LYNDA Bryans has lent her support to ChildLine’s ambitious new programme, which will see the charity’s volunteers visit every primary school in Northern Ireland by 2016, to help younger children recognise abuse – including bullying - and learn how they can stay safe.
Returning to her former primary school in Carryduff, Lynda described the new ChildLine Schools Service - which needs to recruit over 130 volunteers to reach all Northern Ireland primary schools over the next three years - as “invaluable”.
She said: “I am delighted to be able to support this innovative new service, which offers a real opportunity to change the face of child protection in Northern Ireland. The ChildLine Schools Service relies on the contribution of volunteers, who are committed to safeguarding young people and helping to prevent child abuse, and I would encourage anyone with time to spare to get involved.”
With stories of child abuse, exploitation and systematic child protection failures leading the news agenda, ChildLine aims to speak to every primary school child, in every classroom across every community, to start a societal change that could bring about a long term reduction in child cruelty.
Using assemblies and workshops, the new service is designed to encourage children to recognise situations where they may need help and where they can go to get it.
ChildLine Schools Service manager for Northern Ireland, Shaun Friel, emphasised its importance: “NSPCC research shows that an average of two children in every primary school classroom is suffering from abuse or neglect, and the majority of cases go undetected. These young children often feel alone and desperate and many have nobody to turn to.
“Most children who contact ChildLine are over 11 years of age, however many of these children suffered in silence for months or even years before eventually finding the courage to contact ChildLine. If we are really serious about stopping child abuse, we need to reach these children when they are younger.”
Delivered by volunteers, the programme will give children the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe and get help, in clear reassuring and age-appropriate language. The sessions are sensitively tailored to ensure topics are covered in a way that children can understand and have been approved as suitable for nine to 11-year-olds by child protection specialists.
During its 18 month pilot, the ChildLine Schools Service has visited 1,400 schools and spoken to 90,000 children across the UK. As part of the programme, children are shown how to talk to trusted adults about problems that may be troubling them, and also told about ChildLine and how to contact the helpline if they should ever need to. Sixty-seven per cent of children said that they were “much more likely to talk to someone” after the ChildLine Schools Service had visited their school. In addition to this, 81 per cent suggested they found the programme helpful.
The service now needs to recruit 4,000 volunteers UK-wide to reach all 23,420 schools and over 1.8 million children in three years.
For further information on how you can get involved, go to www.nspcc.org.uk/childlineschoolsservice, or call 02890351135.