How do children’s helplines measure their effectiveness?

Last updated: 17 Sep 2019 Topics: Safeguarding and child protection

A systematic evidence review

Children’s helplines such as Childline can be vital in improving children and young people’s wellbeing.

We want to understand the effectiveness of Childline and the outcomes for children who contact the service. To inform our research and insights programme for Childline we reviewed evidence about children’s helplines across the world.

We wanted to find out:

  • how children’s helplines define and measure outcomes for children and young people
  • how they measure the effectiveness of their service
  • the strength of the existing evidence about the effectiveness of children’s helplines.

Authors: Mariya Stoilova, Sonia Livingstone and Sheila Donovan
Published: 2019

Key finding 

Children’s helplines can improve children’s wellbeing, confidence and ability to cope with their current situation, as well as reduce anxiety and distress.

Additional findings

Children’s helplines are an established component of child protection systems. Positive outcomes for children and young people occur as a result of helpline counselling itself or as a result of support from external agencies brought about by helpline referrals.

The evidence base for children’s helplines provides a rich understanding of children’s concerns and issues.

An increasing number of helplines provide an online service, which can have distinct benefits associated with accessibility, reach and anonymity.


Service evaluations should be based on realistic expectations of what is achievable for child helpline services.

Helplines should engage in collaborative work and knowledge exchange to establish recognised quality standards and evaluation models.

Evidence based on children’s own perspectives of their needs, their experiences of service provision and their evaluation of the gaps is needed for building inclusive child support services.

Larger-scale evaluations are needed which look at the relationship between children’s needs, available support and effective coordination of child support agencies.


Stoilova, M., Livingstone, S. and Donovan, S. (2019) Outcomes and effectiveness of children’s helplines: a systematic evidence mapping. London: NSPCC.