The ISPCC plans to expand its online response to contacts from troubled children after figures for its Childline service showed a growing number of young people using its website.
Childline still received 771,301 calls last year, with 34% going unanswered.
However, the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) suspect many of the missed calls are repeat callers, and more than 533,729 contacts from children were responded to by Childline last year.
Those contacts included 23,726 texts, emails and one-to-one web chats received, while 45,305, or 14%, of contacts made related to abuse and welfare.
The rate of calls to Childline has fallen and ISPCC director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, said it was likely that more young people will use the service’s online chat service and text lines in future.
“It is a really big challenge for us now,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
Childline is a freephone, confidential service accessible seven days a week, while the live online chat facilities are open from 2pm to 10pm.
“We want to go 24 hours with that,” Ms O’Sullivan said. “We are going to have to do that if we are to meet demand.”
She said some staff were already receiving training, while another challenge faced by the charity is the inability of its website to be accessed fully by tablet devices.
While the ISPCC receives statutory funding for its professional services Childline’s annual €3m budget is raised entirely through fundraising.
Contacts from males account for more than half of all contacts to Childline and Ms O’Sullivan said abuse and welfare were key issues — bullying also accounted for 10,000 contacts last year.
She said many young people still did not reach out to a loved one or respected adult to address their issues and so in some cases began to think their problems were “insurmountable”.
“We have to build a child’s resilience,” she said, adding that this meant children being able to focus on three key phrases: “I am, I can, I have.”
She said cyberbullying was an issue and added that the prevalence of child abuse was not a fiction, but something society needed to face up to.
“The big issue regarding child abuse, if it gets to court, is the sentencing is absolutely appalling,” she said.
Work is continuing on analysing the sentences handed down to those convicted of child abuse around the country. Ms O’Sullivan said: “What is an appropriate punishment for these people? It should not be a non-custodial sentence.”
* www.childline.ie Call 1800 66 66 66 or text 50101
* 771,301 calls received.
* 533,729 contacts from children responded to in 2012.
* 34% of calls still going unanswered.
* 23,726 texts, emails and one-to-one web chats received.
* 45,305 (14%) of contacts made related to abuse and welfare.
* 10,000 contacts related specifically to bullying.
* €3m — annual budget for Childline.
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