Childline must receive more funding to cope with demand from suicidal children

The open letterCredit:NSPCC The open letter Childline must be given more funding from government, 130 MPs have said in an open letter as the helpline sees demand from suicidal children almost treble. The NSPCC said its helpline is struggling to cope with a growing number of complex cases, a rising number of which come in overnight as children are more likely to have access to tablets and mobile phones. It now offers counselling via email, online chat and via a mobile app but struggles to recruit volunteers to work the unsociable hours when children are increasingly likely to call. Figures from the charity show that the number of sessions for children who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings has risen from 8,835 in 2010-11 to 22,456 in 2016-17, and they now make up almost 10 per cent of the charity’s counselling. Two thirds of counselling sessions about mental and emotional health, self-harm and suicide are now delivered between 5pm and 9am, and one in three counselling sessions about mental health take place over the weekend. In one in every four cases, calls or contacts go unanswered, the charity said, as not enough counsellors are available.The growing number of cases which involve suicidal thoughts also mean that volunteers need extra training to help them deal with the more complex issues they throw up. The letter addressed to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt is signed by Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen as well as MPs including Luciana Berger, Andrew Selous, and Yvette Cooper, as well as Conservative peers Lord Suri of Ealing and Lord Balfe. It calls for money from a £300 million pledge set out in the recently-published Government green paper on children’s mental health to be used to fund the service.”Government must think more widely about where and when children need support in order to address the real mental health crisis our young people face,” the letter says. “The NSPCC urgently needs to increase both the number of available volunteers and to improve and expand the training that they receive. “This will ensure that Childline is equipped to support the more complex mental health needs children are coming to the service with. It surely deserves Government support and investment.” The charity’s annual report for 2016/17 showed that the Department of Education pledged £8m in funding over four years. A Government spokesperson said: “Our plans will transform mental health services for children and young people, including the first ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems.“This will be supported by a new workforce – larger than the entire current workforce – and backed by £300m of additional funding that will also provide significant additional support for all schools.”   Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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