Listen to Dame Esther Rantzen talk to Point FM 103.1’s Lizzie Lawton about 30 years of ChildLine and her call for more volunteers to join ChildLine after visiting Prestatyn base.
Esther Rantzen is calling on more people to volunteer for ChildLine after visiting the helpline’s North Wales base to mark its 30th anniversary.
The Childline founder was at the Prestatyn call centre on Wednesday May 25th to speak to volunteers past and present about the vital work they do for thousands of children.
The Prestatyn base currently has 103 volunteers, but is appealing for more to come forward to meet demand from children and young people who need counselling over the phone, or online, to deal with problems which include bullying, abuse, family issues and mental illness.
A total of 257,895 counselling sessions have been held at the Prestatyn centre since it opened in 1992. In the first year there were 1,626 alone, rising to 18,444 in 2015/16.
The most common concerns raised with volunteers at the base last year were low mood/self-esteem (2,541), family relationships (2,503), bullying/cyber bullying (1,826) and friendship issues (1,150).
ChildLine was launched in October 1986 by Dame Esther after a helpline set up after a BBC television programme she presented on child abuse, Childwatch, was inundated with calls. Some 23,000 children spoke to ChildLine in its first year.
In the event at Prestatyn – as part of a nationwide tour of ChildLine centres – Dame Esther spoke about her experiences of setting up the service. She also called on people to volunteer and to help make a difference to children’s lives.
Dame Esther said: “It’s wonderful to see ChildLine thrive. The charity saves so many lives and protects so many children from pain but we could not do it without the warmth and compassion of our Wales-based volunteers who are so skilled and committed.
“It is fantastic to see all our volunteers from so many years ago. When I ask people why they come back, they say it because being a ChildLine volunteer was such rewarding and enjoyable work.
“I have seen the difference ChildLine makes after speaking to many young adults who have used the service when they were children. It gives them hope. ChildLine literally transforms lives.”
Among the volunteers meeting Esther was 71-year-old Chris Davies, who has answered calls to ChildLine at the Prestatyn base for the last 18 years
“If anyone was thinking of volunteering for ChildLine I would say go for it,” she said.
“You get more out of it than you put in. I love the part where you feel like you’re saving lives and helping children.”
She added: “You get to know everyone on your shift and it’s like a family. It’s a lovely place to work.”
Kim Jackson, who started volunteering with ChildLine in Prestatyn after retiring as a nurse just over two years ago, said that anybody could become a counsellor for the children’s helpline.
“When I started my training I was quite surprised at the diversity of backgrounds of people that were there from all sorts of professions,” she said.
“But then I realised you don’t need any particular skills to be a counsellor, you just need to be able to care and want to give something back.”
She added: “Whenever you come away from a shift you feel good about yourself. Even if you have just one contact with a child, when they say ‘thank you for listening to me, no one has ever done that before’ it makes you feel so fulfilled.
“It’s an absolute privilege to volunteer for ChildLine.”
On Tuesday (May 24) Dame Esther also visited a supporter conference held in Wrexham, where she met local ChildLine volunteers and fundraisers. The visit also featured a performance from Victoria Community Primary School Choir.
ChildLine has now counselled four million children, in 12 bases around the UK, with a dedicated network of 1,400 trained volunteer counsellors.
The average number of contacts has more than trebled since 1986 and more than two thirds of children who contact ChildLine now do so online.
During 2014/15, ChildLine carried out a total of 286,812 counselling sessions across the UK. The most common issue for the first three years among children calling ChildLine was sexual abuse. In the last two years it has been family relationships.
To find out more about volunteering, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/childline30.