Child Helpline

Definition 

  • A support and intervention service for children and young people run by civil society organisations or government.
  • The services provided may range from supporting a child or young person who is unsure whether to report abuse, to providing direct assistance in removing a child from a dangerous situation.
  • Ideally, the service is confidential, anonymous and accessible free of charge, 24 hours per day, seven days a week and may be operated via telephone but also other means/technologies such as: text messaging, internet chat services/internet messaging, discussion forums, email and face-to-face meetings.
  • Child helplines operate in partnership with key referral services, working closely with educational facilities, hospitals, law enforcement, judicial services, shelters, and other child-related services.

Why is it needed? 

  • Children need to know that they are not alone.If they do not feel comfortable speaking with a family member, a friend or statutory services, children are reassured that they have direct access to an anonymous, confidential support service they can turn to. 
  • Contacting a child helpline is often a child’s first engagement and entry point with child protection services and a positive experience can help them feel confident and empowered to access more services.
  • Children may wish to remain anonymous but still report abuse against themselves or others; such an approach will help countries gather intelligence and information on potential offences and act upon this where possible.

Good Practice 

  • In countries where a helpline does not currently exist, the first step is to identify the funding source and ownership of a helpline to ensure sustainability and direction.
  • Establish the type of service the helpline will provide, taking into account available resources and existing services – for example, listening, advice and support or referral point to relevant agency.
  • A formalised network of key referral agencies to work in partnership with each other needs to be established – obtaining single points of contact within key child protection bodies and law enforcement provides direct and easy access to specialist help and support.
  • All employees must be subject to pre-employment and on-going checks that assess their suitability to work with children and they should receive the necessary training and guidance to enable them to fulfil their role to a high and consistent standard. Employees should also receive the necessary welfare support when exposed to distressing cases.
  • Robust decision-making processes, based on risk, need to be developed and followed when prioritising and actioning cases reported to the helpline, in accordance with the law and any existing data-protection rules.
  • The helpline should be promoted to children and young people by signposting within schools and youth settings, including relevant online platforms.