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30 years of BT and Childline 

27 October 2016

We have helped Childline to support and advise four million children and young people across the UK since Dame Esther Rantzen DBE founded the service.

On 30 October 1986, a new confidential helpline for children was launched on the BBC programme Childwatch, sending shockwaves throughout the nation as the prevalence of child abuse and neglect was brought to the attention of the public.

We helped set up the service by providing phones, volunteers and the iconic eight-digit free phone number – 0800 1111 - which is still used today.


And our help didn’t end there.

In 1989, we helped to build a supporter database and ensure Childline’s long-term future by sending out the UK’s largest-ever mailshot at the time – and in 1991 we funded the first anti-bullying packs for schools while raising £2.4 million for the service through BT swimathons.

We’ve continued our support in the 21st century – in 2003 we worked with UK mobile phone providers to ensure Childline remained anonymous and free, and in 2006 we provided secure funds and strategic advice to support Childline’s merger with the NSPCC.

Dame Esther Rantzen DBE said: “When I first had the idea for Childline in 1986, it was clear to me that calls needed to be free, and the phone number had to be simple as well as memorable enough for children as young as five to ring us. It had to be accessible for every child to ring us safely.

“BT made all that possible. Childline would not be here without BT’s help.

“It’s not just the free telephone number, premises and marketing support that has helped Childline grow over the years. The staff have always understood that the helpline is a very special way for children to escape their prison of pain and suffering.

“I cannot count the number of precious young lives saved by the partnership between ChildLine and BT. It is definitely thousands but could be hundreds of thousands who simply wouldn’t be here without the amazing support BT has given us throughout the last 30 years.”

Today, Childline is still free, confidential and available at any time - by phone, email, app or online chat.

We continue to support Childline by investing in the development of the new Childline website, encouraging staff to volunteer as counsellors and for the NSPCC’s Speak out Stay safe programme and taking part in events and challenges.

Find out more about Childline

Photo credit: Photography by Jon Challicom. The children pictured are models.