FOR many people, the festive season brings expectations of joy, fun and love. But for thousands of children and young people, Christmas can be an incredibly lonely and frightening time.

More than half a million children experience abuse and neglect each year, and in the last 12 months our Childline service delivered more than 14,000 counselling sessions to young people on those topics an average of 38 per day. In more than 4,000 of those sessions, our counsellors were the first people these children had disclosed their abuse to, which shows the vital need for the Childline service to be available around the clock.

This month the NSPCC launched its annual Christmas appeal; as schools close their doors and children have reduced contact with support networks over the festive season, there will be many vulnerable children at home who face increased risks. During the 12-day Christmas period from December 24 to January 4, counsellors delivered 400 counselling sessions on abuse and neglect, and last December was the second highest month in the year for children reaching out for support on emotional abuse.

For those children and young people for whom Christmas means abuse, Childline is a lifeline. A 17-year-old girl who contacted Childline over Christmas said: “My parents are drug addicts and don’t buy us any food. If they do get us any, it’s usually stolen from somewhere. They always ask me for my work money. I’d like advice on how to move out with my 12-year-old brother. I’ve been thinking about contacting social services, but thought I’d ask Childline for advice first.”

Another teenager said: “There won’t be anything special for Christmas in my house. My parents aren’t horrible people, but they don’t do anything nice or show emotion or care about my needs. They’ve taken my Christmas gift money from my relatives. I know there won’t be any presents to open on Christmas Day.”

Over coming weeks, you may see our new TV advert, based on real calls to the service, highlighting that on average a child will call Childline every 45 seconds. For these children, Christmas can be the worst time of year. For lots of children, Childline is the only place they can turn to when they’re feeling scared and alone. When a child needs help, Childline is a lifeline. That’s why it is vital that Childline continues to be here for children in desperate need of support and those in immediate danger. Whether you’re taking part in the Walk For Children on December 22 or buying festive gifts from the NSPCC shop, every pound helps us. Visit