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New phone services to help protect Norfolk’s children and young people

20 April 2020

A new phoneline has been launched today (Monday, 20 April) to help Norfolk’s children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes as the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership launches the second phase of a county-wide campaign to keep children safe at home.

Last week, the county launched its See Something, Hear Something, Say Something campaign, calling on the public to look out for Norfolk’s children and report any concerns.

Now, the partnership is reaching out to Norfolk’s children and young people, with a social media campaign promoting a new phone line and an extended texting service.

The new phone number 0344 800 8029 will be manned by children’s social workers at Norfolk County Council, who have extensive training and experience of working with children.

ChatHealth, which can be reached on 07480 635060, is an existing and very popular NHS texting service for young people in Norfolk. It is run by Norfolk Children and Young People’s Services and in partnership with social care will be expanding its support and resources to provide the extended safety texting service.

Children and young people will be able to contact the services if they are scared, or if they are worried about their friends or other young people.

Chris Robson, Chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “No child or young person should have to feel unsafe at home but sadly some do.

“Those children will be feeling particularly frightened and isolated in this lockdown but they are not alone. They can call or text us, call Childline, or speak to someone they trust like a friend or relative.

“We know that it might not be possible or might not be safe for some children to speak out, so we also want to urge the public to continue to look out for the children in their community. If you See Something or Hear Something that worries you, please Say Something and call us on 0344 800 8020.”

With schools closed to the majority of children and children unable to visit friends and extended family or go to their usual clubs it can be harder to spot those at risk.

That’s why the partnership, backed by the Norfolk Resilience Forum, has launched the safeguarding campaign and phone services.

The new helpline will be available throughout the current pandemic and will continue when the public health emergency comes to an end.

Norfolk’s Youth Advisory Boards have helped feed into the campaign and have pledged to share the materials across their networks.

They are also looking to develop a Safeguarding Ambassador role, with young people appointed to spread safety messages among their peers.

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “In Norfolk we know that the current situation means children might be at greater risk so we’re being proactive in setting up this new phone service and launching a public campaign to keep people safe. We’re also working with young people so that we can get their views and they can help to spread the word.

“Home should be a safe place for children, and it is tragic that some children and young people will be feeling frightened and trapped at this time.

“We are here to help. If you are scared please call us or tell someone you trust. If you are worried about a child let us know – keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility.”

The new texting support is an extension of the existing ChatHealth service provided by Norfolk Children and Young People’s Services.

ChatHealth offers help and advice to young people about a whole host of issues such as: keeping active, healthy relationships, staying safe and emotional health.

Sian Larrington, Head of Service at Norfolk Children and Young People’s Services, said: “As always every clinician, health professional, administrator and manager in our service is here for young people in Norfolk.

"Over the past few weeks we have seen a sharp increase in conversations on ChatHealth and we have worked very hard to give the best advice and support for those young people to stay safe and healthy.

"Keeping young people safe has always been an absolute priority for us and we are glad we can support our partners with ChatHealth. Even during these challenging times, our message is the same, we are here, we can help you, just text us on 07480 635060.”

So far, the See Something, Hear Something, Say Something campaign has reached more than 130,000 people via social media and will continue to run in the coming weeks.
Safeguarding calls to the council are still lower than usual and those working to protect children want families and communities to know that services are still here to help, during the current emergency.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “We know children are dealing with increased worries during lockdown, either about coronavirus or other concerns exacerbated by the current situation, and it’s really important that we all look out for their welfare and work hard to provide a point of contact and a place to turn.

“We’re really pleased to see Norfolk County Council with their partners working hard in this area. The NSPCC’s Childline has undertaken 1,700 counselling sessions in the weeks since lockdown and is available on 0800 1111 or where they can access our message boards and talk to other children experiencing the same worries.“

Signs of concern could include:

  • Aggressive or repeated shouting
  • Hearing hitting or things being broken
  • Children crying for long periods of time
  • Very young children left alone or outdoors by themselves

Anyone with concerns about a child or family, should contact the County Council on 0344 800 8020. In an emergency contact the police on 999. In a non-emergency the police can be contacted on 101.

Any children that need help can also call Childline on 0800 1111.

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