Childline night service to stay open after emergency deal

Charity to assist State by sharing use of technology to assist with child protection

Childline’s night-time service is to remain open after the charity reached an agreement with the Government over funding and use of technology. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Childline’s night-time service is to remain open after the charity reached an agreement with the Government over funding and use of technology. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Childline is to remain open at night-time after the Government and the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children reached an agreement on emergency funding.

Over recent months the charity had warned it would need to stop operating on a 24-hour basis unless is raised more than €1 million.

Neither Childline nor the Government was prepared to discuss the financial details of the agreement, except to say funding will be provided over a two-year period aimed at returning to service to financial sustainability.

The organisation, in turn, will also work with the Department of Children to support developments in the area of child protection.

The ISPCC’s emergency appeal has raised €400,000 in donations from members of the public to date, leaving it significantly short of its required target of €1.2 million.

The charity said that despite close links with the Government as part of the deal, it will remain independent.

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly, who finalised the agreement, said it was important that children and young people knew there was a service for them to go with their concerns at any time of day or night.

“The role played by Childline is a vital one as part of a wider architecture around supporting children and young people,” he said.

“Childline has considerable experience in being the ‘listening ear’ to concerns of children and young people, from simple problems to issues of a more serious nature. I believe it is right that the State protects that service and respects its independence.”

Dan Flinter, chairman of the ISPCC, also welcomed the agreement and thanked members of the public for their donations over recent weeks.

“Childline owes its existence for the past 26 years to the Irish public. Today’s announcement follows the generous response of the Irish public to our emergency appeal,” he said.

“Minister James Reilly has made clear that he values the importance of the Childline service. His department will work with us to ensure Childline remains an around-the-clock service.”

Part of the agreement will include Childline assisting the department in exploring the enhanced use of technology to assist with the roll-out of the State’s policy on the handling of child protection concerns.

Children First, which sets out reporting obligations for concerns over potential child abuse or neglect, is due to be placed on a statutory footing for the first time next year.

The ISPCC has also agreed to provide information to the Government departments regarding “hidden harm” issues as reported by children and young people to Childline.

The information will help departments to identifying the needs of children and young people within their families and the level of that need.