A WEE COUNTY man has issued an appeal for new volunteers after taking the reins as head of Childline UK.

Shaun Friel landed the new role over the summer, having first joined up as an online counsellor for the NSPCC-run service in 2002.

The Tillicoultry man has held a number of roles during his 17 years with the charity and has taken the helm after heading up the NSPCC’s Speak Out, Stay Safe programme which aims to educate and protect a generation of children against abuse by visiting primary schools and holding special assemblies.

Shaun said: “I am both delighted and excited to be returning to Childline. My first role with the organisation was as an online counsellor and I have fond memories and first-hand experience of the significant impact the service makes to young people’s lives.

“Childline’s role in supporting young people has never been more important and I am joining a committed team of staff and volunteers who share a passion to put children first."

The 46-year-old is now in charge of a team of volunteers and staff working across 12 bases all over the UK with two in Scotland – in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Shaun added: “My initial focus has been on meeting as many staff and volunteers as I can from all twelve of our bases around the UK.

"I have met so many dedicated and committed people who share the same passion to support and enable young people, including the most vulnerable in our society.”

He said the biggest challenge in his job is trying to meet the demand for the service from young people which currently isn’t able to respond to one in three children who need help.

He said: “This is all the more important when we consider that Childline for many young people is the first service they tell about their problems and worries.

"We desperately need more volunteers particularly in the evenings and weekends when most young people want and need support.”

On average, a child contacts Childline every 25 seconds to speak with one of the 1,300 volunteers, working under staff counsellors.

Shaun continued: “The top three concerns young people talk to us about are mental and emotional health; family relationships; and suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“Childline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and young people can remain confidential which is important to so many young people who wouldn’t otherwise tell anyone about their concerns.

“Childline is there for all young people and provides a space where young people can talk confidentially whatever their worry is. We want young people to know that they don’t have to face these issues alone and that things can and do improve and that it is ok and healthy to ask for support and help.”