Wigan contact centre urging people to become volunteers

Wigan Carers Centre volunteers Anne Clarke, Janet Turton. Julie McCombes and Liz Robinson.
Wigan Carers Centre volunteers Anne Clarke, Janet Turton. Julie McCombes and Liz Robinson.

A Wigan organisation which helps struggling families come back together to spend time with their children has issued an urgent appeal for extra volunteers.

Wigan Contact Centre, based in Hindley, says it may ultimately be forced to close if a new group of helpers does not come forward to continue its work.

The organisation provides a neutral space where parents who have split up or are not together temporarily for whatever reason can spend time with their youngsters.

Families are referred to the Kildare Street facility through legal professionals or the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

The contact centre can be a vital stepping stone for bringing together families who have been driven or drifted apart so they can go on to meet in the community without the help of mediators.

However, like many organisations relying on people giving up their time for nothing, the centre is finding it tough to locate enough people to volunteer.

Anne Clarke, Wigan Contact Centre co-ordinator, said: “We are anxious to keep the centre open and we need volunteers to do that. That would be a blow.

“It’s about providing a service where there are conflicts in families until they can meet at home or out in the community.

“It’s very rewarding. You get to know the families and see children who haven’t seen a parent for a while building up that relationship again.

“We’re guided by how the children feel, it’s very much about them. We do this for the children.

“We are finding it hard to get volunteers. That’s the nature perhaps of volunteering at the moment, people have busy lives

“The majority of people currently volunteering have been involved in working with children, whether it’s coming from teaching or perhaps from children’s services. But working with children is not a prerequisite as training is provided.”

Families can attend the sessions on Saturday mornings where the contact centre is kitted out with private, comfortable rooms which have comfortable sofas and appliances such as a microwave.

Anyone referred to the service (self-referrals are not permitted) gets to visit the Hindley site to see if it is what they expect and if it would be right for their family before they commit to spending time there.

In the most recent quarter the centre helped seven families and around 10 youngsters, which Ms Clarke describes as a typical average workload for the organisation.

Volunteers would be expected to commit to around four hours of work once a month, with training for the role provided and annual safeguarding learning required.

The Wigan organisation is affiliated to the UK-wide body overseeing such facilities, the National Association for Children’s Contact Centres (NACC).

For more information visit www.wigancontactcentre.org.uk