Does On-Line Contact Work?

Basically, this is an app or piece of web software allowing three-way video calling. The three parties will include: the child, parent & contact supervisor. Contact will then take place using this app. The centre will support you to consider activities to make this contact as positive as possible. This type of contact works best with children aged 5+ because of the need for them to be able to sit with a computer / iPad / phone.

The physical process isn’t much different, and the centre will have guidelines about downloading the relevant app and making it work.

The centre will still follow its referral and risk assessment process so any service offered will be as safe and appropriate as possible.

There will also still be a pre-visit. Whilst this won’t be the usual visit to the centre, it will involve (virtually) meeting the person that will be supervising the session, prior to the first session. This person will help you and your child(ren) to prepare and be able to answer any questions.

The centre will set up a ‘contact agreement’ for the adults. This will help you to know what will be expected of you and what you can expect in return. 

What If The Contact Session Doesn’t Go To Plan?

The contact supervisor (only) will have the administrator controls for the app, which may include functions to turn off microphones, pause sessions or remove all parties from sessions. This will allow them to bring sessions to an end efficiently reducing the likelihood of children being distressed by the actions of adults.

Any actions not in line with the ‘contact agreement’ could lead to sessions being suspended or terminated.

What If I Can’t Share Contact Details With The Other Parent?

You will be sent an invite to the app being used for contact, normally this will be enough and there will be no need to enter phone numbers or email addresses.

All centres using apps that do require limited personal data have measures are in place to help you to be able to protect your personal details, if this is needed.

What If There Has Been Domestic Abuse?

It might be possible for the Contact Centre to be able to support you to facilitate this contact in a safe and effective way. However, this service is not for everyone and if the service cannot be delivered safely, it should not be delivered at all.

If you are concerned about risks that might be posed, as a result of this contact please raise these with the centre at the first opportunity.

What If It Has Been A While Since I Last Saw My Child?

The centre will work with your child to make an assessment about what is in their best interests. This might include some preparatory work taking place with the child for example.

There may be some situations that make this type of contact session inappropriate. The centre will work with you in this situation to explore whether other options might be available.

Practical Considerations For Online Contact

There are a number of practical issues to consider, these include:

Working with your Children: as with any type of contact, it is important that parents enter into this on the basis that they will do all they can to help this to work and to make it as positive as possible for children. Parents will achieve this by:

  • Making it ok to talk about the other parent at home.
  • Being positive about the service and other parent.
  • Allowing the child to ask questions and answering these in a way that is honest, but inline with child development and the emotional needs of your child.
  • By making physical arrangements that will allow for the session to be undisturbed when it does happen.
  • Preparation – On the day of the contact session it is a good idea to make sure that your home is calm and quiet, where possible, limiting possible distractions.
  • Software and devices– make sure that you have the right software loaded and have tested out the app prior to the session. Also make sure that your video and audio work. You can use a smartphone, but as a rule, the bigger the screen the better your experience is likely to be. It will make seeing the others taking part and viewing any documents so much easier.
  • Internet connection – a reliable broadband connection of at least 2Mbps will give you the best experience. If you haven’t got access to broadband, 4G and 3G networks should also be fine. Just be careful that you don’t use up your data allowance on the call, as video calls rapidly consume a huge amount of data.

The Future Of Using Tech To Enable Contact?

We don’t know what the future holds, but it is increasingly likely that the future of child contact will change. NACCC are working with a variety of other organisations to understand experiences of using contact in this way. If you have experience of this type of contact and would like to anonymously provide feedback, we would really appreciate this.

To provide this feedback, please use the appropriate link below:

Younger Childrens Feedback Form.

Children and Young Peoples Feedback Form.

Parents Feedback Form.

 

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