Childline Gibraltar plans to launch a 24-hour helpline service, after the charity raised concerns over the number of out-of-hours phone calls left unanswered.
Last year, Childline was contacted 292 times via phone, their online live chat and email.
The phone helpline runs from 5pm to 9pm seven days a week, 365 days a year.
But the charity has found that people are frequently calling their helpline number out of hours, meaning that vital phone calls are left unanswered.
The helpline runs on a completely anonymous basis and those unanswered phone calls are never returned.
Childline was set up on the Rock 13 years ago and over the years the charity has transformed from a helpline service to online live chat, email, WhatsApp and provides an Appropriate Adult service for detained juveniles.
All their services are run locally, but to provide a 24hr helpline service the charity has had to seek help elsewhere.
Over the years Childline Gibraltar has forged close links with the NSPCC – the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – based in the UK.
The plan is for out of hours phone calls to Childline Gibraltar to be transferred to the NSPCC, Chairwoman of Childline Annie Green told the Chronicle.
This will mean that no phone call to Childline Gibraltar would be left unanswered.
“We do miss a lot and can you imagine how frustrating that is for us?” said Mrs Green.
“This is the main reason that has spurred us on to get the 24 hour cover.”
She added that a 24hr service has been an ambition of the charity for quite a long time.
“Our ambition is to have a 24hr service and this will be a huge piece of work for us, but I feel confident that we will achieve it,” Mrs Green said.
“We can only achieve it by our great cooperation we have the NSPCC and we are delighted with the really good rapport we have with them.”
“One of our trustees is soon be in conversation with the head of helpline services for the NSPCC just to get the initial grounding for what we hope is going to be the 24hr service.”
“Part of the service will be provided in Gibraltar and then we would have a call diversion to the NSPCC.”
Mrs Green described how a person would train to become a helpline volunteer and at times not receive a phone call for weeks.
“Then they will receive that call and they can be one sentence away from making a real deal of difference,” she said.
“That one call can be the most significant call that they are ever going to receive.”
She added it is sad to think that significant call might be left unanswered due to the caller ringing in out of hours.
Last month Childline launched their WhatsApp service on number 58008288 and within the first hour of launch received their first WhatsApp call.
“We are conscious that children now communicate very differently to how they would have communicated five to 10 years ago,” Mrs Green said.
“WhatsApp surprised us. We knew it would be labour intensive, but it was within the first 40 minutes from when it went live that we received a call on WhatsApp and it turned out to be very significant. Even if we don’t ever receive another call on WhatsApp it was worth it.”
Last year Childline made 11 referrals to external agencies following contacts with 30% of the 292 contacts regarding abuse.
A further 40% of contacts to Childline regard mental health including topics such as anxiety, depression, emotional stress, self-harm and suicide.
Childline was called out 98 times last year to assist young persons detained by the police with their Appropriate Adult service.
The last Appropriate Adult call out Childline received was last Tuesday.
The Appropriate Adult service provides young people detained by police an adult representative when parents and guardians are unable to attend.
Appropriate Adults undergo training and work on rotation to provide 24hr coverage 365 days a year.
Due to the nature of the service it is likely that Appropriate Adults will be called out to assist detained juveniles in the early hours of the morning.
Mrs Green stressed that Appropriate Adults do not take the place of parents when at the police station and do not make any decisions for the child.
The Appropriate Adults safeguard the interests and welfare of the child.
This week Childline is hosting ‘Blue Week’, their annual awareness campaign. Childline will be hosting presentations in 15 local schools this week.
See more about Childline and Blue Week in our print and e-edition.