Award winning performer and well-loved comedian Billy Pearce paid a special visit to the Leeds Childline base to meet past and current counsellors and fundraisers recently.

The Childline base marks its 21st anniversary this year and since October 1997 volunteers and staff in Leeds have provided 215,834 counselling sessions to children and young people in need from across the UK.

Billy Pearce, who this year will be starring as Wishy Washy in Aladdin at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre said: “I was really pleased to have been invited along to share in the wonderful celebrations.”

Liz Rowe the Head of Childline “ I would like to thank Billy for coming along to our special birthday party and an especially big thank you to all the volunteers both past and present who have given their time so selflessly, to help Childline be there for children in times of real crisis. It is no exaggeration to say they are all life savers and I thank them wholeheartedly.”

Sue Spurway who is now a Service Head for Infrastructure at the NSPCC was working at Childline in Leeds on that very first shift back in 1997. She said: “I remember the anticipation before the first call came through, how everyone was so proud to be part of something really important. Over the years the technology may have changed but the contacts still come through, the concerns remain largely the same and Childline is a constant too, here for all children and young people.”

In 2011 the Leeds Childline base in St John’s Offices on Albion Street was converted into one of two centres solely dedicated to online counselling sessions for children. This means that specially trained counsellors in Leeds only offer confidential advice either via email or live chat messages.

Since switching to online only counselling, the Leeds base has been contacted 43,553 times by young people. Last year the base provided 9,562 counselling sessions on subjects including friendship issues, self-harm, suicide and sexual abuse.

Sam Firth, Childline Supervisor in Leeds said: “It has been so terrific that Billy could take time out of his busy schedule and help us celebrate such a milestone for the Leeds base. With more and more counselling sessions taking place through email or 1-2-1 chat, our services in Leeds are always in demand.

“That’s why we are launching a brand new shift for a Monday afternoon and would love for new people to come forward and help answer the emails of young people who are desperately reaching out to Childline with their concerns.”

Seven new volunteers are required for the new Monday afternoon shift which will take place between 1pm and 4.30pm. The new volunteers will answer emails from vulnerable children and young people and are expected to commit to at least 40 weeks. Full training is provided.

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