Childline: 30 years of listening to children Childline’s achievements since the service was launched in 1986

Black and white image of a man looking at a computer and colour image of a woman using a telephone headsetThis report looks back at the first 30 years of Childline. It describes the night the service was launched and sets out some of the key dates in Childline's history. It looks in detail at how the experiences of children have changed from 1986 to 2016. It includes information on how Childline has worked to improve society for children, and real life examples of how the service has helped children through difficult times in their lives.

Author: NSPCC
Published: 2016

  • Since Childline started 30 years ago, we have helped over 4 million children.
  • In 1986, most children contacted us on a landline phone. Today when children call us by phone, they mostly call us on their mobiles.
  • In 2009, Childline offered online support and counselling for the first time. In 2015/16 71% of counselling sessions took place online.
  • In the 1980s children rarely talked to Childline about mental health. By 2015/16 a third of Childline counselling sessions related to mental health issues, suicidal feelings, self-harm, low self-esteem and unhappiness.
  • When Childline was launched in 1986, sexual abuse was the most common form of abuse that children and young people were counselled about. This is still the case in 2015/16, with more than 10,000 Childline counselling sessions about sexual abuse.
  • Bullying has been in the top 5 main concerns from 1989 until today.
Introduction 5
Foreword 7
The story of Childline 11
Timeline: 1986 to 2016 15
Young people’s lives: 1986 to 2016 19
How young people contact Childline 19
Sexual abuse 21
Mental health and unhappiness 22
Bullying 24
Childline: Changing society for children 27
Making a difference: “You listened when no one else did” 31
Looking to the future: 30 more years of listening to children 35
Childline reports 37
Further reading 39

"I didn't realise it was revolutionary at the time, I now know it was."

"Volunteering for Childline has been the most rewarding work that I have done in my entire life."

"I would like to thank Childline sincerely for being the cog in my wheel that made it turn with ease at such a difficult time. As a child I did not know what to do, but because of your involvement I was able to have a happy and safe childhood."

"I am so thankful to Childline. I was going through a lot at the time and had thought about killing myself many times. Calling Childline that day saved my life. Thank you so much."

"Online chatting with Childline has been amazing and I know that I can share any troubles I may have in the future with Childline. Thank you."

Please cite as: NSPCC (2016) Childline: 30 years of listening to children. London: NSPCC.

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