Yesterday the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children published the Childline annual statistics for 2011. The importance of listening to children cannot be overstated and in the past 23 years Childline has been providing this invaluable service for children. It is a service which is trusted and recognised by young people. In 2011, for example, it received more than 800,000 calls, including 54,000 relating to some level of emotional abuse and 11,000 relating to bullying. Childline not only listens to and supports young people but it also saves lives. Yesterday I heard a prime example of this from the ISPCC spokesperson who relayed the story of a teenage girl who had taken an overdose, contacted Childline and shared with the operator her feelings of worthlessness and how everyone was right that she was a waste of space. During the 45 minute call she eventually told the Childline operator where she lived and an ambulance was sent to take her to hospital and save her life. I shudder to think what would have happened if her telephone call was one of the 800 telephone calls that go unanswered each day because of insufficient funding and resources. Childline in the United Kingdom, which is run by the NSPCC, receives £11 million for its continued development.
The Department of Education in Northern Ireland makes contributions to Childline Northern Ireland. In Ireland Childline operates without Government funding or support. In fact, it raises €4 million thanks to the generosity of the public and Eircom. The lack of funding seriously undermines the capacity of the service to meet the needs of children. Some 38% of calls go unanswered. These are the voices of 800 vulnerable children and young people which are not heard each day.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to the House to discuss how the Department and the Government can better support the exceptional work being done by Childline to ensure all children are heard and valued?