Help keep voluntary service open

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A VITAL volunteer-run service which keeps children in contact with separated parents has kicked the national trend and avoided closure despite being put at risk from legal aid cuts.

Kathleen Davies, Chichester Child Contact Centre’s coordinator, said residents must continue to refer themselves to the service in order for it to keep its funding and remain open.

“Nationally the situation appears very disturbing but at Chichester Child Contact Centre we are continuing to offer our facilities to local families with a dedicated team of 26 volunteers,” said Mrs Davies.

“Since our funding will depend at least in part to the numbers who use our services we need to make sure that families understand that they can self-refer.”

Nationally 40 centres have been forced to close after legal aid - which helps people pay for legal advice - was cut last year leading to a reduction in the number of families being referred to the service by solicitors.

Edward Cooke, a family solicitor in Chichester, said: “This is very concerning, as contact centres are a vital resource which enable parents to see their children in the early stages of marital breakdown in a safe, neutral environment.”

The centre has received grants from Cafcass and donations from a fund raising event organised by local solicitors.

“We see no danger of closure in the near future or medium term, at least. However the number of families has decreased and over the last few months on average the number of self-referrals exceeds those where a legal professional is involved.”

Find a referral form on the centre’s website at: http://www.chichesterchildcontactcentre.org/