Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Third of Childline calls unanswered

The ISPCC warned more than 800 calls to its Childline helpline went unanswered every day last year

More than 800 phone calls from youngsters in desperate need of support went unheard every day last year, a children's charity has revealed.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's (ISPCC) Childline helpline received about 2,360 calls and messages a day in 2011, but more than a third (38%) of calls went unanswered. The charity claimed poor funding was the biggest barrier to manning the phones and taking every call.

ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie said emotional abuse in particular has become one of the organisation's biggest concerns.

"Emotional abuse undermines confidence and self-worth, and can have a detrimental impact on a child," said Mr Balbirnie. "We know that words can leave deep scars that can have a lasting negative impact on children's self-esteem."

Childline received 839,258 calls in 2011, as well as 23,536 texts, emails and one-to-one web chats.

Its annual statistics report also found that 14% of the total calls received - 54,000 - were from children suffering some form of emotional abuse.

The charity said the figures were evidence that child abuse and neglect are just as prevalent in Irish society as ever, with emotional abuse arising in anything from violence within the family to peer relationships.

Elsewhere, the charity launched a new campaign, Children believe what they are told, which aims to highlight the impact abusive language can have on youngsters. The ISPCC also pledged to step up its efforts to tackle the problem with a new TV advert and online video.

"The girl in our video encompasses the many stories we hear from children every day, children who experience feelings of worthlessness, who feel unloved and feel they do not deserve to be happy," the ISPCC said.

A print ad will also be launched, stressing the impact abusive language can have on children - whether at the home or in a playground. A spokesman added: "Words that are harmful to self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, words that should never be spoken to any child. The confrontational style of the ads aims to draw much-needed attention to this growing issue."

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