Childline delivers more than 5,000 counselling sessions about gender identity and sexuality in a year

We’ve seen a 29% increase in the number of young people speaking about coming out compared with last year. During Pride Month - and all year long - we’re here to provide young people with a source of support.

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It’s been a challenging year for many, and some have struggled with being cut off from their usual support networks, while others have been worried about returning to school.

Since April last year, a total of 5,046 Childline counselling sessions have been carried out with young people about gender identity and sexuality. In 2,638 of these counselling sessions a young person mentioned coming out as a concern - a 29% increase from the year before, with some also talking about worrying about the reaction they would get from other people.1

We found in 1,467 counselling sessions young people also talked about their mental and emotional health as an additional concern to gender identity and sexuality, and in 1,023 counselling sessions they also spoke about family relationships. Other related concerns include school, friendship issues and self-harm.

While many found lockdown difficult, some described it as a time of reflection and a chance to take stock, and others spoke of finding confidence during this time to come out to their friends and family.


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"I want to tell somebody that I'm gay but I just can't find the courage to. I don't want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I'm scared of what will happen if I tell someone."
Girl aged 12 who called Childline

Support with gender identity and sexuality

As restrictions continue to ease, we’re still here to provide all children and young people with help and support when they need it. Children and young people can:

The Childline website also has advice about anything worrying children and young people. We cover topics including:

You can find information here on our website about how to talk to your children about their sexuality and gender identity, along with advice on how to help keep them safe.

Worried or need some advice?

Our trained helpline counsellors can provide support and advice online or over the phone on 0808 800 5000

“At Childline, we know that coming out or speaking about sexuality and gender identity can sometimes be really challenging.

Some children with sexuality and gender concerns revealed that lockdown had been particularly hard for them, as they’d been cut off from their usual support networks.Whereas others told Childline that lockdown had given them the confidence and freedom to come out to their friends and family. However, some worried they may have lost this confidence when returning to school.

No matter what a young person’s experience is with coming out or speaking about their gender identity or sexuality, at Childline we believe every young person has a right to be listened to and to be able to speak about any worries or questions they may have about their gender identity and sexuality without feeling judged.

If a young person feels unable to speak to a trusted adult in their life then we would encourage them to speak to Childline.”

How Childline helps


Childline is a free service for children and young people - here whenever they need support or advice. We've delivered an average of around 17,000 counselling sessions a month since the first national lockdown began.

Childline is here for every child and young person. Whatever problems or dangers they're facing we’re here to listen – 365 days a year.

"I am so immensely grateful that you were there to listen without telling me I am lying, judging me or making me feel worse about myself and that is the amazing thing about these chats, they can save lives."
Girl, aged 14

Children don’t always know who to trust with their worries. Without a safe place to turn, they can put their trust in the wrong person or keep their fears to themselves. Home isn’t a safe place for every child, and the pandemic made even more children feel trapped, lonely, and unsure who to trust.

"I just wanted to say a big thank you to the counsellor I spoke to this morning. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been there to talk to. You made me feel so much better about myself and gave me hope that maybe I will make it. I am so grateful for everything you have done. I was able to feel like my feelings are valid and that I have worth and a reason to live."
Girl aged 14

Childline gives every child access to free, confidential support whenever they need it. In 2020/21, we delivered 76,000 councilling sessions to children and the young people contacting us for the first time. Childline is always here to listen, whatever their worry.

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Childline is here for children and young people wherever and whenever they need us. Feedback from young people has told us:  

  • Childline helps them feel less alone with their problems 
  • Childline helps them see their problems from a new perspective 
  • Talking about problems with Childline helps them open up with other people. 

Our Childline staff and over 1,200 volunteer counsellors around the UK delivered over 200,000 counselling sessions in 2020/21Hear from Omar, one of our counsellors, about his experience helping children during the pandemic. 

"The volunteers who contribute are exceptional people… [We] are committed to the service continuing because we want to guarantee it is there for children and young people. We realise there is a real need and we are there for them."
Gwenno Huws, Childline volunteer counsellor (Prestatyn)

Children and young people also turn to our website for support online. Our website puts young people first – with games, tools, advice and support about anything from making friends to child abuse. Young people also turn to Childline’s message boards to share their worries with other young people in a safe online space, with over 58,000 posts submitted in total in 2020/21.

"I have been seeing a counsellor at school for the last few years which has helped. I only see them once a week so in between I look at the Childline website for tips on managing anger and stress."
Boy, 13, Childline website user

In 2018 we created childline.org.uk/kids specifically for children under-12, to ensure our information is accessible for young people of all ages.

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The pandemic meant big changes for us all – including Childline. Children needed us more than ever – so we adapted how we deliver our service so our volunteers could continue to support young people safely. As well as practicing social distancing in our service centres, we also created new volunteer roles - answering emails from children and young people - to allow volunteers to work virtually.  

Volunteer for Childline

Between April 2020 and January 2021, Childline counsellors have delivered over 170,000 counselling sessions to children and young people. Mental and emotional health make up over a third of all the counselling sessions delivered, with concerns ranging from coping with stress and loneliness to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Childline is always here to listen.

Young people also turned to the Childline website for support, advice and distraction throughout the pandemic. Over the last year: 

  • We released new self-help tools to help children cope with feeling low, bored or anxious – including the Coping Kit and the Childline Helper. 
  • The Calm Zone (launched in December 2019), a webpage where young people can go to find calming activities and breathing exercises, saw increasing visits throughout the beginning of the year, growing from 15,300 pageviews throughout February 2020 to more than 10,000 pageviews a week in the last week of April 2020.1  
  • Young people also increasingly turned to Childline’s message boards a safe online forum monitored by our staff – for support and advice from other young people.2

"Most of us go on here because we need help. We’re not happy, we don’t feel safe telling people we know face-to-face, and we feel alone. I honestly thought that not many people must be feeling how I felt, and while it makes me sad to see how many of us aren’t OK, it also makes me so, so thankful that a) I’m not alone, there’s this huge community of people supporting others they don’t even know, just for the sake of humanity and compassion, and b) that all of us on here have the guts to ask for help."
Childline website user

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We want to be there for every child who needs us, no matter what their worry or how they choose to contact us. Children and young people sometimes have to wait for a Childline counsellor to be available. We’re always looking to improve our counselling services and make sure we’re there with them while they wait.

One example of this is the creation of Cubie, our chatbot helper that we've developed with our technology partner O2. Cubie asks important opening questions to children and young people while they wait. It also points them to helpful advice, support and games around the site to try in the meantime.

On average, online counselling sessions take over three times as long as over the phone – and make up around three quarters of our sessions.3 By using a chat bot we can help counsellors and young people by providing them with more information before each session.

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It costs £4 to answer a child’s call for help. Around 90% of our income is donated - we can only be here with your help.4

Donate now

You can help give children and young people a voice when no one else is listening.

Volunteer with us


References

  1. 1. The Calm Zone is a relatively new area of the site which was launched in December 2019. Early figures showed levels around 15,300 pageviews per month (February). In March, this grew by 79% to over 27,000 and April saw a further 31% growth to almost 36,000 pageviews with the last week of April hitting a peak of more than 10,000 pageviews in a week.

  2. 2. Message board posts have increased in 2020/21 compared with previous year. 

  3. 3. In 2020/21, the average handling time for an online counselling session was over three times as long as the average for a counselling session by phone. This includes the time taken by the counsellor to record information after the counselling session is finished.

  4. 4. In 2019/20 our total income was £117.6 million. Of this total £93.5 million came from donations and legacies and a further £9.0 million came from activities undertaken for the purpose of raising funds (like dinners and balls, auctions and challenge events). This gives a total of £102.5 million from our supporters, or 87% of all income.