ChildLine is today announcing the national roll out of an ambitious new programme to visit every primary school in the UK by 2016, to help younger children’s understanding of abuse and how they can stay safe. Using assemblies and workshops, the new service is designed to encourage children to recognise situations where they may need help and to tell them ways of accessing support.
Delivered by volunteers, the ChildLine Schools Service programme will enable them to understand how to keep themselves safe and where to get help if they need it. The sessions are sensitively tailored to ensure topics are covered in a way that children can understand and have been approved as suitable for nine to 11-year-olds by child protection specialists.
In Wales the service now needs to recruit a further 183 volunteers to reach the 1,582 schools and over 280,000 children in 3 years.
With stories of child abuse, exploitation and systematic child protection failures leading the news agenda, ChildLine aims to have spoken to every primary school child, in every classroom of every community, to start a societal change that could bring about a long term reduction in child cruelty.
NSPCC research shows that an average of two children in every primary school classroom has suffered from abuse or neglect and the majority of cases go undetected. These young children often feel alone and desperate and many have nobody to turn to. Most children who contact ChildLine are over 11 years of age, however many of these children suffered in silence for months or even years before eventually finding the courage to contact ChildLine, leaving themselves and other children at risk from perpetrators. If we are really serious about stopping child abuse, we need to reach these children when they are younger.
Therefore the aim of this new ChildLine Schools Service is to give children the knowledge they need, in clear reassuring language which is age-appropriate.
During its 18 month pilot, the ChildLine Schools Service visited 1,400 schools and has spoken to 90,000 children. As part of the programme, children are shown how to talk to trusted adults about problems that may be troubling them, and also told about ChildLine and how to contact the helpline if they should ever need to. 67 per cent of children said that they were “much more likely to talk to someone” after the Childline Schools Service had visited their school. In addition to this, 81 per cent suggested they found the programme helpful.
Across the UK, the service now needs to recruit a national army of 4,000 volunteers to reach the 23,420 schools and over 1.8 million children in 3 years.
Director of ChildLine, Peter Liver says “This is a real opportunity to change the face of child protection in the UK. The ChildLine Schools Service is fundamentally focused on safeguarding young people and we believe it will make a significant contribution to preventing child abuse.”
Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of ChildLine, adds: “It is so important that children are encouraged to ask for help if they are in distress, and that they know ChildLine is there to support them. I found it really moving to hear an assembly of children recite our number, 0800 1111, and then watch them having fun learning to express the ChildLine number in sign language. But it’s more than just fun. As a result of our work so far, we have already found that some young children have been able for the first time to disclose abuse and have been protected from it.”
The NSPCC will launch a national appeal to raise money for this ground breaking service early next year.
For further information about volunteering please visit www.nspcc.org.uk/schoolsservice.