What is a business without a cause? Childline South Africa kickstarted its counselling services in 1986 with the view to provide protection to children who may have experienced any form of violence. In efforts to aid these children they have been flexible in their approach – from Mxit chat rooms to toll free calls, they’re covering all available avenues to offer their services in the child protection field. Childline South Africa have not only become a go-to for parents and children, the helpline acts a go-to source for information for companies such as the Department of Social Development and UNICEF – year-on-year, Childline SA produces reports that assist in creating a culture for children rights, education and the prevention of abuse.

The team at 1-grid were to keen to get more detail around the online counselling service and asked a series of questions.

1. Tell us more about your organisation?

Childline South Africa is an affiliation of nine Provincial Childline offices. The National Office based in Durban plays a supportive, coordinating and capacity building role to the provincial offices to improving service delivery to the children of South Africa, as well as provides vital data to government and partners that assists in the planning and development of services.

2. Why did you start your organisation?

The first Childline (KwaZulu-Natal) began service provision in 1986 in response to the expressed needs of children, who, when presenting with abuse injuries at hospitals, disclosed that they had no access to services that provide protection. The proven effectiveness of the confidential telephone service resulted in the opening of Childline services in all provinces and an expansion of the range of services offered as children and caregivers informed Childline leadership of gaps in service provision in the child Protection field.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your organisation?

From our initial start up days till present, our biggest challenge is funding. The services offered by each Childline Provincial Office vary according to their resources (financial and personnel capacity) and the identified and priority child protection needs in their particular province. Provincial Childlines also network extensively with other child protection organisations in their provinces to ensure that the duplication of services is avoided. However, all Childline provincial offices experience challenges with staff retention due to the lower salaries they are able to offer as compared to state-run services.

4. What challenges has the business faced as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown in SA?

At the start of the Lockdown in March, Childline was deemed an essential service as a Helpline to children during these difficult times. We understood that children would no longer be going to school, and confined to their homes, which in many cases was where they faced abuse. Our offices around the country had to therefore relook at our work plans to ensure social distancing at our Helpline Centres, arrange for transportation for our counsellors to and from their shifts and also think about where we would be referring children to if the country was on lockdown. We also had to adapt to allow some counsellor to work remotely during this time and this involved diverting calls to cellphones, and ensuring the counsellors had the necessary tools to work from home e.g. airtime, data, etc.

5. When did you move your business online?

In 2009 Childline South Africa initiated online counselling via the use of chat rooms on the South African Instant Messaging app Mxit. Children were migrating from traditional telephone communication to exploring the world of the internet and cellular telephones were increasingly able to use various applications that facilitates information and social networking therefore we decided to meet children where they were i.e. online! Over time we updated our technology and launched a chat platform on our national website wherein children may chat to us on a one on one basis, free of charge, apart from their data cost. Online Counselling is available Monday – Friday, 11am – 1pm and 2-6pm on our website www.childlinesa.org.za

Since 2010, Childline SA has chatted to over 24 000 youth through online counselling.

6. Where did you hear about 1-grid?

1grid was originally recommended to Childline by our web developer when we needed a server on which to host our national data collection software.

7. What made you choose 1-grid?

Childline originally approached 3 service providers for sponsorship of a web hosting server, including 1grid. Ultimately 1grid rose above the rest and offered sponsorship to Childline. Combined with an accessible web panel, 1grid was selected as the obvious choice.

8. In summary, what is your impression of 1-grid?

Technical support from 1grid has been great, and the 1grid web panel makes administration easy to manage. Our 1grid server provides us with a number of benefits including system monitoring and hosting of various mini-sites such as the online counselling chat system. We are sincerely appreciative of their donation of their virtual server to Childline that assists us with our daily work. The kindness and giving nature of 1-grid has helped us reach out to many children in need across the country