A Childline volunteer from Wales has shared her concerns for children facing increased risks and intensified problems this Christmas because of the pandemic, predicting that Childline will be busier than previous years.
It comes as the charity launches its Here for Children Christmas Appeal across the UK and Channel Islands, with landmarks and prominent buildings, including Cardiff Castle and Cardiff City Hall, turning the charity’s trademark green this week as a mark of support.
Christmas is often a difficult time for children suffering abuse, neglect and poor mental health and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to put even more children at risk this year. Young people from Wales are already telling Childline of their misery ahead of Christmas.
“I’ve been having some really bad days lately and I’ve been struggling quite badly. My grandma has been seriously ill for a while and my father just told me she might not make it to Christmas. I can’t bear the thought of her not being here for Christmas. I had thoughts of self-harming because it’s the only way I feel like I have control. No one knows how I’m feeling because I don’t want to burden my family with my problems.”
Girl, aged 16 from Wales*
“I know I am supposed to be happy at Christmas but to be honest I’m not excited at all. I don’t really know what to say, but school hasn’t been great. Someone showed me a screenshot where a friend that I thought was loyal was saying horrible things about me behind my back. I just feel really miserable and sad and I have no one to talk to.”
Girl, aged 13 from Wales*
Ffion Thomas started volunteering for Childline three years ago, counselling children with nowhere else to turn from the charity’s Prestatyn base.
“I think Christmas at Childline this year could be busier because there are a lot of additional stressors for people at home due to the pandemic such as money worries, and the impact on mental health,” she says. “My Christmas wish for children in Wales would be for them all to have a safe and happy Christmas after such a difficult year, and if they are struggling that they have someone in their life that they can trust and talk to, whether that be someone they know personally or Childline. This is why it’s so important that Childline is open all year round and able to take contacts from young people particularly at a time like Christmas. Volunteers are the heart of Childline and they are the amazing reason that children are listened to all year round even on Christmas day.”
It costs £4 for a volunteer counsellor to answer a child’s call for help to Childline, and £1,600 to train a new volunteer in that role, with the NSPCC relying on public donations for 90% of its funding. As part of its new campaign, the charity is appealing for people to donate £20 to the NSPCC so that services like Childline can be here for children this Christmas. Childline volunteers have counselled more than 1,500 children in Wales about mental and emotional health since the initial lockdown in March and as the pandemic lingers the service continues to hear from children who are struggling.
Last Christmas, there were more than 6,500 Childline counselling sessions delivered across the UK and Channel Islands between Christmas Eve and January 4 2020.
Ffion adds: “What drives me to volunteer for Childline is being there for children and young people that may not have anyone else to turn to. It’s such an important service, and the volume of contacts we get really reflects that. The contacts we get at this time of year really puts into perspective for me, how Christmas can be really challenging for some children and young people, and how it takes away things they may have relied on for support or distraction such as school and friends. We don’t yet know how many children and young people will need us this year, but at Childline we pledge our support will be there every day over the phone or on the Childline website where children can also safely chat to one another and access lots of practical activities and tips to manage anxiety and stress.”
Cardiff Castle and Cardiff City Hall are among dozens of iconic buildings lighting green in support of the NSPCC’s Christmas campaign, including the SS Great Britain, Liverpool’s World Museum, Tyne Bridge, Alexandra Palace, and Battersea Power Station.
“Cardiff is proud to show its support for the NSPCC and the vital support that is accessible to children through its Childline service,” says Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Cllr Graham Hinchey. “This Christmas, after what has been a difficult year for many families across the country, children may be presented with a new set of challenges at home and it is essential that they have someone to turn to for safe advice and support. The counselling provided by Childline volunteers is invaluable and we want to acknowledge their hard work and commitment by lighting Cardiff’s most iconic buildings green this December.”
The charity continues to appeal for English and Welsh speaking volunteers at its Childline base in Prestatyn. Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package. To find out more about the role and how to apply visit the charity’s website or contact the staff team on 01745 772 101 or via [email protected].
Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to midnight from Monday to Friday or 9am to midnight on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk.