ChildLine is to roll out an ambitious new service that will visit every primary school in Scotland by 2016, to help children to understand abuse and how they can stay safe.
Using assemblies and workshops, the ChildLine Schools Service is designed to encourage children to recognise situations where they may need help and to let them know where they can get support if they need it.
Delivered by trained local volunteers, the Schools Service aims to give children the knowledge they need, in clear, reassuring and age-appropriate language. The sessions are sensitively tailored to ensure topics are covered in a way that children can understand and have been approved as suitable for nine to 11-year-olds by child protection specialists. By speaking to every primary school child, in every classroom of every community, ChildLine wants to start a societal change that could bring about a long term reduction in child cruelty.
Across south west Scotland the service now needs to recruit 28 volunteers to reach over 52,096 children across the region’s 303 primary schools by 2016 and to continue that programme for every generation year on year.
Benjamin Napier, ChildLine Schools Service manager for Scotland said: “NSPCC research shows that an average of two children in every primary school classroom are suffering from abuse or neglect and the majority of cases go undetected. These young children often feel alone and desperate and many have nobody to turn to. Most children who contact ChildLine are over 11 years of age, however many of these children suffered in silence for months or even years before eventually finding the courage to contact ChildLine. If we are really serious about stopping child abuse, we need to reach these children when they are younger.
“Volunteers are key to the new service so it is vital that local people come forward to help us protect future generations. If you can spare the time please visit our website to find out more about joining the Schools Service as a volunteer.”
Rose Estelles, from Troon, South Ayrshire, is a volunteer with the ChildLine Schools Service and delivers sessions in primary schools across the region. Rose said: “At times it is shocking when you realise that some of these children have real life experience of the issues that we talk about; that their lives have been deeply affected by experiences of abuse and neglect. But at the same time it’s amazing when their responses are so open and sincere and it helps you to appreciate that it does make a difference when we come and speak to them in an environment where they feel safe and supported.
“When you deliver ChildLine’s service to these children it really brings home the importance of the work we are doing and it makes you all the more determined to visit every school to let children know that abuse is never okay and they have the right to speak out and be heard.”
Nikki, from the west of Scotland called ChildLine as a child after being sexually abused by a male relative from the age of six. She says: “I was subjected to so much abuse from such a young age that it became a normal way of life. I thought that this was the type of thing that every child went through but that no one ever talked about it. I knew I didn’t like the feeling, I knew I didn’t like what was happening but it was totally out of my control.
“When I was 11 I decided to call ChildLine. I ChildLine taught me that abuse wasn’t something that a child had to go through, that I didn’t deserve it and that I wasn’t to blame. I had always been led to believe that it was my fault. ChildLine helped me to talk through my feelings of guilt and fear, and to understand that I could get help to stop the abuse. I don’t think I could have broken my silence without them. But perhaps if the ChildLine schools service had been around I’d have realised that what was happening to me was wrong and spoken out sooner. “
The ChildLine Schools Service in Scotland also has backing from founder and President of ChildLine, Esther Rantzen, who added: “It is so important that children are encouraged to ask for help if they are in distress, and that they know ChildLine is there to support them. It’s found it really moving to hear an assembly of children having fun learning to express the ChildLine number, 0800 1111. But it’s more than just fun. As a result of our work so far, we have already found that some young children have been able for the first time to disclose abuse and have been protected from it.”
The ChildLine Schools Service has already visited 280 schools and spoken to 15,000 children across Scotland .*. As part of the service, children learn about the different forms of abuse and how to get help and support if they need it. They are also told about ChildLine and how to contact the helpline if they should ever need to. Across the UK, 67 per cent of children who have received the service said that they were “much more likely to talk to someone” after the ChildLine Schools Service had visited their school. In addition to this, 81 per cent said they found the programme helpful.
Benjamin Napier continued: “This is a real opportunity to change the face of child protection. The ChildLine Schools Service is fundamentally focused on protecting children and we believe it will make a significant contribution to preventing child abuse.”
The NSPCC will launch a national appeal to raise money for this ground breaking service early next year.
For more information about volunteering for the Schools Service in Scotland visit www.nspcc.org.uk/schoolsservice