WALES rugby star Sam Warburton has urged people to play their part in helping to keep children safe through the power of play.

Wales’ first Childhood Day comes as Childline reveals how the number of children aged 11 and under in Wales being counselled about their mental health and emotional wellbeing is creeping upwards, and that counselling sessions with children from Wales about worries about the world have doubled from the year before.

Stark new data from the NSPCC-run service highlights the huge toll of the pandemic on young people. Since April last year, Childline has delivered almost 90,000 counselling sessions to young people across the UK about mental health or abuse.

Over the last year, the child protection charity has grown increasingly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing and on young people living in homes that aren’t safe. The charity’s Childline volunteer counsellors, as well as supporters and partners, continue to work incredibly hard to ensure the service stays open to provide young people with somewhere to turn.

NSPCC volunteer Naomi Lea, 22, had herself used the Childline service in Prestatyn from the age of 14.

Naomi, who now lives in Cardiff, has been volunteering as a Childline counsellor since 2017, said: “I was struggling badly with anxiety and panic attacks because of pressures at school and a complicated home-life. I hadn’t told anyone at that point that I’d been self-harming. I contacted Childline online and I remember being terrified about talking to someone. Although that first conversation didn’t change everything, it was a relief knowing that I had someone to talk to at a time I didn’t feel I could speak to anyone else in my life.

“For a while it was somewhere I turned to if I was struggling – it was my go to place if I wanted to talk about stuff going on. And then over time the counsellors helped me to get professional support through my school. Even once that had happened and support was being put in place, I continued to contact Childline for years afterwards on occasion because I knew it was a safe space if I ever wanted someone to talk to.”

“Childline is there to listen and encourage, not to tell you what to do, and I think that is the essence of what we do as volunteer counsellors. We create a space where support is directed by whatever the young person needs in that moment.

“There’s a misconception that Childline is just there for children who have been abused and while it is, and a big part of what we do, it’s also not the whole story and being able to offer that space for children to talk about things they don’t want to tell adults in their lives is so important. That’s what Childline does so well, whatever the issue is – it’s important to Childline. Young people always know with Childline that there is someone there who is going to listen to them and without judgment to what they want to say or what they want to ask.

“Over the past year Childline has been more important than ever because young people haven’t been in spaces where they can get that support in person and so having that outlet when they’ve been stuck at home that entire time and when home might not be a safe place will have been so important to so many young people. What has happened over the last year has been a lot for anyone, even if there wasn’t anything else going on for them, let alone if there was more going on for them on top of that.”

Now, as lockdown continues to ease, the NSPCC is calling on people everywhere to play their part in giving children a great summer and brighter future – as it launches its landmark Childhood Day. The charity is asking families and friends to celebrate childhood by organising a play event on June 11th to raise money and help keep children safe.

Sam Warburton, NSPCC Wales Ambassador for Childhood, says: “This year has thrown up so many challenges for everyone, but especially children and young people. It will have been a confusing time for children of all ages and many will have played less because they have spent less time outside and haven’t been able to see friends or attend their usual play and sports activities.

“Playing is such an important part of childhood – it was throughout mine and I see it now with my kids too.

“With restrictions easing, I think it’s a great time for us all to play more – us big kids too - and I’ll be doing that with my own family this Childhood Day. It would be fantastic to see families, friends and work mates across Wales join in too - playing and having fun, while playing their part to help fundraise to help keep children safe.”

In a new film launched by the charity, it encourages people to play their part for children by downloading a fundraising pack and organising a play event for Childhood Day.

NSPCC Cymru/Wales in keen to see the Welsh Government play its part too, by investing in an ambitious plan for children that goes beyond catching up on lessons and includes more mental health support in both the classroom and community. The child protection charity has made repeated calls for children and young people to be at the forefront of recovery planning and outlined how early intervention and prevention is possible in a set of recommendations.

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, adds: “Throughout this pandemic, children and young people have had to deal with so many difficult new challenges, many knowing that their families were struggling with health worries and financial issues, some locked down in unsafe homes, deprived of their schools which may have been their only refuge. Many have told Childline that they have struggled to cope and their mental health has suffered as a result.

“Childline’s counsellors have been tremendously impressed by the resilience of so many young people during the pandemic, supporting themselves and each other. Nevertheless, we are all only too aware that not only education has suffered, but so has the opportunity to play. My grandchildren have told me how much they have missed their friends during lockdown. Play is such an important part of childhood, building confidence and creating relationships.

“After the year we’ve had, I am really looking forward to joining my own family on Childhood Day. I do hope as many families as possible will be able to do the same, to enjoy each other’s company and have fun and play together.

“I want to remind children everywhere that Childline is always there for them, no matter how big or small their problem, offering comfort and support which is free, confidential, on the phone or online.”

Children can contact Childline every day of the week on 0800 11 11 or via where 1-2-1 online chats can be requested.

Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit for advice.