CHILDLINE’S operation in North Wales has appealed for more volunteers as its founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, marked its 25th anniversary with a visit to the charity's Prestatyn centre.

Childline opened a call centre in Rhyl in 1992 before moving to its current home in Prestatyn in 2008 and is approaching the landmark figure of 300,000 counselling sessions with children and young people.

Dame Esther, who launched the children’s helpline charity in 1986 and is now its president, met fundraisers, volunteers and supporters during her visit.

The campaigning journalist and TV presenter was welcomed by the Mayor of Prestatyn, Cllr Gerry Frobisher, who is also the chairman of the fundraising group, Denbighshire Friends of Childline.

She said: “Childline wouldn’t be able to function without the wonderful support of all our volunteers, who show true warmth and compassion by making such a difference to children’s lives.

“I have seen the difference Childline makes after speaking to many young adults who have used the service when they were children. It gives them hope.

“Childline literally transforms lives but we could not do it without the compassion of our Prestatyn-based volunteers who are so skilled and committed.”

She added: “Childline is now more important than ever, offering support and advice to children around the clock.

“It’s vital that children know we are always there for them, whether that’s on the phone, online or on our new app, For Me.”

Specially-trained volunteers have been counselling children in both Welsh and English since the North Wales operation started in 1992.

Last year alone the base, which now carries out counselling online as well as over the phone, handled 17,301 sessions.

Over the last 25 years, counsellors in North Wales have carried out 293,640 sessions on a range of issues faced by young people, including bullying, abuse, family relationships, problems in school and mental health.

Last year the most common concern dealt with via the Prestatyn base was mental/emotional health, with 3,813 contacts, constituting 23 per cent of all counselling sessions.

This was followed by family relationships, with 2,249, and bullying/cyber bullying, with 1,700.

Debs Davies, head of Childline’s Prestatyn operation, said: “Dame Esther Rantzen visiting our base is a massive boost to all our volunteers and will spur them on to keep supporting children through tough times.

“Everyone here in Prestatyn is honoured to help make a difference to children’s lives and we’ve welcomed hearing Dame Esther’s advice and her ambitions for the future of Childline.

“We are appealing for new volunteers to ensure we are always there for children and can provide help and support at crucial times.”

Cllr Frobisher said: “I have been a member of Friends of ChildLine for 27 years, since before the opening of the Rhyl base 24 years ago.

“I have met and spoken with Esther many times over the years, but it was an honour to speak to her this time as Mayor of Prestatyn.

“Esther tries to visit Prestatyn at least once a year to meet with the volunteers and staff.”

The launch of Childline in October 1986 followed the screening of Childwatch, a BBC TV programme about child abuse, which Dame Esther presented.

Since then, the NSPCC-run service has carried out four million counselling sessions from its 12 bases around the UK, with a dedicated network of 1,400 trained volunteer counsellors.

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