The fund-raising drive and expansion plans are key elements of the well-known child protection charity’s most prominent appeal since it launched the Full Stop Campaign in 1999.
Called the Child’s Voice Appeal, it aims to raise £50 million nationally over the next three years to continue to run and grow its listening services - like that provided by the ChildLine base at Exeter - and also by its national helpline for adults with concerns about a child.
A launch event is due to take place in Exeter city centre at 3 pm today where thousands of bubbles will be released into the air.
The NSPCC said its plans involved building on the existing telephone services and recruiting and training more volunteer counsellors to respond to children in need of help.
Services will eventually also include counselling online and by text.
Last year, the charity answered two-thirds of calls to ChildLine and three-quarters of calls to the adult helpline.
The Government is providing £30 million towards the development of the NSPCC helplines over the next four years.
An additional £50 million raised by the public through the Child’s Voice Appeal is needed to continue running the existing services and to get the development off the ground.
The local proposals, which would cost £2.6 million to implement, could see as many as 150 counsellors based in Exeter.
It is currently the smallest of the 15 existing and planned UK ChildLine bases with around 30 trained volunteer counsellors available for shifts supervised by five experienced, paid staff.
Nationally, the expansion would allow:
- Growth of the NSPCC Helpline nationally by more than 60 per cent to counsel 18,000 more adults who have concerns about a child
- 500,000 more calls every year put through to ChildLine volunteers
- Young people to choose how they access help - by phone, online, or by text, wherever they live
Last year, the South West base counsellors counselled 2,529 young callers about everything from feeling suicidal to family break-ups.
The average length of a call is around 20 minutes but hour-long calls are not uncommon. Many callers ring more than once.
At the moment, the South West base has two shifts operating at peak times for calls on three days a week.
Outside these times, calls are routed to other bases which may or may not have capacity to deal with the calls.
Calls are routed to the nearest base available.
ChildLine South West children’s services manager Cheryl Marshall said: “ChildLine is a vital service for children so they have somebody to turn to, whatever the worry.
“Donations really will really make a direct impact in providing this service as we can provide more counsellors to counsel children, as well as allowing us to develop other ways for young people to communicate with us.
“It is important to remember, too, the children and young people who are unable to contact ChildLine themselves, be it because they are too young, or too scared.
“Whatever the reason, we want adults who are worried about a child to be able to contact the NSPCC helpline.
“The support and advice they receive calms fears, solves problems - and even saves lives.”
To support the appeal launch, a new TV advertising campaign will screen from this evening which draws on the theme of voices being heard (image above).
For further information visit: www.childsvoiceappeal.org.uk or call freephone 0844 892 0562 for support with fundraising.
In April last year, ChildLine South West was able to relocate from Newton Abbot to Exeter city centre premises capable of housing expansion of the service thanks to funding from the Children’s Promise, a project jointly developed by the New Millennium Experience and Marks and Spencer.
The new accommodation is shared with the NSPCC’s Young Witness Support Service which helps child witnesses who have to give evidence in court - mostly in sexual abuse cases.