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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Childline cases soar on back of children's rising concerns post-Covid

This news post is about 1 year old
 

More volunteers needed

Childline has seen a 40% increase in the number of children turning to the service over the last three years, the charity has revealed.

From April 2021 to March 2022, the service’s trained volunteer counsellors delivered 1,242 counselling sessions to children with worries about the world compared to 889 from the same period in 2018/19. 

This is an issue affecting children of all ages; however the service has seen a particular surge in counselling sessions with under 11s, up 38% compared to three years ago.

Over recent months, Childline has heard increasing concerns from children relating to money and jobs, driven by the financial pressures that many families are facing because of the cost-of-living crisis.

The service is also feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis: it is affecting the number of volunteers that are able give up their time to support the service and be here for children.

Childline lost over 400 volunteer counsellors nationwide during the pandemic. It managed to build its numbers up again, only for the service to see a steady decline since April of this year.

Over the past year, there have been a number of big events that have taken place across the UK and the world which have concerned young people but, this Christmas, worries will be closer to home for many.

Worries about parents losing their jobs, bills not being paid, concerns about keeping warm and not having food on the table are just some of the concerns children are sharing with Childline in relation to the cost of living.

Many are also telling the service that these worries are making them feel upset with some considering whether they need to get a job to help.

One 17-year-old girl from Scotland who contacted Childline said: “My parents split up when I was little. Dad was always drinking and gambling, eventually our house got repossessed cos he didn’t pay the mortgage. That’s when dad left and we ended up moving in with gran. The place is so cramped and there’s damp and mould on the walls. It’s also freezing most of the time because we can’t afford central heating.”

As Christmas edges closer and many families continue to feel financial pressure, Childline anticipates that these kinds of worries will only continue in conversations that young people have with counsellors.

The service is getting ready to keep its 13 bases open over the festive season, including Christmas Day so it can be here to listen to those children in need and support them.

With volunteer numbers dropping the service will have a reduced number of people working across all its bases.

This is a fresh blow after the service spent months rebuilding its volunteer numbers after they lost a third during the coronavirus pandemic due to the national lockdown.

Eoin Carey, a Childline counsellor in the Glasgow centre, said: “There’s an awful lot of expectation at Christmas. If circumstances don’t allow for a child to celebrate with all the toys, food and a nuclear family, which is what is often portrayed as the ‘norm’, that can make a child feel different and like they don’t fit in.

“This can create a real sense of isolation and loneliness. Recent bereavement of a family member can also make it a very difficult time.”

He added: “The current level of poverty and hardship means that many families will be struggling to afford basic things such as heating, food and clothes let alone all the extra things.

“We know that money worries can cause stress tension and arguing in the home, which can make children feel unsafe. I think this is something we’ll hear about from a lot of young people this year.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline President and Founder said: “Every Christmas we are incredibly grateful to our staff and volunteers who support children for whom this can be a very tough time.  

“This Christmas will unfortunately be a particularly hard year for everyone given the financial struggles the country is currently facing.

“At Childline, our counsellors know that this is already having an impact on children, many are aware of the pressures their families are experiencing, and they are anxious about what this means for the future.

“Many of these children are worried about sharing their concerns with their own families as they fear this would put them under even more stress.

“Therefore, it is so important that Childline counsellors are here for children throughout Christmas and New Year so those young people can talk about their worries and get the support they need.”

Shaun Friel, Childline Director said: “Lots of different world issues have taken place this year which have impacted many children and young people and caused them to feel worried and concerned about their future.

“Now, given the cost-of-living crisis, money worries will sadly continue to be a key worry for children over the winter months and for some this will be having a negative impact on their mental health and well-being.

“No matter what a child’s worry is, thanks to our amazing volunteers, Childline is able to be here for those children this Christmas as a safe and confidential space where they can talk through whatever they want. “However, our volunteer numbers are on the decline and without their support, many children would be left feeling anxious and alone.

“So, as we enter the new year, if you can offer some spare time to help Childline be here for children and young people, we would be so grateful.”

Childline counsellor talks about volunteering on Christmas Day

Eoin Carey (36), a photographer from Glasgow, has been a volunteer counsellor with the NSPCC’s Childline service at the Glasgow base for a year.

After becoming a father six years ago, Eoin, who had never spent much time around children before, discovered that he felt comfortable talking with young people and really enjoyed their company.

He decided to become a volunteer counsellor and now does regular shifts answering phone calls and online chats with children and young people. He did his first festive shift last Christmas Day, starting at 7am.

He said he felt “really happy” to be able to go in on Christmas Day and there had been “a lovely atmosphere” in the centre. “We had all made that commitment to be there on such a big day of the year and cheered each other up by making cups of tea and having plenty of treats to share,” said Eoin.

“I had quite a lot of contacts on the day and the main thing I remember was there was a real sense of loneliness from many young people. Many children were missing relatives who couldn’t be there with them on the day because they had passed away or couldn’t travel. Some young people told me their older brothers, sisters or grandparents weren’t with them and they felt sad about that.

“When we think about Christmas we think about young people, that it’s all for them, but many children feel very lonely. There’s an even sharper recognition at Christmas that we are there for children, it really brings home the importance of being a Childline volunteer. To be in a supporting role while families are waking up, presents are being opened, is a real privilege.

“It’s sad that any children need to call us on Christmas Day but there’s an awful lot of expectation. If circumstances don’t allow for a child to celebrate with all the toys, food and a nuclear family, which is what is often portrayed as the ‘norm’, that can make a child feel different and like they don’t fit in.

“This can create a real sense of isolation and loneliness. Recent bereavement of a family member can also make it a very difficult time.”

Eoin believes that some families circumstances will be even harder this Christmas due to the cost-of-living crisis.

He added: “The current level of poverty and hardship means that many families will be struggling to afford basic things such as heating, food and clothes let alone all the extra things.

“We know that money worries can cause stress tension and arguing in the home, which can make children feel unsafe. I think this is something we’ll hear about from a lot of young people this year.”