Usually during August as primary school children return to full time education in Scotland, in the schools service team we are busy preparing for the visits we will make over the coming academic year.
We aim to visit every primary school in the country every three years to talk to children about their right to be safe from abuse and neglect.
In 2019/20, we delivered our Speak out Stay safe programme in 64 schools in Aberdeenshire, talking to 11,478 children in an age-appropriate way about how to recognise abuse and neglect and empowering them to speak out if they are worried about anything.
However, because of Covid-19, we are unable to go into schools at the moment but we want you to know that we are working on innovative ways to continue getting these important messages to pupils and we hope to announce more details about our plans soon.
Despite stopping going into schools in March, many of my team members and I have continued to work – undertaking training so that we were able to support other teams in the NSPCC.
Following lockdown, it very quickly became apparent that Childline was struggling to meet demand, having a 30% drop in volunteer hours due to counsellors having to self-isolate. So, it seemed an obvious solution that while schools were closed we helped them out. We were trained to carry out online counselling sessions, closely supported by Childline supervisors.
When we visit schools with our Speak out Stay safe programme, we tell children about Childline and how they can call to speak to a counsellor about anything they may be worried about. Working as a counsellor has given me and my colleagues a much deeper insight into the kind of concerns children talk to our counsellors about and the invaluable service that Childline provides.
During lockdown, the most common issue that children and young people contacted us about was their mental and emotional health, including suicidal thoughts and feelings, and family relationships.
Some of my team, including myself, also undertook training to support NSPCC’s helpline experts, who take calls from adults concerned about a child’s wellbeing.
In May, the helpline received record number of calls, highlighting how children became hidden victims during lockdown. The main issues that people called about were parental behaviour, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
We know that many more children will have had difficult experiences during lockdown and so now, more than ever, we want children to know they can speak to a trusted adult or Childline about any of their worries.
While we are in the process of creating a new way to deliver our schools service programme in a COVID-19 safe way, children can watch our online assembly, featuring Ant and Dec, which we produced in June.
Children with any worries can contact Childline at www.childline.org.uk or www.childline.org.uk/kids as well as calling 0800 1111 for free.