Home U.K Childline 'more vital than ever' – Dame Esther says families are at...

Childline 'more vital than ever' – Dame Esther says families are at breaking point


“So, for many youngsters, that crucial and warm human interaction they need simply doesn’t exist. I know too well what it’s like to be a working mother. My children are still cross with me for the limited time I used to spend with them.

“When they were young and I was working long hours inTV, I used to talk about giving them quality time rather than quantity. Now I realise children need both, and that time to listen to them is the crucial gift our children need from us.”

The numbers turning to Childline are shocking. An average 430 pleas for help by telephone or online are made every day. Four times as many girls contact Childline as boys. Half of those who contact the service are aged between 12 and 15. In the past five years Childline has taken a call every 25 seconds. Since April last year it has carried out 73,088 counselling sessions.

Frequent topics include sexual abuse, parental separation and divorce, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, neglect and psychological abuse.

While mental health remains the No1 concern, the pandemic has seen a spike in contacts about abuse.

In 2006 Childline became part of the NSPCC, which meant it was able to plough extra resources into developing an online service. It now has 13 counselling centres across the UK, each with an army of dedicated trained volunteers.

Dame Esther was fronting That’s Life! when she suggested to the BBC they create a programme dedicated to preventing child abuse. Childwatch, was screened on BBC One on this day in 1986. Childline was launched on the show, and was instantly swamped with 50,000 attempted calls.

The freephone number 0800 1111 was selected because it was simple enough to be instantly memorable even to children of five or six.

NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “We know many children are still struggling, so it is vital they know Childline is still here for them and they do not need to deal with their worries alone.”

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