I am committed to supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children, and to help families be the best that they can be.
I want to see every child maintaining positive contact with both of their parents, when it is in the child's best interests. For some children, it is in their interest that this contact happens in a supervised, neutral, child-friendly venue. This is especially pertinent where children are in state care and where domestic violence has been a feature of family life.
The Final Evaluation of the Barnardos/One Family Pilot Child Contact Centre Report recommended an integrated response by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality. It is my belief that this is the best approach to progress the recommendations.
I can advise that officials from my Department have come together with colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality to jointly look at the implementation of the recommendations of the report.
In preparation for the work of the Group, officials in my Department are finalising a scoping exercise to establish the current provision of family contact services.
To date this has included reviewing:
- evaluations and recommendations relating to family contact services;
- family contact services available in other jurisdictions;
- the services currently offered at Family Resource Centres;
- information from other service providers relating to the needs of children and families
and consultation with individuals who are/have been working directly in family contact services.
My officials are in contact with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to share the findings of the review and to plan next steps.