SWINDON Family Contact Centre may have been running for 20 years, but it is still desperate for funding and volunteers.

Yesterday the volunteer-run centre, based at Health Hydro in Milton Road, celebrated its 20th birthday, when special guests and staff were treated to refreshments.

But despite the good work the centre does by providing a safe place for separated parents to meet their children, the service remains desperate for money and for volunteers.

Angie Angus, secretary at the centre, said: “I never met my natural father, so when I heard about this centre it was something I thought I would like to do to help other people to meet their parents.

“It’s just a neutral territory; a safe and secure place where families can come and spend time with their children.”

The centre, which is a supported contact centre, opens each Saturday from 10am to 2pm.

Fred Tucker, one of the volunteers who helps at the centre, said: “The rent on this place for a year costs less than a court case, and we can save court cases from happening.

“We try to get families to a place where people can move on and can sort out contact between themselves.”

Over the years the centre has seen a lot of changes, with many more single parents, and more fathers having custody of their children.

Carol Gerrard, board co-ordinator at the centre, said: “I think there are more single parents around now and we also see more dads who are the resident parents.

“But there are still families who are unhappy, there is still domestic violence and people stilluse the child as a weapon in some cases.

“And that’s why we are here. Our first priority is for the children – to make sure they are safe and that they can develop a positive relationship with both of their parents.

“People also use us as a pick-up and drop off place.

“Some come and stay for an hour or so and then go out for a while, while others stay for the whole time period.”

During their visit children can enjoy games and toys, as well as the refreshments made available to them.

But in order to keep things running, the centre needs the support of the public.

Carol said: “Refreshments for the children are free but parents need to pay for a cup of coffee if they want it. Some dads can barely pay for their fare to get here and can’t afford a coffee.

“That’s why we hold fundraising events ourselves, like sponsored walks and cake sales, but we really need some outside support.”