State funding top-up urgently needed as more than half of calls to Kids Helpline go unanswered

Greens spokesperson for Chid Protection Hon Alison Xamon MLC has called on the Government to urgently top-up funding for Kids Helpline, since she revealed more than half of phone calls to and attempted web-chats with the essential counselling service went unanswered.

Ms Xamon said she was very concerned to learn through questions in Parliament that 58% of phone contacts and 58% of attempted web-chats were not answered in 2019-20 – with the phone call no-answer rate up 2% on the previous financial year.

She said the rate of unanswered contacts was alarming as the Kids Helpline was widely advertised as the recommended first point of contact for children and young people in distress.

“If we are going to promote Kids Helpline as the go-to in times of crisis, then it is absolutely crucial that the service be adequately funded – and that there be enough counsellors to meet demand,” Ms Xamon said.

“Clearly this is not currently the case.”

Ms Xamon said it was more important than ever, during the coronavirus pandemic, that children and young people have reliable access to counselling and support.

“The state government must follow the lead of the federal government and urgently increase the amount of funding it provides,” said Ms Xamon.

While she was pleased to see that emails to Kids Helpline all received responses, she said children and young people accessing the service needed to be assured that their requests for help would be answered through any of the mediums the service promoted – every time they needed it.

“That many young people are not currently attending school and other activities, and many are in self-isolation, is likely to exacerbate any difficulties that they are having,” Ms Xamon said.

“The fact that the answer rate on 2018-19 has actually gotten worse, rather than better, is deeply concerning.

“The Government must urgently top-up funding as part of the overall COVID-19 mental health response, to ensure some of our most vulnerable young people are receiving the help they need, particularly during a time of such uncertainty.”