NSPCC launches Helpline text service to report child abuse

The NSPCC is launching a text service to drive ‘on the spot’ reports of child abuse to its Helpline. The text number – 88858 – is free and available 24 hours a day.

The NSPCC is also announcing TV psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos as its first ever Helpline Ambassador today. She is backing the NSPCC call for people to act when worried about a child.

The launch comes as an NSPCC poll reveals people are unlikely to report child abuse unless they act immediately. One in five polled in the Midlands said they had been concerned a child was being abused or neglected, but most (58%) of those who didn’t report their fears immediately took no action later.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos says: “Most people want to help children. Four in five people in the NSPCC poll said they would report abuse later if they didn’t do so straight away. But the reality is very different – the longer people wait, they less likely they are to act.

“As a psychologist I know how easily people talk themselves out of doing anything. They may think it’s none of their business, or they’ve made a mistake, or they simply can’t decide what to do. But procrastination can be fatal for an abused child. Tomorrow may be too late.

“Sending a text is quick and immediate, whether you’re at home or out shopping. It’s good to know you’ve taken action. So if you’re worried about a child, the message is simple. Don’t delay, text the Helpline today.”

In the NSPCC poll, a third of adults (38% ) in the Midlands who had been concerned about a child had not acted immediately because they didn’t know what to do or who to call. Some said they were worried about being overheard (17%) or didn’t want to speak to someone on the phone (12%). Others feared retaliation or were anxious about making a mistake.

The NSPCC Helpline received an anonymous call from a woman in Northamptonshire who was very worried about a young girl who had been locked out of the house in the freezing cold and who was banging to get back in. The woman told the Helpline that the girl’s father was a heavy drinker and that the girl was often locked out. Eventually another family living nearby took the girl in until her father could be contacted. The NSPCC Helpline referred the caller’s information to local children’s services. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect identity.

Fiona Richards, NSPCC Regional Head of services for children and families in the East Midlands said: “We must pick up on the signs of child abuse as early as possible. Social workers cannot be in the community all the time. By texting the Helpline the public in Northamptonshire can help be their eyes and ears.

“Our new text service – 88858 – is discreet and only takes a few seconds but it could be the difference between life and death for a child.”

Anyone sending a text to the NSPCC Helpline on 88858 will receive an immediate response confirming that their message has been received. This message will also encourage them to call the Helpline on 0808 800 5000, or to contact the police if they think a child is in immediate danger.

A trained NSPCC Helpline counsellor will reply to a text message within three hours, and offer advice, information and assistance. They may ask for additional information about the person’s concerns, or confirm that a referral has been made to the police or social services.

The new text service makes the NSPCC Helpline more accessible, and adds to the existing ways that people can get in touch, by 24-hour freephone (0808 800 5000), by email [email protected], or by making a report online at www.nspcc.org.uk/helpline.

Fiona Richards says: “Some people may prefer texting to talking when reporting abuse or seeking advice and information about keeping children safe. However you contact the Helpline, it’s about choosing the right option for you.”