Contact centres

Child contact centres are venues for parents, and other people in a child's life, to establish or maintain conflict-free relationships with their children. A child contact centre is a venue at which face to face child contact services are provided. They are places that deal primarily with separated parents. There are currently 45 child contact centres across Scotland dealing primarily with private law cases. 42 are members of the Relationships Scotland network and it is understood that there are three independent centres in Inverclyde, Glasgow and Aberdeen.


The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) gives Scottish Ministers the power to make provision about regulation of a contact service. This may include minimum standards for the training of contact service provider staff and in relation to child contact centre accommodation.

In March 2021 the Scottish Government launched a consultation process. The consultation sought views on what should be covered in the minimum standards for child contact services, how the standards should be monitored and what the complaints procedures should be.

The consultation paper sought views on points relating to the following matters:-

  1. Accommodation standards

There is little doubt that, across the country, the centres all operate in very different settings and with a wide range of facilities available to them.

This section of the consultation focused on the accommodation standards for child contact centres on the basis that establishing minimum standards in relation to the premises used to facilitate child contact will to ensure that all centres are safe and welcoming locations for children and families.

The consultation sought views on:-

the minimum accommodation standards should be considered for the regulation of child contact services;

  • the minimum accommodation standards should be considered for the regulation of child contact services in relation to alternative premises;
  • adjustments for disabled people at child contact centres.

We think that attending at a contact centre is likely to be a stressful experience for parents and children alike. The accommodation requires to be safe and welcoming which will help to alleviate some of that anxiety. Attending at a centre should leave families feeling positive about the experience. With regard to inspection of the premises, frequent inspection is fundamental. The inspections should be unscheduled to ensure that facilities keep up the required standards but if flaws are noticed then the centre should be given an opportunity to rectify those in the first instance.

2. Staff and volunteer training standards

    This part of the consultation sought views on what minimum standard should be laid down in regulations for the training that contact centre staff and volunteers should receive.

    We believe it is important that staff and volunteers are equipped to deal with the issues which may be affecting the families they are working with. Training relating to observing and reporting on contact is important to maintain consistency. However, care must be taken to ensure that training does not become prohibitively expensive or time-consuming.

    3. Complaints procedures

    This part of the consultation sought views on:-

    • complaints about a child contact centre service;
    • complaints about the body appointed to oversee child contact centre regulation.

    Our child law hub thinks that the contact service provider itself is best placed to attempt to resolve any concerns in the first instance. External input should only be sought if the complaint cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of any complainer "in house".

    Our response

    Our team of 17 family law solicitors currently has or has had clients utilising every child contact centre in Scotland. As such we considered it to be important that we responded to the consultation paper. Responses were to be with the Government by 12 July 2021. Our full response, together with those of 52 other individuals or organisations, can be found on the Government's website:-

    Our team will continue to monitor the Government's progress with this consultation and shall provide updates as soon as any are available. In the meantime, there is no doubt that the child contact centres play an incredibly important role in the lives of thousands of children and parents every year. For some children, they provide the setting for the first contact they will ever have with a parent. For others they provide a vital bridge between a long period of absence by a parent from their lives and a regular, consistent and long-term relationship with them. It is our view that the staff of the contact centres must be supported in every way in continuing to provide this vital service for so many families across the country.


    Sarah Lilley