Urgent appeal for Childline volunteers as numbers plummet during COVID-19 crisis

One of our charities, NSPCC Cymru, is making an urgent appeal for Childline volunteers after active volunteer numbers fell dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis.

Its Childline bases in Cardiff and Prestatyn are among 12 UK-wide that are continuing to provide support to children and young people when they need it most. The service has been inundated with contacts from children and young people, with many worried about what Coronavirus means for them.

Volunteer Emma Brookes, 38, has been carrying out additional shifts during lockdown to help bridge the shortfall in volunteers.

“Many of our volunteers have been shielding and, understandably, are unable to come into our Childline bases,” she says.

“Volunteering has changed slightly during lockdown – the contacts from young people have had a lot more to do with COVID19 and mental health concerns.

“Young people are struggling with the lack of face-to-face support and being stuck in the house.”

Children and young people can contact the charity’s counselling service 365 days a year, where specially trained counsellors volunteer their time to listen to their concerns and support them with their worries. Mental health, abuse, family and relationship problems, and bullying are all common concerns, but the reality is when a contact comes in counsellors are ready to talk to a young person about anything.

Mother-of-four, Emma, started volunteering for Childline in April 2019 after a friend recommended she sign up, and she hasn’t looked back.

“My ultimate goal is to work with children and families in some capacity and so I thought listening and supporting young people was a good place to start, but mainly I wanted to be able to offer young people going through a difficult time a space to be heard.

“My first shift, I was so nervous I can’t even put it into words. I was so worried I was going to say the wrong thing which could have a detrimental impact on the young people I spoke with. But at the end of the shift, I just felt fantastic and there is so much support from the supervisors that you never feel alone.”

Emma is from Holywell and mainly volunteers her time on a Saturday evening from Childline’s Prestatyn base where she supports young people around a whole host of issues, including self-harm, and suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“I think demand is high during these hours because most services are unfortunately Monday- Friday 9-5 leaving many young people with no professional help over the weekend,” says Emma.

“They have no school, no access to other services they are using and that can be when young people feel at their most vulnerable.”

Emma juggles volunteering shifts for Childline around her home life, university studies and two other volunteering roles.

She says: “Being a Childline volunteer brings me a sense of purpose – 95% of the time I leave the shift feeling like a child or young person has been listened to and maybe even just for that one evening feels that things might just be okay.

“Some calls mean that for one young person, I might have helped keep them alive for long enough for them to get support and professional help.”

Emma’s advice to anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering as Childline counsellor?

“If I could say anything, I’d just say do it – if that drive is there to help children and young people, go for it.

“Young people need somewhere to feel safe heard and supported. One shift a week could be enough to help a young person and you could be the one person who has believed them, which is massive. There aren’t enough of us, so please come and help us to make a difference.”

Children and young people can speak with a Childline counsellor online or on the phone between 9am and midnight.

Childline Services Manager, Debs Davis says: “Childline gives children and young people a safe space to talk about anything that is happening to them or causing them to worry and that is so important – in fact it can be life-changing.

“We’re desperately in need of more English and Welsh speaking volunteers at our Childline base in Prestatyn so that we can continue to still be here or children and young people when they need us most.”

Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package.

More information is available on the charity’s website. Anyone interested in finding out more about what the role entails and how to apply can contact Volunteer Co-ordinator Sally King-Sheard on 01745 772101 or via Sally.King-Sheard@NSPCC.org.uk

Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk for free 365 days a year.