d/Deaf young people in need of advice and support will soon be able to communicate with Childline counsellors using sign language in a ground-breaking new service being trialled in Birmingham.
The Sign Up service, which is due to go live this week, allows d/Deaf children and teenagers living around the UK to contact a counsellor directly through video chat.
A young person can book a slot to contact one of the six British Sign Language (BSL)-trained counsellors in the Birmingham base.
Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen visited the Edgbaston base to see the pilot service in action and speak to volunteers and counsellors.
She also met pupils from Braidwood School in Hodge Hill, who explained how important this service is for d/Deaf young people.
Sign Up will work alongside Childline’s existing SignVideo service that lets deaf children contact a counsellor through a BSL interpreter.
The pilot service is available Wednesday to Friday, 5pm to 9pm with individuals being able to book a slot for a counselling session in advance rather than waiting to be connected. SignVideo can continue to be used from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Theresa Wilcox, Birmingham’s Childline Service Manager, said: “We want all young people to know that Childline is there for them and ready to offer advice and support.
“The new service we are trialling in Birmingham will enable deaf young people to communicate directly with a counsellor without an interpreter, complimenting the SignVideo service that we already have in operation.”
Childline, which celebrated its 30th birthday last year, was set up by Dame Esther in 1986 on a BBC TV show called Childwatch.
Dame Esther said: “The growth of the online world means the way young people engage with Childline has changed dramatically since we launched back in 1986, and this new service is an example of how we are always striving to help as many young people as possible.
“It is fantastic to see innovative ideas like these being developed, and it is thanks to the dedication and skill of our staff and volunteers that we can get these ideas into practice and continue to give young people hope and transform their lives.”
The pilot service was made possible following a generous donation from the Keith Coombs Trust. The Keith Coombs Trust was set up by Anthony and Graham Coombs in memory of their father Keith Coombs, former Chairman of Birmingham City Football Club. The charity exists to support small organisations, mainly based in the Midlands, who work with disabled children and those from difficult backgrounds.
Chairman of Trustees of the Keith Coombs Trust, Anthony Coombs, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this exciting new Childline service that will give young d/Deaf people in and around Birmingham the chance to communicate directly with Childline volunteers using sign language. We hope that this pilot will help Childline consider how they can widen their reach to deaf children throughout the UK.”
Young people can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request time with a counsellor on the days the service is active.
They will then receive an email letting them know what time a counsellor will be available via video link. The email will contain a link to communicate with a counsellor.
For more information, along with videos and advice, visit Childline’s Deaf Zone at https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/deafzone/