Seven out of 10 calls made to Childline last year were answered and by someone trained to listen and understand young people, it has emerged.

While 30% of calls to Childline were unanswered, some children call the services two or three times before hanging up, or make silent calls because they are not ready to speak.

The response to calls to the ISPCC’s listening service for children and young people compares very well to the European average of 33%.

ISPCC chief executive, Grainia Long, said children calling the service when the lines were busy received a “comfort” message, explaining the service and other services available.

“The child is encouraged to stay on the line. If the child hangs up, it is categorised as an unanswered call,” said Ms Long.

“While we compare positively with our European counterparts, we want to continuously improve our call-answering rates.”

Ms Long said a new five-year partnership between the ISPCC and Vodafone Ireland Foundation would enable it to connect with more children, when they needed it most.

Having Childline’s text-messaging and web-chat services available round-the-clock was an immediate priority, she said.

Over the last 10 years, Childline has experienced a 75% increase in children seeking support online.

In 2014, Childline responded to 500,000 calls and online contacts.

However, while children can call the telephone services 24 hours a day, text-messaging and web chat are only available between 10am and 4am.

The Vodafone Foundation is to provide the charity with €2m in direct funding over five years and is committed to covering the call costs for the Childline service for 10 years, until 2026.

Ms Long said the ISPCC would like to have a central digital platform for all of their services, as well as having them available around the clock.

“We also need to get better at developing new technologies as they emerge, so that we can keep up with how children like to communicate,” she said.

Ms Long said their web-chat service had already changed for the better, and they had also launched Be Strong, an online programme to help children and parents deal with digital issues.

The programme offers support on issues ranging from bullying to online privacy and can be assessed online and in retail stores from next Tuesday, Safer Internet Day.

The Vodafone partnership is also supported by Vodafone’s 2,000 employees, who have pledged to raise additional funds for Childline through a range of activities.

www.childline.ie


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