Millbank Primary School

Growing Together To Be Our Best

* Childline

One of the Ambassadors roles is to listen to the problems of young people. For 25 years the charity Childline has been helping children with their problems. This amazing charity has call centres all over the UK and the closest one to us is in Swansea.

Johnathan Green is the Childline Services Manager at Alexandra House and kindly gave up some of his time to show us around the call centre and answer our questions. He showed us where the volunteers would work and relax, the centre was not taking calls at that time

The day before founder Esther Rantzen had been at the office and trying to get financial support from the local business community. Jonathan was very keen to show us the website and some of the features that it had.

1.) What is the average caller? Do more girls than boys telephone the helpline?
There is no average call, every child is different every problem is different. The main skill of our counsellors is in listening and trying to understand the child before they can suggest a way forward in tackling their problems.
Yes, there are 3 times more girls than boys that call us.

2.) How do you involve young people in making sure you give the best service?
There are consultation groups in which we bounce ideas off young people and we get feedback from the people using our services.
The website has its own young people’s focus panel too.

3.) Do you get many hoax calls or time wasters?
We tend to refer to these as ‘testing calls’. It is very difficult to pour your heart out to a stranger, the caller might have very real problems. Even if they are being silly or rude we try and find out if they have real problems that they want to discuss. We just cannot afford to think of the calls as hoaxs, the caller might ring several times before they start to talk.

4.) What is the nicest part of the job?
Working with volunteers who want to be here, from students to OAPs, they are all here because they care and wont to help young people.
[Earlier Johnathan had shown us the ‘VoluntTREE’ in which volunteers had left lovely messages about why they helped]

5.) Have any of the counsellors needed counselling, how do you support and train the staff?
Yes, some of the children calling might have been in the process of killing themselves or have terrible problems that can be very emotionally draining and upsetting. We are very strong on support for each other, whenever the volunteers are working there will be a paid supervisor on duty too and they will make sure that the volunteer is okay.
[Jonathan showed us one of the call rooms earlier, outside were a number of relaxing areas too.]

6.) How many languages do you support?
Just English and Welsh, there have been the occasional request for others such as Polish but it is just not practical to offer lots of different languages.

7.) What is the busiest time of year for you? Can you manage to get enough volunteers to man the phones at Christmas?
[Jonathan showed us a chart on the wall which showed us the volume of calls over the year] The number of calls peak in April/May we have long been puzzled as to why, we actually get fewer calls at Christmas.
We are lucky that our volunteers are prepared to come in on Christmas day for a few hours [there are 14 offices throughout the UK that share the calls]

8.) How do you think Childline will change in the next 10 years to adapt to new technologies?
We have already changed a lot and we are very proud of our new website which we have been developing over the past 18 months. There has not been a big national launch of it yet. 
The next big challenge for us is getting our service available by texting.

9.) How do you work with the Children’s Commissioners in the UK?
I am an operational manager my main job is to make sure everyone who rings gets a quality response, so I do not get to talk to the Children Commissioners that would be done higher up at a policy level.
However the first Children’s Commissioner for Wales - Peter Clarke- was the director for Childline before he took up that post and he worked in these very offices so I worked with him.

10.) What are the proudest achievements of the Childline?
For me it is the website, this is by far and away the best achievement it is so useful. For a lot of children it is a lot easier using e-mails than talking to a stranger.

11.) Is the NSPCC worried about the economic downturn do you think there will increasing numbers of calls, reduced funding etc?
Yes I think that this will be a difficult time for many charities.

12.) How important is bullying as an issue?
Bullying is still the number one reason for voice calls at 16%.
When Childline was first established in 1986 child abuse & bullying was not recognised and Childline played a big part in getting people to realise how damaging this can be.

Jonathan showed us the various sections of the website including some good games to help you put your problems in perspective (balloon) or just get rid of some stress (bubblewrap).

After the meeting we decided to add a link to Childline on our Ambassador section of the school website.

Parents can explore the NSPCC website which merged with Childline in 2005. they have a special call line too 0808 800 5000 for parents who might be worried about a child. A lady from the NSPCC came into school to help us raise funds and promote sponsored activities at the school.

Last term we visited the Equalities and Human Rights Comission. We also organised a special presentation to parents as part of Safer Internet Day. We decorated cakes to sell for Children In Need and also organised the UNICEF "Day for Change" to help raise funds for Kenya. One of us met the Children's Comissioner at a Grand School Council Event.Whilst the other one went to see the launch of a report at the Senedd.

We do try and look at ways to promote children's Rights at the school and in the wider community too. We often put tips and games in the weekly newsletter. Look out for our noticeboard