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Safe haven for children in Gloucester under threat

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 22, 2014

gloschildcentre

Gloucester Child Contact Centre, based St Pauls Church, Stroud Road, Gloucester is facing a funding crisis and may close.------ Eric Chitty, chairman of the centre

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IT is a safe haven that has helped children keep in touch with their parents despite the most fractious of separations.

But now it faces stormy seas of its own as it faces closure unless it can bridge a funding gap of £11,000.

The Gloucester Child Contact Centre, which is unique in the city, offers a neutral environment where a child can meet with estranged fathers, mothers, grandparents or siblings.

Hilary Cass, a volunteer at the centre, said it has a vital role in helping parents maintain contact with their children through divorce or separation.

“They are often anxious when they first arrive, but when you see them relax and renew their relationship and reach a point where they don’t need to come here any more, that’s fantastic,” said Hilary. “We can’t imagine how these children would rebuild their relationship with their family if there wasn’t an organisation like this.”

Around one in three children can lose contact with a parent after separation or divorce. The centre provides play areas and quiet places for more personal conversations.

This year it has helped 44 parents to maintain contact with 55 children, the majority under the aged of five.

“With the recent economic and social turmoil we have seen a growing need for the services we provide as more referrals are received from the court system, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), and Social Services,” said treasurer Stan Filler.

“We have had to operate a waiting list and have shorter contact times. It is all the more distressing that when we find our services are most in need, that we find our funding is being eroded.”

The service has previously received 40 per cent of its funding from Cafcass, but the future of that is uncertain.

“A three-year grant from Gloucester City Council ended in 2012 and we have limped on since then.”

The centre needs £11,000 to continue running in the next financial year after April.

On Monday, a tricycle was received from members of the Inner Wheel Club of Gloucester, to celebrate the club’s 90th anniversary.

The centre is appealing to anyone who is able to help or advice on funding to get in touch. It is also looking for more volunteers.

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