Posted: Tue 16th Mar 2021

Head of Childline Prestatyn talks about challenges service has faced in 12 months since start of first lockdown

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Mar 16th, 2021


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The head of Childline Prestatyn has shared the challenges the service has faced and overcome in the past 12 months as the country marks a year since the start of the first lockdown restrictions.

Staff and volunteers at Childline Prestatyn have rallied together to be there for worried children and young people.

Childline Prestatyn had to adapt swiftly, increasing its ability to answer contacts from children and young people online, and delivering some of its counsellor training virtually too.

At the same time, the base suffered a significant drop in volunteer numbers because of volunteers needing to self-isolate to stay safe.

“As keyworkers, Childline staff and volunteers have been supporting children and young people throughout the pandemic – making extraordinary efforts and adjustments to keep the service going,” says Victoria Holbrook-Hughes.

 

Victoria says: “Our staff members and volunteers have been facing the same challenges as everyone else across the country – homeschooling their children, caring for dependents, and coping with financial concerns because of family members being furloughed or losing their jobs.

“Despite this, and the ongoing challenges, they continue to demand of themselves the best they can possibly be so that children and young people get as much help as we can offer.”

“Volunteers that have been able to come in to the base have been going above and beyond – going from giving one shift a week to three or four to help make up the numbers.”

Prestatyn is home to one of 12 Childline bases, from which volunteer and staff counsellors answer contacts from children and young people across the UK – listening to them about any worries they may have.

The NSPCC-run service has counselled more than 60,000 children and young people UK-wide around mental health related concerns alone since the first national lockdown, as well as more than 20,000 sessions about suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“More and more young people are talking about their struggles with mental health generally but also because of COVID-19,” says Victoria.

“The isolation has gone on far longer than people expected – and a year can seem like a lifetime for children and young people.”

“They have shown great resilience in the last 12 months, but the impact of the pandemic for many has had a profound effect on their sense of future and wellbeing.”

“We all have a responsibility to make sure they get the support they need in the weeks, months and years ahead – no matter where in Wales they live.”

Mental health support, improved online safety, and help for children to speak out about the challenges they’ve faced, are included in a set of recommendations NSPCC Cymru/Wales is urging the next Welsh government to adopt.

The children’s charity has made repeated calls for children and young people to be at the forefront of recovery planning, with a focus on early intervention and prevention.

“For some children and young people, we have heard how home is not a safe place and the last year has been a fearful time where there is little escape from threats of violence and abuse,” says Victoria.

 

“Many of the usual outlets for children and young people to seek support such as school, youth clubs and extra-curricular activities ceased to be a part of their life, almost overnight.

“That’s why it’s been so important for Childline to remain available to children and young people at an extreme time of uncertainty.”

“If we didn’t have the volunteers that were prepared to give up their time that just wouldn’t have been possible.”

The impact of the pandemic resulted in a huge depletion in the numbers of volunteers able to give their time, but the response from members of the public to an urgent volunteer appeal has helped the service stay afloat for those who need it.

“Volunteers are our lifeblood,” says Victoria. “They are so important for the service, helping us continue to be there to listen to children and young people at a time when their world has been shaken up.

“The response we had to our appeal was amazing and we are so grateful to everyone who responded, however we still don’t have enough volunteers to cope with the demand from children and young people, which we know will continue.”

“So, it is vital that we continue to ask for the support of the public, seeing if giving their time to children and young people is something they could do.”

More information about volunteering for Childline Prestatyn is available on the charity’s website, via [email protected] or 01745 772 100.

Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a Childline counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package.

Children can contact Childline every day of the week on 0800 11 11 or via childline.org.uk Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice.

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