ChildLine volunteers and staff were informed on Friday 1 July 2011 that the NSPCC are closing the ChildLine base in Exeter as planned.
ChildLine volunteers received an email on Friday morning from staff informing them that there had been a meeting that morning, staff were not at liberty to inform volunteers of the outcome of that meeting but told us that volunteers would receive a communication from the NSPCC at 5pm. Just after 3pm on Fri 1 July 2011 ChildLine volunteers were informed by the Express + Echo who were told by the NSPCC at 3pm. ChildLine volunteers received the news via email from the NSPCC one hour later at 4pm. This shows the utterly cynical disdain the NSPCC had for their volunteers. To inform the press before informing volunteers, who are supposedly at the heart of their work and without whom ChildLine would not exist, is disgusting.
The NSPCC are going ahead with their proposal to close bases in Exeter, Leeds, Swansea and Edinburgh. All bases will end counselling on 31st July and close by the end of August. In doing this the NSPCC are closing 4 out of the current 14 bases which exist. In effect they are slashing the ChildLine service and the effect of this upon vulnerable children is incalculable, especially those who are case managed and have a named counsellor they’ve built up trust with.
Closing all the bases as originally proposed on the same date makes it obvious that the NSPCC never had the will to consider anything other than the course of action they had planned.
Edinburgh staff and volunteers were told on Friday 1 July 2011 by the NSPCC that “the NSPCC did not want 3 bases in Scotland and were never going to consider any counter proposals which were put forward during the consultation period”.
It is clear the NSPCC had exactly the same attitude about the other bases.
In closing 4 bases at precisely the same time the NSPCC are getting rid of in the range of 500 staff and volunteers.
The NSPCC continue to maintain that doing so will not affect the service. To lose that number of highly experienced staff and volunteers all at the same time is bound to negatively affect the service available to the most vulnerable children in the country.
The NSPCC informed ChildLine SW staff towards the end of the consultation period that they had been recruiting volunteers during the consultation period in order to replace those they will lose by the base closures. Given that it takes time to train new counsellors and for them to gain the experience and confidence to become effective counsellors the loss of so many experienced counsellors at one time is going to undermine the quality of counselling available over a period of several months.
The consultation period was a total PR sham. The NSPCC set up a website where volunteers could ask them questions. Very few of those questions were ever answered. Any questions which received answers were answered in a disengaged, disinterested, unsatisfactory waffly way. There was no real engagement with ChildLine volunteers at any stage. The website was shut down at the end of the consultation period with many questions from ChildLine volunteers remaining unanswered including a question asking why the NSPCC had been recruiting volunteers to replace those lost by the proposed base closures during the consultation period. This exposes what a sham the consultation was and demonstrates the NSPCC’s attitude to the consultation.
All this is happening at a time when 1 in 3 calls to ChildLine bases are not being answered. Young people are contacting ChildLine via the message boards and other online methods. Often young people are then told to phone in to ChildLine but are put on call waiting for a long period or not answered at all. There is much anger expressed about this on the ChildLine message boards. Yes the NSPCC are correct to say there is extra demand for online support but the NSPCC have failed to address the issue of not being able to answer every call that comes in. This will only worsen with the loss of so many volunteers.
The University of Exeter were willing to work with the NSPCC to secure a future for the NSPCC in the South West. The NSPCC were not willing to consider their proposal or work with them to explore an alternative to closure. Staff, volunteers and local businesses/organisations provided the NSPCC with sound business proposals to maintain a base in the South West and still save money. The prospect of free premises was very real yet the NSPCC were not prepared to consider it. Our counter proposals and the counter proposals submitted by the staff appear to have been rejected out of hand. It would appear there was not the will to consider anything other than base closure. This was made clear by their comments throughout the consultation period.
It is very telling that Peter Liver’s statement says the NSPCC “reviewed our feedback” – it does not say they engaged with it or seriously considered it. Additionally he does not give any reasons for rejecting the counter proposals.
Volunteers repeatedly asked the NSPCC during the consultation period to clearly give grounds for selecting the Exeter base and other bases for closure. They never gave clear grounds or reasons just the same old waffle. It is incredible that an organisation such as the NSPCC can throw so many staff out of work without providing a thorough, clear rationale for doing so. It is a disgrace. It is very arbitrary, one dimensional and ill thought out.
It is clear the NSPCC were not prepared to consider any counter proposal. They are an example of a charity which has got too large and lost touch with its core values. The NSPCC pays 6-figure sums to their top executives yet treat their volunteers who give their time freely with total disdain and disregard. It is clear where their priorities lie. The rhetoric of the NSPCC says one thing but the reality is very different.
Staff affected by this decision are not at liberty to talk about what has occurred but have encouraged ChildLine volunteers to do so.
I’ve been a volunteer with ChildLine for 4 years. I became a volunteer when they moved premises from Newton Abbot to Exeter early in 2007.
I am gutted for myself because it has been an amazing 4 years. It was a real privilege to work in such an accepting and compassionate environment. I know I will never work in such an environment again. I’m going to miss working at ChildLine. I’m going to miss relating to such an amazing bunch of people. It’s been very healing working in such a compassionate place and I’ve been shown incredible kindness and compassion over the last 4 years. ChildLine was a very unique working environment, it is sad to see that destroyed.
I’m gutted for the staff who are now without jobs. I am talking about a very professional, caring, supportive, encouraging staff team that are being broken up. And being broken up and thrown out of jobs without a clear rationale for doing so.
I’m gutted for the children who are going to find it harder to get to speak to a ChildLine counsellor over the coming months.
I’m gutted for those children who are case managed and are going to lose their relationship with their trusted counsellor. It’s going to be very hard for them to adjust to that.
I am a child abuse survivor. ChildLine did not exist when I was a child. ChildLine is the best thing which has been set up to support children in need and distress. To see it decimated like this is soul destroying. ChildLine will always be close to my heart but the NSPCC will not.
I have been a financial supporter of the NSPCC for many years but no more. I feel they’ve lost touch with the reason for their existence. I am cancelling my monthly direct debit and will be changing my will. That is how strongly I feel.
I will be switching my financial support to Action for Children.
“Action for Children are committed to helping the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected children and young people... supporting vulnerable families and trying to prevent potential problems. Previously known as the National Children's Home and as NCH, we have always been active in forming national childcare policy. Action for Children supports and speaks out for the UK's most vulnerable, disadvantaged and neglected children and young people, for as long as it takes, we continue to support and speak out for children, young people and parents in tough circumstances and we'll be doing this for as long as it's needed”. Their vision is “a world where all children have a sense of belonging and are loved and valued”.
Their website is http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/
Action For Children have been in existence since 1869 and have a proven track record. So I’m thrilled to be able to continue to financially contribute towards making a difference for the vulnerable children. I’m sad that I’ll no longer be able to actively personally do something to make a difference.
The ChildLine volunteers wanted the staff to know how we all felt about the situation. So it was suggested we email our thoughts for them to be collated together and given to staff. So I finish now with my own words which I submitted yesterday.
“I have to say it's been a privilege to work at ChildLine SW in Exeter, it wasn't just another voluntary job, it was an amazing, accepting and compassionate place to work where staff cared about you as a whole person not just as a volunteer and where everyone cared about being the best for every child and young person who needed us, I've never worked in such an atmosphere and I know I never will again, I'm gutted for the children and young people and I'm gutted for every single staff member who's now without a job, I will miss it, it truly has been a privilege, I can't find another word to be honest. Fantastic people to work with in a fantastic atmosphere!! What was really special about ChildLine SW was that there wasn't a 'them and us' atmosphere - there was no separation between staff and volunteers, we were all the team together which I've not fully come across anywhere else. The NSPCC may not entirely appreciate the value of their volunteers but ChildLine SW certainly did. I haven't worked anywhere that valued their volunteers so highly and I've been involved in the voluntary sector for over a quarter of a century. The genuine caring, supportive, encouraging atmosphere was truly inspiring and unique."
Here is the press article from today's local paper -