We take a look at the work of Parentline, a free confidential helpline for people who parent staffed by trained volunteers who have parenting experience.
Estelle Matthews: Well, I'm here in North West London at Parentline Plus. Now this is a charity that's set up to help parents cope with the many challenges they face, being parents or carers. Valerie Outram, you're the Area Manager here, the call center is always busy. How many calls do you take here? Valerie Outram: Well, I think nationally it's about 16,000 per month. Obviously we don't deal with them all here. There are seven actual different call centers across the country and 11 area offices. So we take a large bulk of them here but obviously they come from anywhere in the country. Estelle Matthews: Now, why the parents actually need to call? Valerie Outram: Well, I think being the parents is one of the most difficult jobs that any of us have to do in our lives. It doesn't come with instructions and I think that people experience difficulties no matter what background they come from and we are here to listen and help them to see what they can do and how they can improve their family life really. Estelle Matthews: And the call takers, what kind of qualification do they have to have? Valerie Outram: Well, all call takers are parents or carers and they do receive an intensive training that we give them in order to go on the phone and of course they have constant supervision and further training so that, we're always supporting our call takers, because obviously some of the calls can be quite disturbing, and upsetting. So we plan to incorporate lot of supervision with everything that we do really. Estelle Matthews: What kind of practical advice can you actually give people? Valerie Outram: Well, it depends on the situation obviously. What we say is that parents can call in to us and talk about their individual situation and we say to them that you're the expert in your situation and we'll talk through with you, what your individual options are, listen to what it is that you think you can do and sort of give back the power really to the parents rather than coming as the expert and tell them what to do. It's about the parents knowing what's best really. Estelle Matthews: So it's just to be able to chat to someone. Valerie Outram: It's to be able to offload their problems, just think a bit more clearly about maybe some of the worries that they have got and to be able to talk to people that are non-judgmental and objective and of course it's confidential. Estelle Matthews: Well, thanks for that Valerie. Let's take a look around the call center and actually go and speak to a call taker. I know that you've got for about nine or 10 in here at the moment. Valerie Outram: Yes, that's right. Estelle Matthews: But over here we have Jackie. Jackie, good to meet you. You've just been chatting to someone. What kind of calls have you been taking this morning? Jackie Joannides: Well, in the morning, there have been some calls with children starting school, starting nursery and the difficulties that the parents are finding parting, saying goodbye, leaving crying children. I'm just reassuring them that that's perfectly normal and the kids will be okay in a few days. Estelle Matthews: Do you ever have any really difficult calls, where you actually believe that someone may be suicidal? Jackie Joannides: There are definitely people that are suffering with depression or are not coping with difficult problems and we are here to either support them or to assign, post them to places where they will get more expert help really. Estelle Matthews: And more often than not you have just a list of very practical numbers for them to call and that is really you help, isn't it? Jackie Joannides: Yeah, and to be here to listen, really. Estelle Matthews: So other kind of calls, I mean do you ever have problems with parents not being able to cope with teenagers for example. Jackie Joannides: Very often, yeah. Estelle Matthews: So give me a case study then. Jackie Joannides: Parents who have children who have kind of pushed their boundaries to the limit, don't know where they are, late at night, want them to be home at 10 o'clock and it's 11 o'clock and they are not home yet, so they will ring up to STRESS, what to do, do I ring the police, do I shout at them. Then I talk it through and help them to make the decisions themselves about how they react to it, guide them. Estelle Matthews: So Jackie what got you into being a call taker? Jackie Joannides: I have used the telephone service myself as a parent and found it incredibly helpful to have somebody that was not going to make any judgment and was going to support me. And I felt when I have the time to give back a bit and help other people, it's incredibly satisfying. Estelle Matthews: Thank you very much for talking to us. That's great. Jackie Joannides: Thank you.