Funding question for youth helpline

The six-month trial of a youth helpline in Central Otago is winding up and funding for the initiative's future depends on a report on its worth to the community.

The telephone line Ezhelp was launched in October last year to provide advice to people in the district aged between 13 and 20, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

ProjectExcel worked on the initiative for the Safer Lifestyles Group, with which Central Otago mayor Malcolm Macpherson was involved.

Dr Macpherson said the number of people who used the helpline in the last six months might not be enough to warrant funding its continuation.

‘‘It seems to have had useful demand but it's unclear whether the demand is sufficient to justify carrying it on as trialled. We need to get some idea of the quality or nature of demand as it's not necessarily the number of calls but what they are about that's important,'' he said.

He said it was too early to draw conclusions about what would happen to the helpline and was waiting for a report on the trial to be completed.

‘‘It should be done almost immediately and hopefully it's available within a few days of the trial ending at the end of this month,'' he said.

The Mayor's Taskforce and the Tindall Foundation funded the helpline, which was designed using the results of a survey of agencies and year 9-13 pupils in Central Otago.

The survey identified issues of concern to young people which were used to teach helpline operators about subject matter likely to be addressed by those using the service, with emphasis on receiving non-judgemental, positive reassurance.

Offline professional support was provided by Central Otago Victim Support to the two trained operators.

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