A LONG-SERVING Childline volunteer from Malvern has been recognised for helping vulnerable children for 35 years.
Colin Butler MBE, a 74-year-old former deputy headteacher, has been awarded the Pride of Birmingham Lifetime Achievement award for his three-and-a-half decades of untiring commitment.
He was present for the very first Childline shift in London in 1986 with Dame Esther Rantzen and has talked thousands of young people through a range of problems, including suicidal concerns and most recently children’s worries and anxieties caused by the pandemic. It is estimated he has taken around 15,000 contacts from concerned and vulnerable children.
He was told of his surprise award by renowned Brummie comedian Jasper Carrott.
Colin said: “It was a complete shock. I was asked to do a bit of filming and I was told it was to help the NSPCC promote volunteering, and then suddenly Jasper Carrott jumped out of a bush to tell me I won the award.
“I am very proud to have won it and I think it’s recognition to all of our volunteers for the work we do.”
Looking back at his work for Childline spanning three decades, Colin has seen a lot change since that first shift at the charity’s London base.
He said: “When we started there was no internet. Mobile phones were a rarity. We had one little base in London and that was it.
“Childline now has 12 centres around the UK, more children contact us on mobiles than landlines, and more children contact us via the internet than over the phone.
“The work we do now is as much about answering on line chats and emails as it is about answering phone calls.
“The nature of the contacts has changed as well. When we started Childline, the service was promoted around children’s issues of sexual and physical abuse, but children have realised they can talk to us about many things.”
Colin retired to Malvern with his wife Gillian 15 years ago and was chairman of Malvern and Three Counties Friends of Childline for many years.
New figures from Childline highlight the huge toll the pandemic has taken on young people.
Since April last year the service has carried out 73,088 counselling sessions about mental or emotional health alone. 5,646 of these counselling sessions were with children aged 11 or under, an increase of nearly a third (29%) when compared to the year before.
Colin said: “I would say the service has been vital at this time. A lot of volunteers have devoted extra time and some can answer emails from home and that has taken pressure off the service – that’s what I’ve been doing during the pandemic.
“Now it’s had time to settle in, this award gives tremendous recognition for Childline and all we do for children – it’s a constant reminder to me every time I see the award on my mantelpiece.
“It reminds me that I’ve been doing it for so long.”
Colin’s award comes as the NSPCC launches its Childhood Day. On June 11, the NSPCC will ask families, friends and colleagues from across the UK to celebrate childhood by organising a play event to raise money and help keep children safe.
The charity has launched a new film that encourages people to play their part for children by signing up, downloading a fund-raising pack and organising a play event to fundraise for the NSPCC.