NSPCC Plans To Scrap 24 Hour Staffed Helpline Due To Budget Cuts
An NSPCC helpline that is the UK's largest source of child safeguarding referrals could soon be forced to scrap its 24 hour live call handling service, if a plan to cut jobs is given the go ahead.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Helpline dealt with more than 66,000 calls in 2016/17 and is the UK's only independent helpline to provide specialist safeguarding advice and assistance, 24 hours a day.
The helpline is set up for adults who are concerned about the welfare of children or for advice on safeguarding.
However, the operation of the helpline is in crisis, with too many calls for an already overworked staff base - which is now set to be cut further.
The proposed changes would see a reduced live service run between the hours of 8am - 10pm on weekdays and 9am - 6pm on weekends. The remaining hours would be an automated answering service.
The management team in charge of running the helpline is also set to be 'streamlined' if the proposal is implemented later this year.
A document obtained by LADbible states that the NSPCC has seen a 2% reduction in income every year for the past decade, which - coupled with economic uncertainty and rising operational costs - means the viability of the helpline service has come under 'increased scrutiny.'
The proposed changes will not affect the NSPCC's Childline service, which is available to people under 19 years of age. The consultancy period will end on 13 December.
The NSPCC claims that in recent years, the calls to its helpline have increased in demand, as well as in range and complexity.
However, more than 4,000 calls were not resolved in the year and nearly 8,000 callers were unable to get through.
The document states: "The Helpline is struggling to consistently respond to demand and although its performance has recently improved significantly this has been at the expense of staff developing their skills, and an increase in staff turnover and sickness"
It continues: "Between October 2017 and March 2018, 4,341 calls were deferred and during this time, 7,715 callers were unable to get through to the service.
"This, together with the continued expressions of interest from a range of external agencies for the Helpline's services, shows that the current operational model is no longer sustainable."
While the NSPCC told LADbible that only around 5% of calls to the helpline were received 'outside of daytime and evening hours', that would mean that more than 3,300 calls in 2016/17 would have been passed to an automated service.
Under the proposed changes, the NSPCC will also stop providing Foster Check services from 1 April. These checks are currently delivered by assistants and advisors at the NSPCC's Contact Centres.
The charity was unable to provide exact numbers regarding exactly how many calls are made out of hours to the Helpline, but an NSPCC spokesperson told LADbible: "The NSPCC Helpline is a vital source of support and advice for adults worried about a child, with around 65,000 contacts a year.
"However, it's no secret that - like the charity sector as a whole - we need to make the best possible use of increasingly stretched resources.
"We will still be at the end of the line 365 days a year, but the changes we are proposing will focus on the hours when we know people need us the most."
Featured Image Credit: NSPCC/PA