Childline is preparing for one of the busiest months of the year in December, after delivering more than 500 counselling sessions in Scotland.
The helpline, run by the NSPCC, was the first point of contact for 35% of children who called in Scotland, with 192 disclosing abuse for the first time.
December was the second highest month in 2022 for children across the UK reaching out for support on emotional abuse, and 400 counselling sessions were delivered between Christmas Eve and January 4.
The trend is expected to continue this year as Christmas holidays cut off support networks provided by schools, leaving vulnerable children at increased risk.
Some 553 counselling sessions in Scotland were delivered in 2023, addressing sexual, physical, domestic and emotional abuse and neglect.
More than half a million children in the UK experience abuse, and many use Childline in addition to support offered by social services.
A child phones the helpline every 45 seconds but, in more than a third of all sessions (4,906), the child did not disclose which region in the UK they were calling from.
A girl from Scotland, aged 15, who contacted Childline over the Christmas period last year, said: “I had an argument with my mum, who hasn’t been looking after me very well. She’s been drinking a lot lately – she’s currently asleep on the sofa.
“I do have other family, but I just don’t feel like I get the support I need. Social services are involved, but I worry about where I would go if my mum got taken into rehab or hospital.”
Another girl, aged 17, who contacted Childline over the Christmas period, 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 I thought I would ask Childline first.”
Shaun Friel, Childline director, said: “Although Christmas should be a time of happiness and fun for all children, at Childline we know that sadly this is not the case and that for many, it is a time full of fear, isolation and increased risks.
“For lots of children, Childline is the only place they can turn to for help when they are trapped behind closed doors feeling scared and alone.
“In the run up to this festive season, it is essential that the service continues to be here as a lifeline for those children who are in desperate need of support from our trained counsellors and those in immediate danger.”
To enable the charity to be there for all children this Christmas, visit the NSPCC website to donate.
Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk