News : Stop! Helpline Missing More Calls Than It Takes
May 15, 2014 -- A child sexual abuse prevention helpline which offers confidential advice, information and support to UK adults concerned about sexual abuse is 'missing' an average of 2200 calls a month, over and above the 500 a month currently answered.
The figures are revealed as initial findings from an independent evaluation of the Stop it Now! Helpline are published. The research, which also looks at Stop it Now! UK and Ireland's sister helpline in Holland, has been led by National Centre for Social Research and aimed to assess the contribution such sexual abuse prevention helplines make to keeping children safe.
The findings reveal the importance of providing anonymous support and advice to help prevent child sexual abuse, including online harm such as sexual grooming and accessing indecent images of children.
Callers who cannot get through to the Stop it Now! UK and Ireland Helpline, which has been running in the UK since 2002, receive an answerphone message informing them that the line is busy and that they should call back. The missed call data covers the twelve months to March 2014. In April 2014 the Helpline missed a record number of 3,676 calls.
Key points drawn from the research include:
A confidential helpline can provide cost effective, quality information that prompts behaviour change in adults and helps to protect children
- Two thirds of potential offenders who completed the online questionnaire had changed their behaviour to reduce the risk of committing an offence following their contact with the helpline
- Users of the helpline were very positive about the support provided by the helpline. Emphasis was placed on the nature and quality of information, and skills, empathy and attitude of the staff (including their ability to challenge callers)
- Further investment in capacity on the helpline is required as demand currently exceeds capacity to take calls and prospective users may be dissuaded from calling again. An average of 450-520 calls are taken a month with 2,199 being 'missed' as the line is busy
- ''Lack of awareness' was identified as a key barrier to people accessing the helpline at the earliest opportunity and additional resources are required to raise awareness of the Helpline
- The helpline service should be combined with prevention education programmes for children and young people; awareness raising for parents/carers and other adults on how to protect children and recognise the signs of abuse; and efforts to promote the safe use of the internet
- The helpline has received 31,314 contacts from 14,524 people in ten years.
Alongside the summary of findings, NatCen's researchers have a produced a toolkit for European organisations about how they can set up their own child sex abuse prevention helplines which is being launched at an event in the UK Parliament.
Dr Carol McNaughton Nicholls, Senior Research Director at NatCen Social Research said:
"Sexual abuse has long term impacts on the health and wellbeing of those affected by it. This study provides more evidence that we can stop child sexual abuse before it happens, highlighting the need for a truly comprehensive response."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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