Dame Esther Rantzen visits Leeds for Childline’s 30th anniversary

Childline Founder Dame Esther Rantzen. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Childline Founder Dame Esther Rantzen. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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The founder of Childline, Dame Esther Rantzen, celebrated the charity’s upcoming 30th anniversary by dropping into its Leeds base.

Volunteers who help youngsters who have contacted the service in distress met with the broadcaster for a tea party.

And today she will visit Crossley Street Primary School in Wetherby to watch an NSPCC assembly, where pupils are to learn crucial lessons about how to help keep themselves and their friends safe.

An attempted 50,000 calls were made to Childline when it started on October 30, 1986.

Presenter Dame Rantzen, 76, said: “It’s very exciting to have reached such a landmark, really.

“People say to me ‘does it feel like 30 years?’ And I say ‘no it feels like 150’. Because of constant new challenges.”

The Leeds contact base, which is in the St John’s Centre, has 47 volunteers who respond to youngsters from across the UK in need of help exclusively using email and online chats rather than the old way of taking phone calls.

Dame Esther said: “It’s definitely liberated thousands of young people who might not feel able to talk about what’s happening to them but do feel comfortable about getting in touch with us online.

“The downside is it does take longer to counsel young people these ways.”

She said that around one in four cannot be responded to and the charity is hoping to increase volunteer numbers to aid the backlog.

“You always worry about the fourth child, who may be desperate,” she said.

Children can contact the helpline 24 hours a day by visiting www.childline.org.uk or calling 0800 1111.

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