Could you be a Childline counsellor? The charity is looking for Leeds volunteers
Childline is looking for more volunteers in Leeds as it is currently only able to help two in every three children that get in touch.
The contact centre, which is run by the NSPCC, provides more than 8,000 counselling sessions on subjects including friendship issues, gender and sexuality, suicide and abuse.
Due to demand and a shortage of resources, the team in Leeds cannot reply to every child that gets in touch, the charity said.
The Leeds Childline base in St John’s Offices on Albion Street is one of two centres solely dedicated to online counselling sessions for children.
This means that specially trained counsellors in Leeds only offer confidential advice either via email or live chat messages.
Since switching to online only counselling in 2011, the Leeds base has been contacted 52,134 times by young people.
More fundraising by ordinary people would also help the centre, as each contact costs the centre £4 to respond to a child in need of support. Any money raised in Leeds can go directly to local services rather than going to the national charity.
Darren Worth, senior Childline supervisor, said volunteers are a diverse group of people from all walks of life.
“It's a real broad mixture from students through to retired people.
“Our volunteers right across the country in the 12 bases that come in they give their time without the need for thanks or recognition.”
Originally set up as a phone-line, three-quarters of the contacts that come in to Childline are now online.
“It's an absolutely crucial role that the Leeds volunteers perform.
“We hear from some incredibly vulnerable young people talking about their mental and emotional health, talking about family relationships, talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings talking about self harm.
“We hear from the young people who need support the most, and who are often least able to access it from elsewhere, and particularly with some of the pressures on services.”
The charity’s training package is 14 weeks, which includes 12 modules on different subjects like counselling skills and self-care.
Mr Worth said the number one requirement for volunteers was commitment.
“It's absolutely crucial that if somebody is thinking of volunteering that they can do their thinking in advance about whether they are able to offer the time, because we really need to deliver the service that we say we're going to.”
The charity asks every volunteer to commit to one four-hour shift a week.
In exchange for their time, the volunteers benefit from learning skills which can be taken into their real life - in fact, many of the charity’s paid staff in Leeds began as volunteers.
Counsellor Sally Essler began volunteering 16 years ago after an illness meant she was unable to work.
In the time since she started volunteering, Ms Essler said the calls have changed and there are now more worries about mental health and online bullying.
“There isn’t a shift that goes by where I don’t feel like I’ve helped someone. Sometimes it’s just that the child feels heard for the very first time. You don’t ever stop learning.
“They often say they couldn’t have said it out loud.
Ms Essler said, while some of the conversations can be harrowing, there is an enormous amount of support for volunteers.
She said: “The support we get here is amazing. At the end of every shift we sit down together and talk about what we want to take with us and what we want to leave behind.”
The Childline base in Leeds will mark its 23rd anniversary this year and since October 1997 volunteers and staff in Leeds have provided 224,415 counselling sessions to children and young people in need from across the UK.