Throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NYAS contact facilitators have adapted the way they work to continue to provide supervised contact sessions on Skype for children and separated families, known as creative contact.

We recognise that every child has the right to keep in regular contact with both parents if this is in their best interests. Through our network of Family Contact Centres, we work with families to uphold the rights of the child by providing a safe and supportive environment for contact to take place.

Digital technology has allowed vital services to carry on providing support to those who need it throughout the pandemic and has encouraged new and innovative ways of working. Alongside this, face-to-face support has continued where necessary in line with coronavirus protective measures.

The creative contact launched in March 2020 and the first virtual preparation session was held on 1st April; shortly after both NYAS contact centres in Liverpool and Birkenhead temporarily closed in response to the first COVID-19 lockdown. Since then, 247 sessions have been held, supporting 36 children from 21 different families. Both NYAS contact centres have since safely reopened in Autumn/Winter 2020 and remained open without disruption.

Some families have embraced the flexibility of the new virtual service by combining this with other forms of face-to-face contact, such as community contact. This has been particularly useful during adverse weather conditions or where any person involved in the contact session has needed to temporarily self-isolate. Creative contact has also been beneficial for supporting children to have safe contact with overseas relatives during this time.

Creative contact will never replace face-to-face contact for children, but it has provided a valuable, positive and safe stepping-stone for many children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families who have been supported by NYAS contact services throughout the pandemic are now able to safely progress onto other forms of contact (where appropriate), such as community contact and handovers.

NYAS contact services remains committed to ensuring that everyone remains safe whilst accessing our services during this time, and we continue to undertake additional risk assessments before every face-to-face session. As a result of the diligence of NYAS contact facilitators and families working together carefully during this time, NYAS contact services has had no reported cases of COVID-19 from the contact service to date.

This would not have been possible without the commitment, adaptability, and passion of our contact facilitators, who supervise contact sessions and work directly with children and their relatives to ensure children and young people are supported throughout the process.

For further details about NYAS Contact Services, please visit our website here.

To find out more about the rights of children during parental separation, please visit our website here.