Esther Rantzen pays tribute to Childline and Silver Line teams after Women of the Year honour

Dame Esther Rantzen hailed “the work, the commitment, and the passion” of the volunteers and staff of the charities she set up after being honoured at the Women of the Year Awards.

The broadcaster, long-time activist and founder of children’s charity Childline and The Silver Line, a service which helps older people in the UK battling loneliness, received the lifetime achievement award.

The 67th edition of the awards recognised and celebrated 400 women from across the UK who have achieved remarkable things this year.

Dame Esther (pictured), 81, told the PA news agency: “It’s obviously an extraordinary honour, the Women Of The Year lunch is a unique event.

“I’ve been lucky enough to attend it many times and I’ve always been hugely impressed by all the women there, but, of course, particularly the winners, who are extraordinary achievers.

“I have learned so much about causes that they’ve campaigned for, the difference they’ve made to vulnerable people, people who’ve needed help.

“So it is an amazing honour to be included among those outstanding women.”

The former That’s Life! presenter and producer who has also been a trailblazer for female broadcasters, insisted on the importance of the charities’ volunteers and staff.

She said: “It’s very important that we stress that none of this would have happened without the work, the commitment, and the passion of the team of volunteers and staff who created Childline and created The Silver Line, and create so many important charities because they care about the people they’re helping.”

Childline was the first national helpline for children in danger or distress, and since its launch in 1986, it has been responsible for 5.5 million counselling sessions.

The Silver Line was set up in 2013 and now handles 10,500 calls every week from older people, as well as offering a befriending service to combat loneliness and aiding those who may be suffering abuse or neglect.

She told PA: “I think what happens is if you offer people good information about a way they can help people who have nowhere else to turn, they will come forward, generation after generation.

“It’s one of the aspects of this country, which I think is really remarkable.”

She also reflected on the “huge challenges of the pandemic years” on the services, particularly on children and older people, which increased the demand on the charities.

Some children lost their “safe haven” of school and faced violence, abuse or neglect, while older people were especially affected by the illness and faced heightened issues surrounding care and loneliness.

“But the wonderful thing has been that, and I think this is reflected all over the country, that volunteers have come forward to do everything they can to try and support people,” she added.

“The community seems to have come together and in some ways, I think the inspiration of people like Captain Sir Tom Moore has reminded people how much difference we can make as individuals.

“And I think that there’s been very tough times, but also some extraordinary examples of terrific work.”

The award ceremony, held in central London, focused on Covid-19 workers with around half the guests being key workers such as bus drivers, supermarket workers, caterers, taxi drivers, pharmacy workers and cleaners, as well as frontline NHS staff and officials.

It also paid tribute to the Toyko 2020 Olympians and Paralympians for their strength and determination over the summer, with athletes including Kate French, Sophie Hahn, Emma Wiggs, Eilidh McIntyre, Kathleen Dawson and Kylie Grimes all in attendance.

The event was hosted by comedian and presenter Sue Perkins and awards were presented by actress Suranne Jones, TV host Lorraine Kelly and broadcaster Cat Deeley.

The innovation award went to Heba Bevan, founder of revolutionary smartsensor technology company UtterBerry, and Mursal Hedayat, refugee founder of online language school Chatterbox, accepted the women in the community award.

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