Alok Sharma, Member of Parliament for Reading West, visited Voice of the Child (VOC) contact centre in Reading to meet with the staff and learn about the work they carry out.
Alok was met by Connie Ojong, Founder of the Centre, Julia George, Operations Manager and Sabrina Bell, Contact Coordinator, who showed Alok around the centre.
VOC, which was set-up in 2008 and established as a registered charity in 2010, has been operating now for nearly 10 years, is a child contact centre accredited by the National Association of Child Contact Centres. Child contact centres aim to offer a safe and neutral environment for children whose parents are separated to allow the children to spend time with their non-resident parent/guardian. VOC aims to enhance opportunity for sustainable attachment bonds between a child and non-resident parent and increase the parental understanding of the impact of separation on the child.
The services provided at VOC include supervised and supported contact as well as family support services where individual support can be provided for children or for parents as well as to the family group. The centre features three rooms for children of various ages to spend quality time with their parent/guardian as well as a communal room with toys, games and books and a ball pit for their entertainment. Alok particularly enjoyed testing out the ball pit himself!
Connie, who is an experienced and qualified child and family social worker with a background in psychotherapy, explained to Alok that the staff at VOC all have Health and Social backgrounds. VOC also partners with universities across Berkshire and London to host social work students for work experience. These students often become members of staff such as recent graduate Steffany Downer, now a Fundraiser for VOC, who was also present during Alok’s visit.
Alok chose VOC to be a recipient of a selection of quality toys that were donated by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA). As the official organisation representing manufacturers for Britain’s toy industry, the BTHA holds annual Parliamentary events to highlight the importance of safe toys to a child’s development.
Connie Ojong said: “We were delighted to have Alok Sharma MP visit Voice of the Child. This allowed us the opportunity to show the importance of Contact Centres such as ours. Family breakdown, couple separation and divorce proceedings are the most heart-wrenching experience for every family.
Children are often caught in the middle, overburdened and suffer silently, while their parents remain entrenched in conflict. It is difficult for a child’s voice to be heard, leaving them without the emotional and physical support that they need at such a tough time.
Voice of the Child provides family breakdown and separation support to children as well as their parents. We are dedicated to making children’s voices heard, because children are at the heart of all our work”.
Alok Sharma said: “It was good to visit Voice of the Child contact centre and learn more about their work in assisting families. I wish the centre all the best for the future.”
Photos: Alok Sharma with Connie Ojong, Julia George, Sabrina Bell and Steffany Downer enjoying the ball pit.
Alok Sharma handing over toys to Connie Ojong, Julia George, Sabrina Bell, Steffany Downer and Kish Palmer, Office Manager.