Behind the News: Monica Rowe – Childline volunteer

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says a funding shortfall might threaten its 24-hour helpline

Monica Rowe: “It’s hard to listen to a child crying down the phone.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Monica Rowe: “It’s hard to listen to a child crying down the phone.” Photograph: Eric Luke


The most difficult calls to deal with are the ones in which the caller doesn’t speak but sobs throughout the call and then hangs up, says Monica Rowe, who has been a Childline volunteer for almost four years.

“What we do on these calls is say, ‘We’re here for you, we’ll always be here for you, whenever you’re ready, we’ll get help for you if you want it.’ ”

One of 650 volunteers with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Children, Rowe is concerned that the funding shortfall highlighted by the organisation this week will result in reduced services – particularly reduced hours for its Childline service, which is the only 24-hour helpline for children in the Republic.

“I have talked to children day and night who have experienced depression, loneliness, emotional difficulties, bullying and suicidal thoughts.

“Surely these children should have access to the support they need, when they need it,” she says.

“It’s hard to listen to a child who is crying down the phone, distressed and asking for help. What makes it harder is knowing that one in three calls will not be answered.”

Childline received about 660,000 phone calls last year and answered about 440,000.

Volunteers also had 13,000 text conversations and almost 7,000 web chats.

All of its services are available for young people up to the age of 18.

A mother of a grown-up son, Rowe ran anti-bullying, self-defence and confidence-building courses in schools for years before funding for such extracurricular courses was cut.

“I was working mainly with transition-year students, and I was so aware that some children had experienced bad stuff that they should have talked about earlier.”

She says there is a worrying increase in cyberbullying. “I say to parents with technology, it’s like the child can take the entire world into their bedrooms. It frightens me – and we are getting the results of it on the phone lines.”

Childline volunteers do a four-hour shift each week, having received training over eight weeks before they begin.

“Our role is to reassure the child who has called. It takes an enormous amount of courage to pick up a phone and call Childline.

“We will never tell a child what to do, give out advice or lead the conversation in a certain direction,” she says.

Although the ISPCC is obliged to report any concerns about a child to the Garda or a social worker, the Childline volunteer will do so only if the child requests it.

“We encourage the child to stay on a first-name basis, and if he or she is in trouble we will explain that we can get help if needed but that this will never happen if the child doesn’t want it.”

Childline is at 1800-666666 24 hours a day. Text “Talk” to 50101 for text conversations or text “Bully” to 50101 for support about bullying; these services are available from 10am to 10pm. See also and

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.