Goal of new football partnership to remind children help is available

Dublin and District Schoolboys/Girls League partnering with Childline to raise awareness

The Dublin and District Schoolboys/Girls League is expected to return over the weekend of January 23rd and 24th, giving thousands of children an opportunity to get out and play again. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

The Dublin and District Schoolboys/Girls League is expected to return over the weekend of January 23rd and 24th, giving thousands of children an opportunity to get out and play again. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

 

The country’s largest football league has announced a partnership with Childline, the children’s listening service backed by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC).

The new partnership aims to inform children who have been affected by coronavirus restrictions that there is help and support available to deal with issues such as loneliness and domestic abuse, incidences of which have soared since the first lockdown when domestic violence calls rose by almost half.

The Dublin and District Schoolboys/Girls League (DDSL) – which is made up of 140 clubs fielding 1,900 teams and 26,000 players – will donate financially to the service over the next few years. However, both parties agree that the real value of the link-up will be a growth in awareness at a time when anxiety levels among young players, their siblings and friends have increased.

“With the first lockdown everything shut down obviously and there was a lot of publicity over the frontline staff which got us thinking at the time that we needed to do something,” says DDSL secretary George Victory. “But we couldn’t figure out what to do.

“It came up at a meeting, though, and someone had been talking to a friend who was a superintendent in the guards and he happened to say that the biggest problem they had at that particular time was domestic violence, including towards kids. That was the main problem they had because a lot of other types of crime had actually dropped off. That got us thinking and it didn’t take us long to settle on Childline.”

Victory says the league made an approach about a partnership and everyone was impressed that the people at Childline seemed primarily interested in the opportunity to get their message out rather than the financial support involved. This is an impression ISPCC chief executive John Church tends to reinforce.

“We are grateful for every donation, of course,” he says, “but we need to be wherever children are and this is a credible, friendly promotion of our service. Children need to see that we are there for them and be comfortable with using the service. And this helps with raising the awareness required for that, with assuring children that it is good to talk and that we are there for them when they feel like they could do with having someone.”

Increased demand

Church says, however, that demand for Childline’s services are already far in excess of pre-Covid-19 levels and restrictions related to the pandemic are a major contributory factor.

“We get up to 800 contacts every single day to our 24/7 phone, webchat and texts,” he says. “So we have certainly seen the impact of it every day. We know what the issues that kids are having and, certainly with Covid, we saw a substantial spike in contacts immediately when we went into lockdown.

“As soon as the schools closed we experienced a surge in demand. We saw a particular increase in demand for our webchat and text services and what that was telling us was that some children certainly didn’t feel comfortable having a conversation overheard at home. We would touch base with Women’s Aid and what we saw there was that what Women’s Aid was going through was pretty much the same as us, just at different ends of the age spectrum.

“In more normal times, teachers in schools or coaches and other parents involved in clubs are usually the people who are able to gauge a child’s mood, who can sense if something is changing or if there is something going on that a child might not feel able to talk about. So with leagues like the DDSL closed down, a major support mechanism was removed and so demand for our services would have gone through the roof from March.

“So you have that sort of bullying, you have that violence, all of which would have increased because you’re in lockdown and you’re in this pressure-cooker situation and we certainly saw an increase in fear, anxiety, tension.

“But children ring us for every single reason, not just because they are suffering abuse or the other sorts of difficult cases. We get kids just wanting a chat and that’s what Childline is there for. It’s there for everybody who wants to talk about whatever they want.”

Victory says the hope is the league will return over the weekend of January 23rd and 24th, giving thousands of children an opportunity to get out and play again.

The reaction from clubs to the Childline partnership has, he says, “been fantastic” and they hope many will promote the organisation’s work at a local level.

- Childline is available to any child and young person up to the age of 18. It can be contacted online at childline.ie, by calling 1800 666 666, by texting to 50101 or through social media (Instagram: @ispcc_childline, Facebook: ISPCC Childline, Twitter: @ISPCCChildline)

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