Demand high, but Childline faces shortage of volunteers

The ISPCC has recorded a sharp rise in demand among children for its Childline online services — at a time when it is facing a shortage of volunteers.

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The charity’s annual report also reveals that the helpline service, which costs €3.5m a year to run, is on course to answer its seven millionth telephone call in 2018.

In 2017, the number of calls, texts and online contacts answered by Childline was 381,911. More than 1,000 different conversations were held each day with children and young people all over Ireland, a slight decrease on last year’s figure.

However, Childline’s online and text options recorded a 33% increase in the numbers of children and young people choosing to make contact using those technologies. More than 11,000 new users registered for Childline’s online service for the first time in 2017.

Issues pertaining to personal life, abuse/welfare and relationships were most frequently raised by children who engaged in two-way interaction contacts with the Childline service in 2017.

We need to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality that some children in Ireland today do not feel safe in their homes,” said CEO Grainia Long. “The increase recorded this year in the number of contacts to our online service options is indicative of the changing nature of children’s behaviour.

“We need to ensure that we can be there for every child and young person in Ireland over the next 30 years and beyond, through whichever means they choose to use to get in contact.

“For this reason, Childline, with the support of the Vodafone Ireland Foundation, is investing substantially in a new digital platform for Childline. We will be launching this new service in 2018 as part of our 30th birthday celebrations.

“We have, however, experienced some difficulty over the past year in recruiting volunteers to support the Childline service. We would warmly welcome interest from anyone who believes they could, with the support of our comprehensive and excellent training and development programme, play the hugely important role of listening to children who contact Childline.”

Ms Long described 2017 as a seminal year for child protection, with the publication of a report on the audit by Dr Geoffrey Shannon into use by An Garda Síochána of its powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act.

In 2017, Childline answered 28,714 two-way interaction contacts in relation to abuse and welfare and an additional 3,122 calls in relation to substance use and abuse.

Of the total number of two-way interaction phone calls answered by Childline last year, 72% came from males and 26% came from females. Conversely, males accounted for just 16% of those who engaged in two-way interaction contacts to Childline by text and just 25% of those who chatted with Childline online, while females made up 62% of text service users and 75% of online chat users respectively.

“The majority of contacts to Childline come when children have no access to social workers and may have no one else to call,” said Ms Long. “That remains the case today, as it was in 2017, and so we renew our calls for all-of-government consensus to prioritise child protection in this area.”

Commenting on the report, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection said the key issues that children are raising in contact to Childline are around the abuse of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon said he believes the biggest challenge facing Irish society is the adverse consequences for the welfare of children posed by alcohol abuse.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Shannon said that alcohol abuse by parents has a damaging effect on the ability to parent consistently and the importance of the public health alcohol bill “cannot be understated”.

He said that domestic violence was an issue that jumped out of this year’s ISPCC report.

Dr Shannon called for child specific services to be put in place, saying that Childline cannot be a substitute for “robust State services”.

Any child affected by any of these issues may contact Childline on 1800666666, text Talk to 50101 or go online to www.childline.ie

Evaluations:

All work with individual children and parents is evaluated.

- 99% reported being satisfied with the service.

- 96% of clients’ knowledge and understanding of their issue or current situation increased.

- 72% of clients had changed their behaviours and actions as a result of the intervention.

- 42% of clients’ level of change had a positive community-wide effect.

- 106 individuals were engaged in the ISPCC mentoring programme in 2017.

Darren’s story - out of control 

My name is Darren and I’m 17. Last year, I was expelled from school for smoking cannabis and not coming in. I would stay up all night smoking and playing Xbox and I never felt like talking to anybody the next day.

I was fed up with the world. My mam and dad weren’t always around and, when they were, they didn’t know how to help me. I was addicted to drugs and it was really affecting my mental health. My life only started to improve after an ISPCC support worker intervened.

They linked me with relevant addiction support services and met me, respected me and listened to my thoughts. They even convinced me to start getting up and out every morning. I began to take back control of my life after a couple of weeks working with my support worker. Slowly, I began to realise that I could believe in myself and that I could be happy living a healthy and active life. Thanks to their encouragement so far, I’ve started helping out with my local football team and I’m back going to school two days a week 

Kelly’s story - domestic violence 

Kelly, aged 9, was referred to the ISPCC after she witnessed an incident of domestic abuse, in which her father attacked her mother, at home.

The Child and Family Support Service engaged with Kelly and with her brothers Conor, 16, and Shane, 11, about their fear and confusion around what had been happening at home.

The Childhood Support Worker spoke with Kelly and with her brothers about why their father had to move to another town, for their own safety.

At first, Kelly was very hesitant to reveal her feelings. She found it easier to express herself through art, so the support worker assisted with some exercises and activities they could work through together. Over time, Kelly became less anxious and appeared more comfortable in the company of others. She could see that her mother and brothers were happier living without her father and realised she could talk about her thoughts, hopes and frustrations and would have their support.

Aisling’s story - bullied at school 

My name is Aisling and I’m 14 years old. I have been talking to Childline on and off for about 2 years. A few weeks ago, I told Childline how a girl in my school, Emily, had been calling me names and threatening me.

Her boyfriend, Sam, had been talking to me online and she got really angry when she found out. Emily posted online that I had shifted Sam and sent him nude pictures of myself. She wouldn’t believe me when I told her this wasn’t true. I was scared she was going to beat me up. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they would take my phone off me if they knew what was happening. I decided to talk to Childline. I told Childline everything.

They said I have a right to be safe and that it isn’t okay for anyone to post lies about me on social media. After talking to Childline, I decided to tell my class teacher.

She told Emily what she had done was wrong and that she would be in serious trouble if it continued. I blocked Emily and Sam from talking to me on social media and, with Childline’s help, reported what Emily had done to the social media service provider.

Cody’s story - difficulty being gay 

My name is Cody and I am 16 years of age. I was referred to the ISPCC mentoring service after I went through a very low time with my mental health. I’m gay and it look me a long time to accept that. I felt trapped, confused and afraid that my family and friends would see me differently if I told them. My feelings made me want to hide and I stopped going to school. I’ve worked with my mentor for about 10 months now. We’ve gone for walks, chatted and played football together in the park.

They’ve accepted me from day one and always made me feel like I could tell them how I was feeling, even before I came out to anyone else. Even when I was feeling down or frustrated, they never failed to make me smile. With their support, I’ve become more confident in my own abilities and my own value as a person. A few weeks ago, I opened up about my sexuality to my mom and dad and two of my best friends.

They were really happy I finally felt free to be myself. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m already back going to school three days a week.

Jasmin’s story - alcoholic mother 

Hi, I’m Jasmin. I’m 15 and I live with my mum, my uncle and my cousin. My teacher referred me to the Child and Family Support Service because I couldn’t really concentrate in class and I was angry and upset about my mum.

My mum has problems with drugs and alcohol and she used to get mad at me for no reason. The ISPCC support worker was easy to talk to about my feelings. She gave me the idea of starting a diary, which helped when I had to move to the other side of town. I lived with my uncle and my cousin for a while, when my mum had treatment for her problems. The support worker helped me to understand what was happening and listened to what I had to say. Now I am back living with my mum and we get on much better. She helps me with my homework and I am able to keep up with things at school. I know that it is ok to feel angry and sad sometimes. When I do, I can write my feelings in my diary or talk to my uncle, my cousin or my mum.

Ryan’s story - online dangers 

Ryan, aged 13, was referred to the ISPCC Childhood Support service after his father became concerned that he was over-sharing online and putting himself at risk. Ryan was keen to partake in online gaming and engage with his opponents, however his father was anxious that he could be vulnerable to being groomed.

Ryan worked with the ISPCC in his community and opened up to his support worker about how he was using the internet. Through empowering, nonjudgmental, discussion, he began to realise why it was important for him to make changes to his behaviour. He was assisted in developing an awareness of how to connect with friends online in a safe and secure way.

Ryan now has privacy settings installed on his phone and laptop and uses a nickname instead of his real name on his online accounts. He is more careful about the type of information he shares with others online. As a result of his more responsible Internet use, he has gained greater selfesteem and his relationships with his father and his brothers have improved.


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