The Co Antrim man in charge of Childline UK has said the NSPCC is becoming increasingly concerned about the number of children experiencing abuse and neglect during lockdown.
Shaun Friel, who lives in Ballymena, was speaking after it was revealed that Childline had delivered 363 counselling sessions across the UK in one week (April 12 to 19) to children who had experienced physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. This figure represented a five-fold spike on the previous week.
Of those children reaching out to the NSPCC-run service, the number experiencing physical abuse rose by 36% in one week, while those reporting emotional abuse jumped by 31%.
Within the same period, Childline UK counsellors dealt with an average of 60 children per day.
Shaun, who took on the role of Childline UK chief last year, said: "Since the lockdown began there has been an obvious concern among children and young people about coronavirus and its impact on them.
"But what we're also seeing at Childline is an increase in contacts from children experiencing abuse and neglect and this is deeply worrying.
"During lockdown it's more difficult for children to make a telephone call. They may not have the same privacy and space as before. But we are seeing more contact via email or chat. The website is much easier to access in terms of dipping in and out when they have privacy and it has a range of resources and tools.
"And we are very keen to stress to them that we are still here."
Shaun said that one of the factors for the surge in reports of abuse was abuser and child in lockdown together on a daily basis.
To adapt to the ever-changing situation, the NSPCC has launched its emergency appeal 'We're still here for children' and is appealing to the public to visit its website and donate £10 so the charity can continue to answer calls and be available for young people who need someone to talk to.