Childline can today reveal it has seen large numbers of children getting in touch due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), carrying out over 1,700 counselling sessions about the issue in the last three weeks alone – bringing the new total up to more than 2,200 since the end of January.
Despite Childline having to close the night service for the first time and having a 30% drop in volunteer hours, due to counsellors having to self-isolate, it’s battling to still be there for children across the UK.
The NSPCC, which runs Childline, grows increasingly concerned about the number of children who will experience abuse or neglect due to the impact of Coronavirus, with families struggling with lockdown, job losses and school closures.
During the past week Childline has delivered 363 counselling sessions where children have experienced physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect – up nearly a fifth from the week before. Counselling sessions about physical and emotional abuse increased by 36% and 31% respectively during this time.
To continue to support children during this challenging period, and to adapt to the ever- changing situation, the NSPCC has launched its emergency appeal ‘We’re still here for children’.
The NSPCC is urging the public to visit its website and donate £10 to help fund vital services like Childline, so the charity can continue to answer calls and be here for the young people who desperately need someone to talk to, especially when home isn’t a safe place.
In the South West of England, the NSPCC's Schools Service team is adapting the way it works to support Childline whilst schools remain closed.
The team, and mascot Buddy, have become familiar faces in primary schools across the region, delivering the charity's 'Speak out. Stay safe' assemblies and workshops that are offered free of charge.
With the schools closed for the foreseeable future staff members who usually deliver the service have been retrained to help the charity's Childline service which continues to be inundated by worried children and young people.
Kevin West usually delivers the charity’s Schools Service assemblies in primary schools across Bristol and Wiltshire.
He says: “The range of issues that young people are facing is vast. I’ve answered queries around online safety, sexuality, family issues, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“It’s so important at these uncertain times that young people know they have got a voice and know that someone is always going to be there for them.”
Colette Hudson who works for the Schools Service in Devon added: “We are getting calls at Childline about a range of different subjects and it’s important people know that we have resources to help for children, families, carers and communities.
“We are getting calls about mental health and wellbeing, about worries when schools will be open, about how they are feeling not seeing friends or other family members, and also feeling concerned if people are falling out at home and if a child is feeling unsafe.
“We are here at Childline whatever a child’s worry, whenever they need help – Childline is there and we are ready to listen.”
In the past few weeks Childline has heard from children whose parents have lost their jobs and are under growing financial pressure, as well as from young carers struggling to look after their siblings whilst their parents fall sick with Coronavirus symptoms. Childline is also hearing from children who have had suicidal thoughts and talk about feeling trapped and isolated.
A 15-year-old girl told Childline:
“I am not happy at home. My parents are physically abusing me - it's happening quite often now since schools closed and I'm really scared. They hit me and often it leaves me with bruises but they don’t stay for long. I really want to get out of the house and be somewhere safe and happy. I'm scared that my parents will get angry and hurt me more if I tell someone."
To support the appeal, the NSPCC has launched a new TV ad which features a Childline counsellor talking after a shift about the vital importance of the service.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder of Childline, said: “The world is an unfamiliar and very frightening place for thousands of children across the UK at the moment. We know that school no longer provides the sanctuary it once did and many young people are having to face unprecedented challenges at home without the vital support networks that normally surround them. Childline is more crucial than ever as a safe way children can reach out for help. We really are, as one volunteer counsellor told me, the fourth emergency service.
“Now more than ever we must continue to be there for the young people who desperately need us, no matter what. We don’t know what other challenges lie ahead, but we want to be prepared to weather any storm so that we can be there for children. That is why we are urging the public to get behind our very important emergency appeal and donate £10 so that we can provide essential support.”
Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC, said: “At this uncertain time when children’s lives have changed so dramatically the NSPCC needs to be there as a reassuring voice for those worried about their children and for the most vulnerable in our society.
“Sadly, we know that for many children, home isn’t a safe place and they need our Childline counsellors more than ever. This is the greatest challenge we’ve faced in decades and we are calling on the support of the public to help us ensure we can still be here for children.”