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Childline referrals: what happens next for young people?

Exploring the Childline referrals process and the outcomes for young people

Publication date September 2022

Childline’s 24-hour confidential online and telephone service provides children and young people across the UK with emotional support.

The information that young people share with Childline almost always remains confidential. However, to ensure the safety of a young person, information is sometimes shared by Childline with another organisation, for example, the emergency services or social care.

This evidence briefing explores young people's experiences of the referral process and what happened afterwards, and considers:

  • the positive and negative outcomes of referrals
  • the factors that influence the outcomes of a referral.

The evidence was gathered through interviews with young people and Childline Supervisors.

Authors: Chloe Gill and Elizabeth Thomas
Published: 2022

Childline referrals: what happens next for young people?
Download the full report (PDF)
“When I found out, you could say I was shocked and surprised when the police came, but when it happened, obviously, it’s not good to waste their time but I felt like this effort they showed that they did care, when I found out. So, I felt…happy.”

Feedback from a young person who contacted Childline

Key finding

An emergency Childline referral can be a very stressful experience for a young person

However, a referral can lead to positive change if handled sensitively and if follow-up support is provided, where needed.

Further findings

Young people described feeling a mix of positive and negative emotions immediately after a referral

Often, young people felt scared and shocked when an emergency referral happened, but some also felt cared for and that their problems were being taken seriously.

A young person-centred approach can make a positive difference

The research highlighted the importance of all adults working in a young person-centred way when supporting young people during and after a referral. This involves listening, showing empathy, and including young people in decisions about what happens.

Young people’s experiences of support following their referral was varied

Some young people told us that after a referral, communication with their families about their problems improved, and they were able to access additional support. However, others felt that nothing had changed, or that the support they were receiving was not helping them.


Please cite as: Gill, C. and Thomas, E. (2022) Childline referrals: what happens next for young people? London: NSPCC.

Childline referrals: what happens next for young people?
Download the full report (PDF)