Contact Centre Closures
According to the National Association for Child Contact Centres (“NACC”), over 40 child contact centres in England and Wales have shut down over the last year and a half and the charity believes that the legal aid cuts have had an indirect impact on the closures. They say that less and less parents who cannot agree on the arrangements for their children are using such centres and they are unaware that they are available due to not having access to legal advice. The significant drop in contact centre referrals has resulted in a massive 10% of centres closing already, with a number of other centres heading the same way.
Where contact is being resumed after a significant period of time, there are concerns of violence, abuse or neglect and/or where a child refuses to go to contact, contact centres can provide a neutral and safe venue for children to spend time with their “non-resident” parent. According to the NACC, rather than exploring the option of using contact centres where there are such concerns, “parents are walking away because they don’t know who to contact for help”.
The NACC is setting up a campaign to try to tackle this issue, which is reducing the services available to a number of families already using contact centres.