Belfast Telegraph

Telephone counselling service to open every day over Christmas

Service director Marie Percival says Connect is successfully meeting a specific demand of abuse survivors.

(PA)
(PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Thousands of calls from abuse survivors are being missed due to the restricted hours of a counselling phoneline.

One third of calls to Connect counselling have been received outside of service hours this year, with overall calls to reach almost 8,000.

Connect is a free, confidential and professional telephone-based counselling and support service for adults who were abused in childhood, funded by the HSE.

It was established in 2006 following demands from groups representing survivors of institutional abuse that an independent and professional out of hours telephone-based service be established.

Connect received 7,826 calls in the year between December 1, 2018 and 2019.

Of these calls, 5,326 were answered and 2,500 received out of hours, a 4% increase on 5,123 calls answered in 2018.

Some 74% of callers were female and 26% male. Almost half of callers were aged between 31-50 years old (48%), with 29% over 50.

The organisation says its annual figures highlight an ongoing demand for the Connect service and need for longer opening hours.

The phoneline is open 20 hours a week, 6-10pm, Wednesday to Sunday, and those who call out of hours are directed on the answering service and to call back when the line is open.

Service director Marie Percival says Connect is successfully meeting a specific demand of abuse survivors.

“Connect is a necessary and niche service that meets the needs of people who choose anonymous telephone based counselling as a first step towards face-to-face therapy, or as a preferred longer term approach,” she said.

”However, we do have a challenge with demand for additional opening hours and we would encourage more male callers to the service.”

In anticipation of increased demand over the Christmas period, Connect is extending its hours to open every evening until January 5.

Ms Percival added that Christmas can be a particularly sensitive time when difficulties can resurface.

People can call Connect for free at 1800 477 477. From Northern Ireland and the UK people can call 00 800 477 477 77.

PA

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