18 November 2005

New anti-bullying helpline for kids

Daily Ireland

A new effort to make the bullying of children a thing of the past in the North’s schools was launched yesterday.
Statutory and voluntary bodies with a key interest in children and their education have joined forces to form the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum.
At the same time, with Anti Bullying Week just three days away, ChildLine Northern Ireland unveiled its new freephone helpline specifically aimed at helping children and young people worried about bullying.
Last year ChildLine NI counselled over 2,100 children about bullying – making it the single biggest issue that children called the charity about.
Meanwhile, the new forum will formulate a common strategy, co-ordinate anti-bullying efforts and seek to raise the profile of the issue among schools and pupils. Members of the new forum will in turn represent the North on a larger British and Irish Anti-Bullying Forum.
Local representatives from Save the Children, ChildLine NI, the NSPCC, Barnardos, The Children’s Law Centre, Disability Action, parents Advice Centre, the Department of Education, the Education and Library boards together with teachers representatives are all on the forum.
Geraldine Loughran from Save the Children will chair the new forum. She said: “We are committed to working together to create and promote an environment free from bullying for children and young people.
“We believe that their rights must be upheld in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that they should be protected from all forms of cruelty.”
The Department of Education is currently researching the extent of bullying in schools to update three-year-old research which showed 40 per cent of primary school children and 30 per cent of those in post-primary schools fell victim to bullies.
Ms Loughran said: “We all know that school bullying can have serious consequences for children. It can lead to academic underachievement, physical and emotional distress, loss of self esteem, eating disorders and truancy.”
The strategy formulated by the new forum should ensure greater help not just for children who are bullied but those who do the bullying, she said.
“We recognise that bullying has an emotional impact on those responsible, as well as those on the receiving end,” Ms Loughran said.
The ChildLine anti-bullying line — 0800 44 1111 — operates 24 hours a day, staffed by trained volunteers.

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