How the Stop It Now! helpline works

Telephone helplines for children are a key part of child protection services. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of adults to protect children from abuse. Helplines for concerned adults are a powerful means of protection and prevention.

Our principal target groups:

  • Adult abusers and those at risk of abusing: to encourage them to recognise their behaviour as abusive or potentially abusive and to seek help to change.
  • Family and friends concerned about an adult displaying worrying sexual thoughts or behaviour towards a child: to encourage them to recognise the signs of abusive behaviour in those close to them and to seek advice about what action to take.
  • Parents and carers concerned about a child or young person with worrying sexual behaviour: to encourage them to recognise the signs of concerning or abusive behaviour and to seek advice about what positive action they can take.

Additional groups included due to caller demand:

  • Adults concerned about a child or young person who may have been abused
  • Professionals calling for case advice
  • Adult survivors of child sexual abuse

The helpline’s main objectives are to:

  • Assist callers to identify the nature and seriousness of their concerns
  • Provide information and support to callers to help them clarify their thinking
  • Explore options available, including referral to our own follow-up service or to another agency
  • Advise callers about further actions to consider
  • Agree one or more protective actions the caller will take

The helpline protocol

The sound child protection principles on which the helpline protocol was originally formulated remain pivotal to Stop It Now! and inform the work of all helpline staff. The safety of children lies at the heart of the work of the helpline.

Our confidentiality policy is explained to callers at the beginning of their call. For those who prefer to email, details of the policy are clearly displayed on our website and in our literature. Callers are told:

“The helpline is confidential. We will not ask you for your name or any other details, but if you do give us any information that identifies a child who has been, is being, or is at risk of being abused, we will pass this on to the appropriate agencies. We will also pass on details of any criminal offence that has been committed.”

The helpline guidelines continue to be revised and developed for the use of helpline operators, in line with sound child protection principles and good practice. If possible, we put callers in touch with relevant local agencies and sources of help and support that they can access, and provide them with web-based resources where appropriate.

The confidential secure messaging service

Some people find it easier to contact Stop It Now! by message, rather than by phone. You can access this confidential and secure service by clicking here. Not infrequently, the person messaging will go on to speak to an operator, but has the option of continuing to exchange messages. Due to high demand for this service, we are unfortunately unable to offer an immediate response to your enquiry. Due to present staffing levels, we aim to respond to all emails within 5-7 working days, but if you require an immediate response, please call the helpline – 0808 1000 900.

Helpline hours

In 2002 the helpline operated a single telephone line, with one operator taking calls. As demand for the service increased, our funders provided additional money for a second line and we were able to extend our opening hours to:

9.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m. Monday to Thursday 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. Friday

Since 2008, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has funded the provision of a dedicated third line. Callers can, by appointment, speak to a specialist practitioner in more depth about their concerns and agree a schedule of ongoing protective work.

Helpline management and operation

The Director of Stop It Now! UK & Ireland directs the work of both the Stop It Now! campaign and the helpline. Day-to-day running of the helpline is overseen by the helpline Coordinator, under the guidance and supervision of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation Practice Manager.

The helpline operates from an office of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, in order to have access to LFF practitioners. These staff, with professional backgrounds in working with child sexual abuse in statutory agencies, undertake shifts on the helpline and provide peer support to other colleagues. They also provide a call-back and face-to-face service to callers who need ongoing advice or support in particular circumstances.

As well as utilising LFF permanent staff, the helpline is supported by a number of sessional staff from backgrounds that include teaching, working with children with disabilities and working on other telephone helplines (ChildLine and Samaritans).

Monitoring and evaluation

Clear and accurate record keeping is essential to the management and evaluation of the helpline service. Each call or email that the helpline receives is logged under a first name or pseudonym, with subsequent contact being recorded on ‘follow-on’ log sheets for clarity and continuity. 10% of all calls are audited on a monthly basis, to inform staff supervision, to ensure the quality of our service and to meet criteria agreed with the Ministry of Justice. An electronic database enables us to analyse call trends. Our recording and auditing systems are subject to regular review, to ensure accurate recording and good quality of service to our callers.

Increased caller demand

Since the helpline was established in 2002 callers have increased year on year. The graph shows the calls and callers we have engaged with over the years and shows the increase in demand we have experienced. Our experienced operators have been able, and continue to offer information and advice to a range of people calling with issues surrounding child sexual abuse including:- abusers and potential abusers; adults concerned about another adult, child or young person; adults concerned about a child who may have been abused; professionals and adult survivors.

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