Homeless children are ringing Childline

The charity behind Childline has said the phone service has received an increasing number of calls from children concerned about homelessness.

The ISPCC, as it published its 2016 annual report, noted a growing trend in the number of children calling Childline to talk “about their experience of homelessness or fear of family becoming homeless”.

Other trends reported by the charity include calls from children in residential care talking about negative experiences such as bullying or a lack of support — with the failure of authorities to assign a social worker cited as an example.

Traveller children have called the helpline to talk about early marriage; to complain of a lack of equality and opportunities; and to speak of “not feeling in control of their own lives”.

Last year Childline answered 405,255 calls, texts and online contacts, 75% of which took place outside of office hours when the State’s social work services are not available directly to children.

Of these, 385,673 were via the phone, and the majority of calls were from boys (71%) while the majority of online and text contacts were from girls (72%).

While fewer than 1% of all calls were categorised as “requiring significant intervention”, this still amounted to approximately six calls per day from children at high risk and in need of protection and support.

Speaking on the report’s publication, interim chief executive Caroline O’Sullivan said over 62,000 hours of volunteer time were donated to its services in 2016, but that the charity has had more difficulty recruiting volunteers in recent years.

Ms O’Sullivan also made reference to the report issued earlier this week by the Government’s Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon.

“Monday’s report commissioned by An Garda Síochána brings into sharp focus what the ISPCC has been highlighting for a number of years: There must be a comprehensive, needs-led, seamless, out-of-hours social work system,” she said.

“It is needed to support parents and to support and protect children — without this, we are failing today’s children and showing that Ireland has not learnt from past mistakes in the protection and welfare of children”.

The ISPCC worked with 32% more children across its child and family support and mentoring services in 2016 than the previous year, according to the report.

However despite this, the report warned that families are on a waiting list for some services, and the ISPCC will need more funding to meet the demand.

“The ISPCC’s services experienced high demand in 2016, a continuing trend. The childhood support worker and mentoring service received a total of 471 referrals in 2016,” the report states.

“This level of demand for these services outweighs the ISPCC’s current ability to supply services to children who need them.

“This is an ongoing development and the ISPCC continually seeks more funding to expand its resources in this area to meet the growing demand for its services,” it said.

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