A Greenisland man will be on duty on Christmas Day helping to operate a charity helpline service.
Adrian Somerville, practice manager with the NSPCC adult Helpline, is working at the base in Belfast, along with some of his team.
The helpline, which is available on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, is open throughout the festive period.
Adrian said: “Abuse and neglect does not stop just because it is Christmas. Children continue to be at risk over this period and it is essential that the helpline stays open to take calls and online contacts from people who are worried about the well-being of a child or children.
“In emergency situations over the holidays, the NSPCC Helpline shares information with police and children’s services to protect children who may be at immediate risk of harm. It is also important that the helpline remains open given that at Christmas, ongoing situations within families can escalate due to stresses linked to this time of year, which can put children in danger.”
The 41-year-old started working with NSPCC in March 2012 as a Childline volunteer counsellor. Prior to that, he worked in a French customer service team in Belfast because he wanted to make the most of his French and European Politics degree from Queen’s University and then moved to a role in sales. However, after completing a six-month course in counselling at Belfast Met, he realised that this he wanted to change his career path and work as a full-time counsellor.
He added: “In June 2014, I qualified as a counsellor and started a new role of helpline practitioner and then was promoted to practice manager with the NSPCC adult Helpline. Before starting to work with the NSPCC, I didn’t know they offered a service to adults who were concerned about children and young people but it’s a vital part of the organisation because it’s a place adults can contact by phone or online to get advice or share their concerns about a child – anonymously if they wish.”
“The team is staffed by professional practitioners with backgrounds in jobs like teaching, healthcare and social work who know how to spot the signs of abuse and what to do to help. Parents and carers also call us with all sorts of questions such as what to do about bullying or how to keep their children safe online while professionals such as teachers and doctors contact us for information and guidance.”
“Other issues we hear about over Christmas include neglect due to being left home alone, parents being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs whilst having children in their care, or children being exposed to domestic abuse. However, the job is so rewarding because all too often you can hear the sense of relief from our callers because we reassure them that they have done the right thing by getting in touch and voicing their worries and we let them know that action will be taken.”
Adrian is looking forward to the festive season but won’t be having his own celebration on Christmas Day because he will be at work.
He said: “I am extremely lucky as my husband has always been very understanding, right from the very first time I volunteered to work a shift in Childline on Christmas Day. He understands the importance of the work the NSPCC does, and we always make sure we have our own Christmas celebration at some point over the festive season.”
If you’re worried about a child, or you work with children and need advice or information, you can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email email@example.com