Children: Record number of calls to charity

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A record number of children called ChildLine last year, it was disclosed yesterday. More than 1.2 million youngsters sought advice from the free national helpline service for children in trouble or danger - a 12 per cent rise on 1996.

The most common problems were physical and sexual abuse - mainly at the hands of their own families - in particular their fathers - bullying, and worries that other children were being mistreated. The number of youngsters given help and protection after contacting the service for the first time also increased last year - by 14 per cent to 102,816, compared with the previous year, according to the charity's annual review published yesterday.

Of the new callers, more than 18,000 - 18 per cent - telephoned in 1996- 97 about being physically or sexually abused, 14,311 (14 per cent) said they were being bullied and 10,500 (10 per cent) called because they were worried about someone else, usually another child.

Other calls were about problems ranging from unwanted and under-age pregnancies to unhappiness because parents were divorcing. On-going counselling was given to thousands of others who continued to need help.

However, the charity warned that many children were still not getting the help they need because they could not get through to the service.