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Hotline for runaways gets 10 calls every week

TRAUMATISED children who are sexually abused and victims of violence by drunken parents are ringing a new hotline for runaway children.

The helpline, launched last June by the ISPCC to help runaway teenagers and those thinking of fleeing home, is receiving an average of 10 calls a week from children, many of whom fear their own mothers and fathers.

Rhona McGinn from the ISPCC said the charity has seen a dramatic increase in the number of children struggling to cope due to financial stress in the home.

"The child might call about one thing and then as the conversation progresses they reveal that the root of the problem is the fact that their parents are struggling due to lack of money," she said.

"They might not want to bother their parents and explain their problems because their father or mother might have lost their job.

"We've had children as young as eight ring us, and the cases have included sexual abuse, domestic violence or because of drunken parents."

She said the service provides an important support not only for children but also for parents, siblings and carers.

"It's about a child having a person they can trust and someone there for them when they're feeling low and vulnerable," said Ms McGinn.

"We have a large number of volunteers who have all received intensive training."

The number of calls to the hotline in 2013 was 523, but the number of calls answered was 305.

The hotline number, 116000, is financially supported by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the EU.