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Frequently asked questions

Read the most commonly asked questions about our helpline, services and how the charity operates

We've split the questions out into categories so that you can easily find what you're looking for.

If you still can't find the answer you're after, please contact us by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk or by calling 0808 800 5000.

NSPCC helpline
ChildLine
Child protection

General queries


NSPCC helpline

When should I call the NSPCC's helpline?
Why does the NSPCC say ‘don’t wait until you’re certain’?
Why do some people contact the NSPCC instead of talking to social services?
What happens when I call the NSPCC's helpline?
Can I remain anonymous if I call the NSPCC's helpline?
What if I’ve got it wrong?
What sort of information may I be asked for?
What if I don’t have all the information?
Will anyone know it’s me who has called?
What information is recorded about me?
Can I see the records you have about me?
Can I find out who has called about me?
What happens to information from malicious calls to the NSPCC?
What is the Female Genital Mutilation Helpline?

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ChildLine

What does ChildLine do?
How do children contact ChildLine?
How does ChildLine help children?

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Child protection

What is child abuse?
What should I do if I'm worried about a child?
Where can I find information about child abuse and safeguarding?
Where can I find NSPCC child protection leaflets?
At what age can a child be left home alone?
How do I keep a child safe when they're out alone?
At what age can a young person become a babysitter?

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General queries

What does the NSPCC do?
When was the NSPCC founded?
Can I get a job at the NSPCC?
Does the NSPCC offer training or consultancy services?
Does the NSPCC work with Clothes Aid?
Can I use the NSPCC logo, images or information in my project?
Can I interview a member of your staff?
Where can I get information about the NSPCC's advertising for my project?
How can I make a comment or complain?

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When should I call the NSPCC's helpline service?

Our helpline service is available 24/7 for adults who are worried about a child or children.

Even if you are unsure, you can contact the NSPCC at any time to discuss concerns about a child, whether it’s your own, a family member, neighbor or a child in the community.

You should contact us to:

  • report suspected child abuse
  • ask a question about child abuse
  • get help or advice on how to look after a child’s welfare, such as teaching them internet safety.

Whatever you call us about we will advise on the best action for you to take. However, if a child is at immediate risk, we can take action on your behalf.

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Why does the NSPCC say ‘don’t wait until you’re certain’?

We know that many people worry about being wrong, causing trouble, or wasting the time of services by reporting concerns. This is understandable but we need to make sure that people don’t wait too long, or until it’s too late, before calling us.

Almost 50 per cent of people who contact us have been worried for more than a month before they take action. If their suspicions are genuine, that’s an additional month that a child has been at risk.

Our helpline counsellors are trained at assessing situations to determine if there is enough cause for concern to take further action, such as referring the report to social services.

Our campaigns: Don’t wait until you’re certain

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Why do some people contact the NSPCC instead of talking to social services?

People often tell us they feel more comfortable speaking to us directly about a child than to social services.

Here are some of the reasons why people chose to talk to the NSPCC:

Anonymity
People who contact us have the option to remain anonymous.

Possible false alarm
Some people are worried about wasting the time of social workers. Only about half the contacts the NSPCC receives actually require a referral to social services, so assessing the information that we receive from the public, our social work colleagues are able to focus on the most urgent cases.

Trust
Callers are confident that once information has been shared, we will take responsibility and follow up on it.

Available 24/7
Our coounsellors are available, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and easily contactable by phone, text, and email or our online form.

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What happens when I contact the NSPCC's helpline?

It depends how you choose to contact us (phone, email, text or our online form) and what you are getting in touch about.

By phone
Our helpline uncovered information gives a useful overview of what happens when you call.

By text
You will receive an automated reply acknowledging your message. We will also ask you to call the helpline immediately for the quickest response if you query is urgent.

Your text will be relayed to a helpline call handler. We use a confidential system that turns your text into an email, making it quick and simple for our staff to monitor them.

If they can, the call handler will respond - normally within three hours or sooner most of the time. We prioritise the most urgent messages.

If necessary, your text will be passed on to a helpline counsellor for specialist assessment who will either:

  • give you some specific advice about what you can do
  • ask for further information to help assess the situation. They may encourage you to call if you can, as it is normally easier to discuss your worries this way.
  • advise that immediate referral to social services or police is necessary, and take this action if you have provided enough information (e.g. child’s name and address).

By email
You will receive an automated response acknowledging your message. We will also ask you to call the helpline immediately for the quickest response if you query is urgent.

Your email will be read by a helpline call handler.

If they can, the call handler will respond within 24 hours and frequently quicker than that. We always prioritise the most urgent emails.

If necessary, your email will be passed on to a helpline counsellor for specialist assessment, they will then either:

  • give you some specific advice about what you can do
  • ask for further information to help assess the situation - they may encourage you to call if you can, as it can be easier to discuss your worries that way
  • advise that immediate referral to social services or police is necessary, and take this action if you have provided enough information (e.g. child’s name and address).

By our online reporting form
You will see an automated ‘pop up’, acknowledging that your form has been submitted. Please note, if your worries are urgent, it’s advisable to call the helpline immediately for the fastest response.

The form you have submitted will be read by a helpline call handler.

If you have provided contact details, the call handler will normally respond within 24 hours and frequently quicker than that. We prioritise the most urgent emails.

If necessary, your form will be passed on to a helpline counsellor for specialist assessment, they will then either:

  • contact you with advice about what you can do (providing you have given your contact details)
  • assess the information you have provided and contact you to discuss it further (providing you have given your contact details)
  • pass the information provided on to police or social services (provided you have given enough information to identify the child e.g. name and address)
  • take no further action but keep a record of your form (if there is not sufficient concern to take further action, or if there is concern, but you have not provided identifying details of the child or your own contact details).
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Can I remain anonymous if I call the NSPCC's helpline service?

Yes. Remember that your anonymity isn’t just about your name. It’s also about your relationship to a child, and the other information you provide.

Even if you tell us who you are, you can ask us not to share your details with other services - this means that the NSPCC can contact you for more information if it’s needed, but your identity will remain protected.

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What if I’ve got it wrong?

Identifying children who are at risk can be difficult. It’s natural to worry that you might be mistaken, but it's important that you trust your instincts and contact us.

Once you have discussed your worries with one of our professional counsellors, it’s no longer your responsibility - it’s ours. 

Our counsellors are trained and supported to assess information they are given, and make carefully considered decisions about further action. You can trust us to make the right decision on your behalf.

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What sort of information may I be asked for?

If we need to refer the case to the police or social services, we will ask you for details to help identify the child. These could include the child’s:

  • name
  • address
  • school
  • doctor
  • date of birth.

You don’t need to know all of this information, but please tell us as much as you know - a child’s safety may depend on it. 

If you are contacting us online or by text, these details allow us to take immediate action if we think the child is in danger.

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What if I don’t have all the information?

You should still contact us as any information you have could be of help. You may have simply seen the child on the bus, but there might be information that can help. For example, what number bus was it? Where did the child board? All of these details may be useful in helping us to identify a child.

Remember, you may not be the only person who has got in touch, and every extra detail could help.

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Will anyone know it’s me who has called?

Even if you share your contact details with us, we won’t pass these on to police or social services if you ask us not to. There are also steps you can take to remain anonymous

It helps if we have your details, as social services or the police may come back to us with questions only you can answer. We will never say who has called if we happen to talk directly to the child or the family concerned. However, we can’t guarantee someone won’t guess that it was you.

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What information is recorded about me?

All calls and communications are recorded and we keep records for 15 years.
We keep these records in case we need to use them at a later date to protect a child. We record what is said about a child's situation, as well as any identifying details given. 
From time to time, NSPCC records are used to support child protection investigations. Sometimes these are many years after the alleged abuse took place, which is why we keep long-term records.

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Can I see the records you have about me?

Under the Data Protection Act, you have the right to see personal information that the NSPCC holds about you, subject to certain exceptions. Please read our leaflet below explaining your rights and how you can get access. The leaflet also explains what you won't be able to see and what to do if you think if your information needs correcting.
Description: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/static/img/icon_pdf.gif Want to see your personal information? (PDF, 117Kb)

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Can I find out who has called about me?

We can’t tell you the identity of anyone who has called about you, or any information that leads to their identity. It is also extremely rare for the courts to ask them to reveal their identity.

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What happens to information from malicious calls to the NSPCC?

Sometimes, information that the NSPCC receives may be malicious. We work closely with other agencies to make sure such calls are identified, and that repeat reports do not occur. If you feel you have been the subject of a malicious call, please let us know.

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What is the Female Genital Mutilation Helpline?

The Female Genital Mutilation helpline, 0800 028 3550 and at FGMhelp@nspcc.org.uk, is a free 24/7 service staffed by trained counsellors offering advice and support to anyone worried about female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM is illegal and is a form of child abuse common to some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK. It is a potentially life threatening initiation ritual which can leave young victims in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.

Carried out in secret and often without anesthetic it involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs. Victims are usually aged between four and ten, but some are babies.

The free 24-hour helpline on 0800 028 3550 and at FGMhelp@nspcc.org.uk is for anyone concerned that a child's welfare is at risk because of female genital mutilation and are seeking advice, information or support. Though callers' details can remain anonymous any information that could protect a child from abuse will be passed to the police or social services.

Read our factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation

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What does ChildLine do?

ChildLine is a service for children and young people up the age of 18. It became part of the NSPCC in 2006. 

ChildLine was created in 1986 by Esther Rantzen, and since then it has counselled over 2 million children. Young people can contact ChildLine about any problem, big or small.

In recent times, the most common problems that children have contacted ChildLine about are:

  • Family relationship issues (14 per cent of calls)
  • Bullying (14 per cent)
  • Physical abuse (10 per cent)
  • Sexual abuse (8 per cent)
  • Facts of life (6 per cent)

For more information, please visit the ChildLine website.

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How do children contact ChildLine?

There are several ways that children, and young people up to the age of 18, can contact ChildLine: by telephoning 0800 1111, by email, via online chat, or by asking Sam.

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How does ChildLine help children?

Since it was launched in 1986, ChildLine has saved children's lives, found refuges for children in danger on the streets, and given hope to thousands of children who believed no one else cared for them. ChildLine has now counselled well over two million children and young people.

ChildLine also campaigns on behalf of children by relaying what they tell us to policy-makers, who can help change children's lives for the better.

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What is child abuse?

Child abuse is the term used when an adult harms a young person under the age of 18. Find out more about child abuse.

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What should I do if I'm worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child you should contact the NSPCC to discuss your concerns with one of our qualified counsellors. You can talk to an counsellor any time, day or night, on any day of the week. The service is free and you don't have to say who you are.

There are many ways of contacting the NSPCC's helpline service: telephone 0808 800 5000, text 88858, email help@nspcc.org.uk, report your concerns online, or write to the NSPCC at:

Weston House
42 Curtain Road
London
EC2A 3NH

You can also sign with BSL, or speak to us in other languages.

If you think a child is in immediate danger you should contact the police by calling 999. Alternatively, you can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

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Where can I find information about child abuse and child protection?

You can find information on this website. There is general advice on what child abuse is and on the warning signs that may indicate it. There is also guidance for parents, resources for communities, and resources for organisations and professionals.

If you require more detailed information, you can find research, statistics, fact sheets, and reading lists on our website specifically for professionals. If you can't find the information you're looking for there, you can contact one of our information professionals directly.

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Where can I find NSPCC child protection leaflets?

Many of our child protection leaflets are available to be downloaded for free from our website. See our list of leaflets, and information about how to order.

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At what age can a child be left home alone?

The law does not set a minimum age at which children can be left alone. However, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk.

Children under the age of 12 should not be left alone for more than a very short time; remember to put all obvious dangers out of reach, such as medicines, matches, and sharp objects. For older children, make sure they know what to do in an emergency and who to contact. We recommend that children under the age of 16 are not left alone overnight.

Find out more or read our Home Alone leaflet.

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How do I keep a child safe when they're out alone?

It's not easy to set an exact age when it’s safe for children to be out alone. Our Out Alone leaflet contains advice from professionals, as well as some practical tips from parents, to help you prepare your child for being out on their own.

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At what age can a young person become a baby-sitter?

There is no legal age at which a young person can baby-sit, but we recommend that the baby-sitter is over 16. Our Home Alone leaflet contains advice on choosing a baby-sitter, what questions to ask prospective sitters, and how to find registered childminders.

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What does the NSPCC do?

The NSPCC aims to end cruelty to children in the UK. We follow a combined approach: providing direct services to children, and using the experience gained from this work to inform policy, influencing and campaigning. In all our activities we are guided by four principles: to focus on areas in which we can make the biggest difference; to prioritise the children who are most at risk; to learn what works best for them; and to create leverage for change.

Therefore, our services focus on groups of children most at risk: children who are neglected, at high risk of physical abuse, who experience sexual abuse, who are under the age of one, disabled, who are from certain minority ethnic communities, and children who are looked after. When we have an idea about how to further reduce harm to children we test it out to make sure it works. If it does, we do everything we can to make sure that the new idea is taken up to help other children.

Find out more about what we do.

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When was the NSPCC founded?

The London Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded in 1884 by the Reverend Benjamin Waugh. It changed its name to the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1889. Queen Victoria became the Royal Patron of the NSPCC in the same year. Read more about the history of the NSPCC.

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Can I get a job at the NSPCC?

You can search for jobs at the NSPCC, find out what you can expect from us, what we are looking for, find out about our recruitment process, and ‘meet’ some of our staff on our careers page.

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Does the NSPCC offer training or consultancy services?

Yes, the NSPCC offers a range of training and consultancy services to organisations and individuals working with children. Call 0808 800 5000, complete our online enquiry form, or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

If you’re wondering whether your child or children's group is safe, you can also get safeguarding information related to activities outside of the home from our Safe Network.

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Does the NSPCC work with Clothes Aid?

The NSPCC does have a fundraising partnership with Clothes Aid to enable our supporters to recycle their old clothes and raise money for the NSPCC. Find out more about our partnership with Clothes Aid, or contact Clothes Aid directly.

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Students have our permission to use the NSPCC logo appropriately on their projects, as long as it is for a non-commercial purpose. We cannot give permission for the reproduction of any of the images on our website. They are subject to copyright and we only have permission to use them in specific circumstances. Students can use any of the information from the website, as long as they state where it comes from.

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Can I interview a member of your staff?

The NSPCC can only provide interviews to professional members of the media. If you are a journalist, please contact our media office. If you are a student studying journalism, we cannot provide interviewees for you.

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Where can I get information about the NSPCC's advertising for my project?

The NSPCC receives a high volume of enquiries about our advertising. Due to our limited resources, we cannot provide information about the responses we have received to individual campaigns. This includes statistics on fundraising and calls to our helpline.

Who makes your adverts?

The NSPCC works with a range of agencies for different communication needs, all designed to help us end cruelty to children in the UK as effectively as we can. You can find out more about our adverts in the media centre on this website.

Why do you produce adverts that are shocking or upsetting?

We understand that the shocking nature of some of our advertising can be hard for some. However, abuse of children is, in itself, shocking. That people continue to abuse children in a modern society is shocking. We aim to reflect those distressing realities – partly because we don’t want people to deny that child abuse happens, partly to inform people of the scale and extent of child abuse.

Children in your adverts often look upset. How do I know they were not mistreated?

As an organisation whose purpose it is to protect children, the NSPCC considers their safety and wellbeing to be paramount at all times. Children are never caused distress or upset during the making of our advertising. Every child who takes part in an NSPCC film is looked after by a parent or guardian to ensure that they are not harmed in any way. A member of NSPCC staff and a nurse are also present.

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How can I comment or make a complaint about the NSPCC?

If you wish to comment or make a complaint about the NSPCC, you can do so to any NSPCC member of staff, volunteer, or local office. Alternatively, please email help@nspcc.org.uk, call 0808 800 5000, or write to the NSPCC at:

Weston House
42 Curtain Road
London
EC2A 3NH

Complaints leaflet for adults (PDF, 265 Kb)

Complaints leaflet for children and young people (PDF, 785 Kb)

NSPCC complaints policy (WORD, 318 Kb)

NSPCC complaints procedure (WORD, 240 Kb)

To help us respond to your comment or complaint effectively, please tell us which of our services it relates to. Also, please include your full name, contact details and let us know how you would like us to contact you.

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ChildLine 0800 1111

Are you a child?

Do you need to talk? Call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or visit us online.

Get some help

NSPCC helpline

Worried about a child?

Don’t wait until you’re certain. Contact our trained helpline counsellors for 24/7 help, advice and support.

Report a concern

Contact the helpline in:
Helpline with computer

Helpline highlights

A series of reports on why people contact the NSPCC and how we help.

Read our reports

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FAQs: Making a donation

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