Helpline worker from NSPCC “proud to work on Christmas Day”

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Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Belfast woman, Sharon Coyle, 37, will be spending her Christmas Day working in NSPCC’s Helpline base in Belfast and although it means she will be parted from her family at this festive time, she explains why she is happy to do this.


Sharon Coyle - Helpline worker from NSPCC Northern Ireland is proud to work on Christmas Day to help keep children safe - Newry headlines


The service provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection.

It has bases in Belfast and Manchester and operates 365 days per year to protect children in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK.



Last year the NSPCC helpline, which has around 100 staff, responded to almost 69,000 contacts from people, across the UK, with concerns about a child’s welfare and 45% of contacts answered resulted in a referral.

Concerns around a parent’s or other adult’s health or behaviour are the most common reason for contacting the Helpline.

The Helpline has been more important than ever, during the pandemic. 

With children not being able to access their usual support network, looking out for them and contacting the Helpline has been vital.

As always, the service will be operating on Christmas Day because Christmas can be a difficult time for children suffering abuse, neglect and poor mental health and the impact of the coronavirus looks likely to put even more children at risk this year.

Sharon says, “I’m originally from Northern Ireland and after 20 years of living in the Republic of Ireland, I relocated to Belfast in April 2020 to start my role as Helpline Practitioner with  NSPCC  Northern Ireland – right in the height of the pandemic.

“My background qualifications are in counselling and psychotherapy and before I returned home I had been working as a Domestic Abuse Practitioner for almost a decade. 

“This gave me a background of supporting adults and children who have been impacted by exposure to domestic abuse and because of this experience, I was really attracted to work for the NSPCC helpline.”

Sharon continues, “The Helpline is made up of professionals from various different backgrounds, including healthcare, police, teachers, social workers and counsellors. 



“It is fantastic to be part of a team who are so passionate about tackling child abuse and, in the office, there is a culture whereby practitioners are encouraged to share their wealth of experience and expertise.

“As a result, we are constantly learning from each other and striving to work together to deliver the most comprehensive safeguarding advice and responses.

“It’s lovely to be part of such a brilliant team,” she insists.

“As Helpline Practitioners, we were granted key worker status and had to adapt very swiftly so that we could respond to the new range of challenges faced by children and their caregivers because of the pandemic.

“There were so many issues which emerged – homeschooling, child contact for separated families, unemployment and financial issues, dealing with isolation and loneliness, experiencing illness and anxiety around catching coronavirus and uncertainty about the future.

“All of these things have been responsible for placing additional strain on families and for the Helpline team; it’s meant that there’s been a vast spike in contacts.”

In the first full four months of restrictions (April-July 2020), the Helpline saw increases of 53% in contacts about physical abuse, 42% in contacts about neglect and contacts about emotional abuse doubled.


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Sharon continues, “On the plus side for many vulnerable children, the Helpline has seen an increase in contacts from concerned neighbours. 

“Lockdown restrictions have meant that more adults are now often spending more time at home, placing them in a position to witness potential dangers which may have otherwise gone unnoticed. 

“In this sense, it has been heartening to experience the increase in contacts from members of the general public because they are looking out for children and playing the