ChildLine needed more than ever, says Esther Rantzen
A dramatic increase in the number of recorded sex offences against children in Northern Ireland underlines the importance of ChildLine to the region, Dame Esther Rantzen has said.
The ChildLine founder was in Belfast yesterday to mark the 30th anniversary of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) counselling service.
According to police figures, the number of recorded sexual offences against children in Northern Ireland has risen by more than 50% in the past five years. ChildLine bases in Foyle and Belfast answer around 30,000 contacts from children each year.
There are currently 170 trained ChildLine volunteers in the province.
Dame Esther said referrals from ChildLine to statutory agencies here had almost doubled in the last year.
She said those referrals were often aimed at preventing attempted suicide.
"There can be no doubt that in these cases, ChildLine's intervention saved children's lives," she said.
"The increased confidence and willingness of children to speak out when they are experiencing such lows in their lives should be welcomed, but ultimately it means that we have even more responsibility to ensure that every call is answered.
"We know that this is a time of low resource in many areas, but as the figures show, we need ChildLine more than ever."