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The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"About 20,000 youngsters try to get through every day"
 real 56k

Friday, 29 September, 2000, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Children 'unaware' of ChildLine
Girl using phonebox
Many children who call are too scared to speak
More than half of all young children are unaware of a national helpline for children at risk, according to research.

The study commissioned by ChildLine suggests that 52% of all under-11s have never heard of the service.

Calls answered from primary age children
1999: 20,000
1998: 19,000
1997: 17,000

The charity is now launching a campaign to raise awareness with promotions on cereal packets.

The Helping Kids Grow campaign, run in partnership with food giant Kellogg's, is aimed at children, parents, carers and teachers.

Bullying

The ChildLine symbol and fundraising messages will be carried on 31 million packs of cereal, while 22 million packs will feature a free CD pop music promotion and cartoon strips of children who solve problems such as bullying and loneliness.

Esther Rantzen
Esther Rantzen: "We are here for the children"

It is hoped the campaign will reach more than half of all UK breakfast tables.

ChildLine was launched in 1986 by broadcaster Esther Rantzen, who is its chairman.

Last year, the helpline volunteers answered more than 20,000 calls from children of primary school age, compared with 19,000 in 1998 and 17,000 the previous year.

Bullying is the main reason younger children call the hotline.

The issue was the reason for almost a third of all calls from children aged under 11 during the last three years.

Sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect was the second most common reason for young children calling during the same period.

The research, published on Friday, suggests that awareness of ChildLine among older children is much better than among the under-11s.

It indicates that only one in 10 older children are unaware of the helpline.

'We need support'

It emerged last month that the helpline was overstretched and was answering just one in five calls, because it did not have the resources to meet the demand.

The charity said it needed more money, and needed to expand, but added that it did not want this to put children off from calling.

Ms Rantzen said: "This is the biggest single campaign ChildLine has ever been able to undertake.

"It will allow us for the first time to reach the majority of people in the UK with the message that we are here for the children but that we need the support of companies like Kellogg's and of the public in order to answer more of the children's calls."

Childline can be contacted on 0800 1111.

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See also:

21 Jun 00 | Scotland
Four-year-olds call abuse line
29 Aug 99 | Education
Primary school bullying 'on increase'
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