Advice service for young people in Wales launched

An advice service for young people offering help to access or complain about a range of issues from bullying to social services is being launched.

The assembly government’s £459,850 advocacy service promises to complement the counselling service ChildLine

The service is available by phone, text, e-mail or instant messaging.

But the Conservatives have criticised the new service as a “costly duplication” and said money would be better spent supporting ChildLine.

The scheme – part of a five-year plan for promoting children’s rights – is billed as complementing other child-focused services and helplines such as ChildLine.

Wales already has a Children’s Commissioner and counselling services are being rolled out to schools.

Called Meic (the Welsh shorthand term for microphone), the new bilingual service aims to provide advocacy and advice for children and young people up to the age of 25.

The assembly government said that, in contrast, ChildLine provides counselling and support for children and young people.

Helpline co-ordinator Gavin Thomas said: “They are entirely different things.”

“There are children and young people in Wales who are not able to get their voices heard.”

He said Meic would help them with support through advocacy.

“We are working in tandem with services like Childline and Meic will be that portal – that one single point of contact for young people.

“If it does turn out that a young person contacting Meic does need counselling and does need that level of support that Childline gives then they will be passed on to Childline.”

But the Conservatives said ministers had ignored their concerns that the Meic advocacy service was a “costly and unnecessary duplication of the existing ChildLine scheme”.

Education spokesman for the Tories, Paul Davies AM said: “We have still not had answers to questions of ongoing operational costs and why the minister thinks this level of investment is appropriate.

“That said, we want to ensure all young people are listened to and supported fully, and that those who are vulnerable never feel alone or helpless.”

Instant message

Initially, Meic will operated for eight hours a day, from 12-8pm, before becoming a 24-hour service.

Meic will be launched by Deputy Minister for Children Huw Lewis and Radio 1 presenter Aled Haydn Jones at Glyndŵr University, Wrexham.

Jones is presenter of Radio 1’s advice show The Surgery and as “BB Aled” is a producer of The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show.

He said: “Children and young people face a wide range of issues and often feel like they struggle to get their voices heard. I had first-hand experience of this when I was growing up.”

He said the service would “help empower” children to ensure they have positive life experiences.”

Meanwhile, Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler said it would be a “one stop shop” for reliable information for children.

Children and young people under 25 can get in touch with Meic by free phone (080880 23456), free text (84001) or instant message ( seven days a week.