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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Charity may pull plug on helpline
Childline counsellors
Children who ring the line face a range of problems
A children's charity has warned that a cash crisis could force the end of its overnight helpline.

Childline Scotland has said that, in a typical year, it receives 32 serious calls at night.

Experts said they were so urgent they had to be referred to other bodies or the emergency services.

The charity across the UK has launched a 1m appeal to save the London-based service, which handles calls from around the country overnight.

Fundraisers say that the hours of darkness can see vulnerable children facing the most extreme dangers but that "compassion fatigue" had slashed donations.

They stressed that tough decisions would have to be taken to cut costs at the charity, which was launched 20 years ago by Esther Rantzen.

Tsunami donations

Ms Rantzen said that, following the generosity of the British people towards the tsunami disaster, Childline's flow of donations had started to dry up.

"We need the public to help us save this service. It is not that we have money left in the bank in reserve, we have spent every penny and now the charity is facing the prospect of actually cutting the service," she said.

Many desperate youngsters who call trained counsellors at night consider suicide, thousands are subject to physical or sexual abuse and others are forced to sleep on the street.

Anne Houston
Unfortunately, for a small number of those children the result could be fatal
Anne Houston
Childline Scotland

Director of Childline Scotland Anne Houston said: "In excess of 30 children and young people from Scotland last year were in such a crisis that we had to make sure they got immediate service from some other organisation, like police or ambulance.

"At night, at times it can be single figures per hour which is hugely different from during the day. But the concern for us is the level of vulnerability."

She continued: "Our biggest concern is that they don't phone anybody. Unfortunately, for a small number of those children the result could be fatal.

"That sounds an exaggeration, but it's not. There have been some young people who have taken overdoses and who have needed the emergency services.

'Particularly vulnerable'

"Unfortunately, they don't seem to have the trust to phone the emergency services directly themselves. They have to go through an organisation they trust."

Ms Houston added: "Many of these children for example have run away from abuse, they're homeless and some have taken overdoses.

"They are a particularly vulnerable group who are up and about and phoning in the small hours of the morning. That's our major concern."

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