Everyone has heard of Childline, the free and confidential 24-hour helpline for children who are desperate and have no one to turn to. But how many of us realise that the NSPCC Childline Schools Service now works with primary schools across the country, working with dedicated volunteers to help young children to recognise abuse and seek help where they need it.
Last week I helped to bring the Childline Schools Service into Parliament, so MPs could get a better understanding of how it works with a class of children aged 10 and 11. This was the first time I had seen the Schools Service in action, and I was deeply impressed by the skilled way in which the Childline volunteers get across complex messages in a way that makes it easy for children to understand in a way that is appropriate to their age.
Schools are really import in helping children and young people stay safe, and I have seen some great examples of how secondary schools do this, as part of my Greater Manchester-wide inquiry into child sexual exploitation.
But if we are really serious about stopping child abuse we need to reach children at a young age, in our primary schools, to show them they can talk to trusted adults about problems which might be troubling them. Childline says that although most children who contact them are aged over 11, many of these have suffered in silence for months or years before getting in touch. Since it began in 2012, 55 schools and over 2081 children in Greater Manchester have benefitted from this service.
I want to thank all the volunteers in Stockport from the NSPCC and Childline for the work they do. By offering a few hours a week, local volunteers are not only helping prevent child abuse and neglect, but also raising awareness of the issues in their own communities. By working together with communities we can protect and keep our children safer.