Sharp rise in helpline calls leads to call for more government cash

A charity umbrella body for organisations running telephone helplines has called for more government funding to cope with a huge increase in the demand for such services.

Hotline: Samaritans has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of calls
Hotline: Samaritans has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of calls

Charities running helplines have reported sharp rises in the number calls as more people use the lines as a result of the effects of the economic downturn.

The Retail Trust, a charity for people in the retail industry, said it had seen a huge increase in demand for its helpline in the second quarter of 2008, compared with the previous three months.

Nigel Rothband, chief executive of the Retail Trust, said: "In the second quarter of 2008, our in-house helpline team reported a 73 per cent increase in the number of work-related calls, including those that ask about job security and stress."

Rekha Wadhwani, chief executive of the Telephone Helplines Association, an umbrella body and a charity, said members were already seeing an increase in the demand for services from people looking for financial advice.

"The Government needs to put some funding into supporting helplines now," she said. "A lot of our members are very small and it's difficult for them to continue operating on a daily basis. Reductions in support and donations could make it very difficult for them to carry on at the very time they are needed most."

Organisations providing emotional support were expecting to see a rise in demand for their services in the next three to six months, said Wadhwani.

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service, a charity service for people worried about debt, recorded 30 per cent more calls between July and October than during the same period in 2007.

A spokeswoman for Samaritans said its helplines in London had experienced a 25 per cent increase in the months of August and September compared with the same period last year.

"It is too early to evaluate what the impact of the current financial climate will be," she said. "But we are being cautious in our financial forecasts and are closely monitoring income to identify any deterioration in trends."

Chloe Darlington, external affairs manager at Get Connected, which provides support and advice for young people under 25 years of age, also said demand for her organisation's services could rise over the next few months.

"We often speak to young people who are thinking about running away from home," she said.

"If they haven't got enough money or can't get a job, their worries will be worse."

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