ISPCC CEO John Church appointed to the Board of Mental Health Reform

John Church, ISPCC CEO, has been appointed to the Board of Mental Health Reform (MHR) following the ratification of his nomination at today’s annual general meeting in Coleraine House, Dublin 7. 

John is a leading voice for advocacy for children and young people in Ireland. The areas of online safety for children and young people coupled with their mental health and well-being have been a particular focus for John since assuming the CEO role at ISPCC in 2018. 

Commenting on his appointment John said: “I am proud to join the MHR Board and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to tackle the mental health challenges currently faced by children and young people in Ireland. At ISPCC, mental health concerns are one of the primary reasons why children and young people use our services. I believe that the Government must commit to a policy of both targeted and universal investment in mental health service provision for all children and young people. 

“We reiterate our call for Government to commit with haste to the implementation of the Pathfinder interdepartmental unit on youth mental health in order to align and streamline the mental health responsibilities across various government departments.”

Continued Church: “This has been a key policy ask of the ISPCC since it was first recommended in the National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report in 2017, of which ISPCC was a member. There can be no further delay if we are truly committed to providing a world class mental health service to children and young people across Ireland.”

The ISPCC is a proud and active governing member of Mental Health Reform and looks forward to working with fellow board members to deliver on MHR’s new ambitious strategic plan. 

Could you help Childline listen to children?

The Childline listening service is now recruiting volunteers for its offices in Dun Laoghaire, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Drogheda. Our volunteers are dedicated to helping Ireland’s children.

The service provided by ISPCC is always available to any child and young person across Ireland who would like to talk about any topic on their mind.  

Childline’s 24/7 listening service is free and confidential and can be reached online or by phone.  

Volunteers with the service come from all walks of life and are united by one common purpose: to help ensure no child or young person in Ireland has to face their challenges alone.  

An excellent team spirit and sense of support prevails at Childline units throughout the country. Volunteers receive full training in advance of answering their first contact and ongoing support and upskilling thereafter. 

Childline regional supervisor Mary Nolan Durkan says: “Childline volunteers play a vital role in helping to ensure there is always someone there to listen, support and empower children and young people in Ireland when they seek a listening ear. The Childline training course is a comprehensive course which equips volunteers with the skills to deliver a quality service to children.”

One of our volunteers Dee says that she never expected to get so much back from volunteering in her own life. “I have learned so many new skills and made friends from all walks of life. We are all united with a common purpose: to make sure every child has somewhere they can turn.”

Another volunteer Liz says that although she was initially nervous at the thought of becoming a volunteer with Childline, she is delighted that she did it. “People always think that you’re dealing with the most neglected children of society but this is not necessarily the truth, so many children just need to talk. It tugs at my heartstrings that so many children need Childline.”

If you would like more information on becoming a Childline volunteer and helping the service to listen to children and young people, please contact [email protected]

ISPCC partners with TU Dublin to combat child grooming

The ISPCC is proud to be a member of the GroSafe research team led by TU Dublin and funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s National Challenge Fund – OurTech. The aim of the GroSafe team is to develop a technology-enabled solution designed to build societal resilience against child grooming.

Grooming refers to someone building a relationship with a child or young person in order to manipulate, exploit and/or abuse them. It can happen both in person and online. Incidences of children and young people being targeted often go unreported and, consequently, we don’t fully understand the extent of the problem and how these acts are committed. 

A further consequence of this lack of understanding is whether the supports and systems in place are equitable in helping people to report such crimes against children.

The development of GroSafe will help to overcome the existing obstacles to increase reporting rates in our communities. This will enable the more effective allocation of resources and ultimately reduce harm to one of society’s most vulnerable populations.

Parents and caregivers want to keep their children safe but, unfortunately, it’s not possible to keep an eye on a child 24 hours a day and it’s even more challenging when they go online.

Some indications of children and young people being groomed include becoming secretive about how they are spending their time both online and offline, having gifts that they can’t or refuse to account for and demonstrating sexualised behaviour, language or an understanding of sex that isn’t age-appropriate.

Products and services built on end-to-end encryption can adversely affect the detection of such behaviour. This means that it’s crucial for children, young people and their families to be empowered to identify these harmful activities and to report such crimes.

Fiona Jennings, ISPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “The grooming of children for nefarious means is a complex issue and can have devasting consequences for all involved. Awareness is crucial as often victims and their families don’t recognise when they are being groomed.  

“The GroSafe team proposes to develop a technology-enabled solution that increases this awareness and signposts to the appropriate supports, including reporting.

“The use of technology is ubiquitous among children and young people today. Therefore, it is important that we leverage this usage and develop an appropriate solution in this environment. This invaluable information will then help us to inform children, young people, their parents or carers about emerging and evolving threats and to inform and improve our policy responses.”

The collaborative research team comprises TU Dublin researchers and the ISPCC as societal impact champions.

It is imperative that we all work together to ensure children and young people are safe and protected, however we know from those who contact Childline that this is not always the case.

The Childline guide to a healthier, happier summer

Summertime and the livin’ is easy… well, that’s the plan but, for many children and their parents, the thought of the long weeks of the holidays without the safety net of the school regime can be daunting.

At Childline, we know that children and young people can feel anxious during the summer. They miss their usual routine, their friends and, sometimes, the safety and structure of school.

Parents tell us they are worried about keeping their children entertained for such a long amount of time on a budget. They can be concerned about older siblings minding younger ones, children being lonely or being in potentially unsafe situations when they play outside or online.

Work through some scenarios, suggests ISPCC Clinical Lead Bree O’Neill, and that way both parents and children will be more prepared for whatever challenges the summer may bring.

It is a different dynamic over the summer and parents need to gear themselves up for that. Think of the family and consider what each person might need – the aim is to try to ensure everyone’s needs are met and everyone’s limits are accepted.

Don’t judge yourself, says Bree. Chances are your children will have more treats and screentime than usual, but it is the holidays and that is normal. However, she does recommend that parents try to stick to some form of routine over the summer. This helps provide structure for children and parents, many of whom are trying to juggle work and childcare.

Despite the long days, children still need their sleep. Yes, it’s good to have fun on holidays, says Bree, but it will be a nightmare trying to get children back on track three days before school starts. Instead, she recommends bringing bedtimes back about a fortnight before the return to school.

For those children who suffer from anxiety, the long summer holidays can exacerbate these feelings, says Bree. ISPCC and our volunteers on the Childline 24/7 listening service are always here to help.

Bree believes that the summer offers a very good opportunity to focus on mental and emotional health for both children and parents. The time away from the usual constraints of school, exams and activities offers children, young people and their parents an opportunity to take stock, breathe and put steps into place that help to bolster wellness.

ISPCC offers three free online Digital Mental Health programmes designed for teenagers experiencing anxiety and parents/carers of both teens and younger children. These early intervention programmes are fully supported by volunteers, take one hour a week and can be completed at the user’s leisure within a 12-week timeframe.

For more information on ISPCC’s Digital Mental Health programmes, go to