VOLUNTEERS and staff at Childline in Prestatyn will be answering phone calls and responding to online chats around the clock this Christmas to ensure that children and young people have someone to talk to about their concerns.

The NSPCC-supported service’s free and confidential helpline, open 365 days a year, is needed as much as ever over Christmas.

Last year Childline delivered 1,819 counselling sessions to children from across the UK on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day combined, a 10 per cent increase on the same days in the previous year.

On Christmas Day 2017 volunteers carried out 511 counselling sessions – up from 495 in 2016 and 409 in 2015 and the free and confidential helpline is preparing for hundreds of young people to get in touch with worries about mental or emotional health, family relationships and suicidal thoughts - among the most frequent reported by children and young people.

Childline’s Prestatyn centre is open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, while its Cardiff centre will be operational on Christmas Day.

Prestatyn volunteer counsellor Kim Jackson, will be working and answering calls from children who get in touch from anywhere across the UK on Boxing Day.

She said: “I have been with Childline for five years and I volunteer every Christmas which I find hugely rewarding.

“It is, sadly, a very busy time, as there are so many children and young people who do not have the supportive, loving homes at such a festive time.

“It is wonderful to be able to give of my time to listen to someone that comes through, and let them know that we are always here for them no matter what they want to talk about.

“At Childline, we care about them over the festive period and throughout the year, 24/7.”

Deb Gray, switchboard volunteer in Prestatyn, said: “I have been a volunteer with Childline for around two years, and this will be the second time I have volunteered over Christmas, having done a shift in 2016.

“Volunteering at Christmas can be a little different. The phone may not ring as much, but you have more callers just ringing to say thank you than is usual.

“However those calling for support are generally very much in need.

“Christmas is portrayed as a magical happy time of year. Sadly that is not true for everyone leading to young people feeling more isolated.

“This is especially so as some of the usual support networks may not be available over Christmas. It is extremely important for any child in need to know they have somewhere to turn not matter what day it is.”

Prestatyn volunteer counsellor Lilian Topping said: "I have only recently finished my training and only completed about a dozen counselling sessions. I haven’t done Christmas before and felt that doing Christmas Eve would be a worthwhile contribution to helping children and young people who may be suffering at a time when we all assume everyone is happy.”

During a 12-day period last Christmas - December 24 to January 4 - Childline delivered 301 counselling sessions to young people from Wales.

Dame Esther Rantzen, the founder of Childline, said: “Christmas for many people is a happy time of year. But at Childline we know only too well that isn’t always the case for thousands of children and young people across the UK. For many it can be an extremely difficult time of year which can leave them in a very dark place.

“Thankfully Childline doesn’t close at Christmas and that is all thanks to our fantastic staff and volunteers who will be working around the clock, including Christmas Day, to ensure someone is there day or night to help any child or young person in need of advice or support, be it online or over the phone.”

One boy aged 10 told Childline: “Mum forgot Christmas because of her drinking – she drinks a lot. It’s just me and mum since dad left to live with his new partner. I don’t see him anymore as he has a new family.

“When I told her I had wished she had remembered Christmas she just said Santa isn’t real anyway. All my friends are having big meals with music and family and presents but not me. Mum is just sleeping all day and I feel really sad. I went in to her room to see if she wanted to watch some TV and she yelled at me to get out. It hurt my heart.”

The figures from Childline emphasise the vital support that the helpline provides to many children during the Christmas period. But at the moment the service can only respond to three out of four children who need our help. Childline needs the support of the public so it can continue to be there for even more young people.

Contact Childline anytime on 0800 1111 or at childline.org.uk.

If you are interested in volunteering visit nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/volunteering-nspcc-childline/volunteer-childline-helpline/.