THE Altrincham Child Contact Centre is one of 350 centres across the UK which provide support for separated families by offering a safe and secure environment for children to spend time with non-resident parents.
Staffed by dedicated volunteers, the centre - based at the Hub Community Centre on Pownall Road - is open every Saturday from 9.30am to 1pm.
It offers a pleasant, comfortable environment, with plenty of toys and also a cafe, where parents that don’t live with their children can enjoy quality time.
While sometimes referrals are made by solicitors or the courts, families can also self-refer and this is something that the centre is keen to promote.
The withdrawal of legal aid for family disputes, other than in extreme circumstances, has led to a drop in numbers using the service, simply because many don’t realise it’s available to them.
Centre co-ordinator, Kevin Windeler, said: “The withdrawal of legal aid means that some non-resident parents who cannot afford legal representation are unsure of how they can have contact with their children.
“While we are not able to give any legal advice, we can consider self-referrals at our centre, when the family need a neutral territory to help them maintain that all-important contact.
“The problem is that as a charity, we don’t charge for our service and so we don’t have money to promote the centre and let people know about it.”
One of the parents using the centre added: “The Contact Centre has been a real sanctuary for us in difficult times, providing a stress-free place for handovers which can be very difficult for separated couples. It’s an invaluable service but many separated families facing these kind of problems just aren’t aware it’s there.”
The National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) is currently piloting an online system to enable parents to self-refer but for the time being, those that feel a Contact Centre may be the answer to their problem should look at the NACCC website at www.naccc.org.uk and click on ‘Find a Contact Centre’.
To find out about using Altrincham Child Contact Centre, phone Kevin Windeler on 0740-395-5427.