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Saturday 30 August 2014

30,000 Irish 'turn to UK anti-bully service for advice'

Breda Heffernan

Published 31/01/2013 | 05:00

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UP to 30,000 young Irish people have turned to a UK online counselling service for victims of bullying because of a lack of resources here, it has been claimed.

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BeatBullying UK has an online peer-to-peer mentoring service where children who have been bullied can receive advice and support.

The service is monitored by professional counsellors who, it claims, have had to step in and contact the emergency services after a young person threatened to take their own life.

Niall Cowley, director of the anti-bullying charity which has an Irish arm, said it has a "moral obligation" not to turn away the 30,000 young Irish people who have sought help.

"We have an online safe place where young people can go to get peer-to-peer mentoring," he said. "There are professional moderators and counsellors on the site 24 hours a day.

"Our statistics track back the last three years and 30,000 people signed on from Ireland. That is a phenomenal drain without any Irish funding."

BeatBullying estimates that a quarter of Irish children – 264,000 – will experience bullying and, of these, 7,920 will contemplate taking their own lives.

Questionable

Research has found that 20pc

of bullying victims are reluctant to go to school, 19pc experience reduced confidence and self-esteem, 5pc self-harm and 3pc contemplate suicide.

Mr Cowley said BeatBullying had approached the Departments of Education and Children about introducing the programme here, but without success.

"This can be done at a tiny fraction of the cost of any other intervention service," he said, adding that the Government's new Action Plan on Bullying will not deliver results quickly enough to help those currently contemplating suicide.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it was "questionable" for BeatBullying to use its UK figures to comment on an Irish context and pointed out that it had not sought to contribute to the Action Plan.

"The BeatBullying group has referred to research carried out in the UK and they do not provide a source for how their conclusions were derived," she said.

"They have extrapolated figures for the UK and applied them to an Irish context. This approach is questionable.

"The group did not contribute to the Action Plan on Bullying published on Tuesday. This is despite an open call for submissions from any interested party as part of the process of compiling the plan."

Irish Independent

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