Concern over 'devastating' impact of pandemic on children as Childline urgently recruits volunteers

The NSPCC is urgently recruiting for volunteers to support children with its Childline service in Scotland amid continued Covid-19 restrictions and school closures.

The NSPCC has called for more volunteers.
The NSPCC has called for more volunteers.

Volunteers to the service have dropped by 40 per cent since March, the NSPCC said, while demand for mental health counselling among 12-15 year olds has risen.

The charity warned of a “devastating” impact of the pandemic on children, as it revealed Childline has held more than 3,000 counselling sessions with young people since March.

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The NSPCC is urgently calling for volunteers who can spare four hours one evening a week or at the weekend, to join the charity’s Aberdeen or Glasgow centres.

Children who have contacted Childline’s trained counsellors about their mental health in recent months have spoken about concerns including loneliness, low mood, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.

Some have been feeling isolated and overwhelmed due to concerns about family members catching the virus, or school closures and cancelled exams - while others have felt cut off from support networks and are missing family and friends.

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Since the first lockdown last year, mental health has remained the top concern that children and young people talked to Childline about.Childline Founder and President, Dame Esther Rantzen said: “With schools now shut again and children spending more time behind closed doors, it is absolutely imperative that Childline is there for them.

“Many young people, especially those in unsafe homes, are feeling desperately anxious and depressed. School can be the only safe haven they know, and without that support they feel entirely alone. For them, Childline is literally a life-line.”

One 16-year-old who contacted Childline said she was “terrified” of getting Covid-19.

“I can't cope with this virus. I haven't got it, but I’m terrified that my family is going to get it. I don't care about me but I feel like I can't breathe when I think about my family getting it. What if they die? What if it's my fault?" she said.

Another spoke of feeling “sad and lonely” and said: “I need to talk to someone because I don’t really have anyone right now.”

Lou Bewick, a Childline volunteer counsellor at the Glasgow base, said: “Each shift I work, I hear from children and young people about how this pandemic has affected their life, and how it has impacted their mental and emotional health.

“Childline is here for children, and will continue to offer support from trained counsellors when they contact us about anything that worries them.

“However, we currently can’t answer every child so, if you can, please sign up and volunteer for Childline and help us reach every child who needs our support.”

Childline services remain in operation despite Covid-19 lockdown.

From the beginning of April 2020 to the end of the year, the average number of monthly contacts from 12 to 15 year olds was 153, compared to 147 in the first three months before the pandemic.

There were 3,112 contacts about mental and emotional health in Scotland in the same period.

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