22% increase in caller demand

22% increase in caller demand for Telephone Counselling Service in 2014

Telephone counselling service Connect has reported a 22% increase in individual callers receiving support from the service to date this year.

Connect has supported 470 individual callers between January and November through its out of hours service which operates for 20 hours per week.

The service reported that up to 54% of callers described an experience of sexual abuse in the year to date, a 3% increase on the same period last year.

The overall number of calls received to the service (calls inside and outside of opening hours) in 2014 is in line with previous years and expected to reach over 10,000 by year end.

Connect‘s Counsellors expect to answer a greater percentage of calls during opening hours this year reaching 85% answered, compared to 80% in 2013. However, it remains concerning that 31% of calls come into service when it is closed and are unanswered.

Connect is an out of hours telephone based counselling service for abuse survivors and opens from 6-10pm from Wednesday to Sunday. It was established in 2006 following demands from survivors of institutional abuse that an independent and professional out of hours telephone based counselling and support service be established.

Connect Manager Theresa Merrigan said the 2014 figures reflect a continuing year on year growth in demand – and an increasing pressure to meet that demand within the time constaints of the 20 hours per week which Connect is funded for.

“In 2014 there has been a high number of new callers which has placed a pressure on staff to find other services for callers as there is a concern around Connect’s ability to provide intensive ongoing support to such a high number of individual callers. Most callers are in need of intensive support, and while Connect can support people through crisis, our goal is to provide initial support and then direct people towards face to face services where they can receive the support of multi-disciplinary teams.”

Ms. Merrigan said that an increasing number of callers talk about multiple experiences of abuse and neglect: “Many report emotional and physical abuse in familial contexts where they were abused by multiple family members. Such experiences in childhood lead to emotional difficulties in adult life which vary from depression to self harm and suicidal thoughts.”

The most common setting for abuse to have happened to callers in 2014 to date is in the family at 45.5%, followed by the community at 27.5%. Institutional abuse accounted for 16% of calls, though this figure rose at times of public focus on institutional abuse, accounting for 23% of calls at the announcement of the Mother & Baby Home Inquiry in June and July. To meet additional demand at this time, Connect extended its opening hours to seven nights a week for a six week period.

61% of callers have been female and 39% were male, which represents a 4% increase in men availing of support. In Cavan, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford the gender divide was either equal, or in favour of men.

A high proportion of calls are from Dublin, Cork, Galway and the commuter counties around Dublin. “We would encourage more callers from rural areas, particularly the Western seaboard counties,” Ms. Merrigan said.

During 2014 Connect also received calls from Northern Ireland and Britain. Calls from the UK account for 3% of calls in the year to date, similar to 2013 and up from 1.5% in 2011. “We would still like this figure to be higher as many abuse survivors now live in the UK,” she added.

Of callers who reported abuse within families 23% said that it was perpetrated by the father, 12% brother, 15.5% mother and father and 20% mother. Of those who reported abuse perpetrated by their mother, 51% reported physical abuse, 20% sexual abuse and 88% emotional abuse.

Callers who seek support from Connect cover all age categories with 9% 18-30; 40.5% 31-50; 21% 51-60 and 15.5% over 60.

Connect is available Wednesday to Sunday from 6-10pm at 1800 477 477 in the Republic of Ireland and 0800 477 477 77 from the UK.

Further Information
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.