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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Samaritans launches new free helpline number in the UK

This news post is over 7 years old

​The new freephone 116 123 number is now live

Calls to suicide prevention charity Samaritans are now free of charge.

The charity launched the new 116 123 freephone number today in a bid to make it possible for more people who may be struggling to cope to access the vital service.

With people from the lowest social economic groups, living in the most deprived areas, being 10 times more likely to die by suicide than those from more affluent areas, Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said the launch of the new number was the fulfilment of a long held goal.

It has long been an aspiration for Samaritans to make our helpline number free to callers

“It has long been an aspiration for Samaritans to make our helpline number free to callers, so this is a really positive step in improving access to our life-saving support,” she said.

“We know that call charges can be a barrier to accessing our service, potentially preventing some people from contacting Samaritans when they need us most.”

“Everyone has moments in their life where they struggle to cope and for some this can lead to feeling hopeless and losing sight of being able to work through their problems.

“We know that talking can really help people to see a way through and we would encourage anyone who is struggling to call Samaritans.

“We are here round the clock, every single day of the year, to listen and offer confidential support when things are getting to you.”

Although Samaritans does not charge for its support services, which are run by the charity’s 21,000 dedicated volunteers across the country, until now people contacting its helpline have had to pay for the cost of the call.

The change is thanks to support from the Big Lottery Fund and Vodafone, and the co-operation of the major telecommunications companies.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK chair, said: “We are delighted to have helped bring about this important development, which will make Samaritans’ service available to all.

“This is a great example of what partnership working can achieve by ensuring this hugely valuable charity’s helpline will be free of charge to all callers.”

Last year Samaritans’ 21,000 volunteers responded to 5.3 million calls for help, by phone, email, text and face to face.

Calls to the 116 123 helpline number do not appear on phone bills.



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about 7 years ago
Ian comments below that Samaritans recently had to "own up" to charging callers for their service, the implication being that callers were somehow being deceived and that Samaritans were making a profit from calls. This couldn't be further from the truth: Samaritans have always been transparent about the cost of calls to their previous 0845 number (it has been a constant source of frustration to the charity that they have been unable to provide a free service from day one), *zero* profits were made by the charity from those calls, and cheaper local rate numbers for local branches have always been available, along with the option of free call-backs to callers in crisis. In addition, the reason that the 116 123 number was not widely publicised despite having been available in the UK and ROI since 2009 is because every call to that number (in the UK) has, up until September 2015, been paid for by Samaritans themselves (in the ROI an amalgamation of phone operators stepped in to cover those costs, but, up until now, UK phone operators have declined to do the same). If Samaritans *had* widely publicised the free-to-call number, they would have run out of funds literally overnight (remember, this is a charity that receives no government funding and is entirely dependent on the generosity of the public to continue operating). Apologies for the lengthy reply, but as a Samaritans volunteer, I am always irritated by misinformation disseminated by people who seem intent on discrediting what is often a life-saving charity.
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over 7 years ago
The Samaritans 116123 number has actually been operational in the UK since 2009, but it has not been openly advertised. Instead, Samaritans promoted an 0845 number which in many cases was expensive to call and non-inclusive in call allowances.Since 1 July 2015, new Ofcom rules require all users of 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers to declare the Service Charge paid by callers. This revenue subsidises the additional call-handling and call-forwarding costs inherent in the use of a non-geographic number with anything left over available to be paid out as revenue share. Samaritans, along with a number of other charities, have had to own up to charging the callers that they were helping.Usage of the 116123 number requires Samaritans to pay the caller's telephone provider for the call because the caller has paid nothing. Samaritans now has some additional funding to cover this, and so from today, Samaritans is advertising 116123 as the main point of contact in place of the old 0845 number.Calls to 116123 are free from landlines and from mobiles.