By Karrie Gillett
FORMER Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus showed her support for a new children’s helpline which would see counsellors available online.
The campaign from charity NSPCC is hoping to raise more than £11 million in Scotland over the next three years to expand the service which answers calls for help from anxious kids.
Last year, 33,500 youngsters spoke to volunteers in Scotland about problems ranging from abuse at home to troubles at school.
Now the charity aims to develop this vital service through its Child’s Voice campaign – with the goal of training more counsellors to answer an increasing number of calls.
And singer Michelle McManus, from Glasgow, joined a children’s choir today in Edinburgh to launch the start of the appeal as a new counselling base opened in the city.
She said: “I jumped at the chance to be part of the campaign.
“I know that more than 33,000 kids called and spoke to someone at ChildLine last year and one in three of those children had never spoken to anyone before.
“These stats just show how important the charity is – it really is the first and only resort for some children.
“I grew up in large family, I’ve got little sisters myself and I think every child deserves a safe childhood at the very, very least and as adults we are here to protect them.”
After launching the appeal, the NSPCC announced major plans to build on the ChildLine phone service which one child accesses every minute.
The funds raised will go towards creating an online and text message service and to building on their adult helpline which advises adults who have concerns about a child.
Elaine Chalmers, head of ChildLine Scotland, said the aim was to widen access to help for troubled children in Scotland so that no call would go unanswered.
She said: “We want to double the capacity of volunteers answering calls and use new, exciting ways to work with children such as texting and going on the internet.
“The demand is there to be answered and we want to work with children in a way that they are most comfortable with.
“We would take about one call a minute from a child but times have moved on and kids are more and more comfortable with texting and the internet.
“Expanding these services would mean that we could make sure no worried child would have to go without speaking to someone.
“It doesn’t matter how small the concern, if it matters to them, it matters to us.”
The new Edinburgh base which opens tomorrow will be the third premises in Scotland for the charity alongside its Aberdeen and Glasgow centres.
ChildLine Scotland has been responding to concerned children since 1990 with bullying, family relationships and abuse the three main reasons for calls.
And 2003 Pop Idol winner Michelle, 28, backed the plea from the charity that no problem would be too insignificant for volunteers to listen to.
She said: “The basic fact is that the charity is there to listen; that’s what it’s all about.
“Sometimes the kids are terrified to talk to anyone because they don’t feel they are going to be able to make any sense or get any help.
“It’s really important to let them know that there are people here to listen and they do have someone to turn to.”