A CASTLEDERG native, who now lives in Belfast with her husband and young son, recently made her debut on screen as she became the face of a new NSPCC film which showcases the work of the charity’s adult helpline.
Lauren Stone (27) who visits Castlederg regularly to see her family, works as a practitioner at the helpline which is based in North Belfast.
Having graduated with a degree in sociology and criminology from Ulster University, Lauren then moved to Birmingham to undertake teacher training and worked there as a year one teacher for five years, before deciding to return to Northern Ireland in 2021.
It was at this point she started to work at NSPCC’s adult helpline.
Lauren said: “I had always been interested in working within the charity sector and from a young age I remember fundraising for the NSPCC at school and learning about their valuable work.
"When teaching, I also witnessed the fantastic work that the NSPCC provides families through their services and through the school service.
"So, when a helpline practitioner role was advertised, I knew I had to apply.
"My husband James also started work as a helpline practitioner in our Belfast base in September 2021. We’re both incredibly proud to work for such a wonderful charity.”
The NSPCC Helpline receives contacts from the public and professionals who have safeguarding fears about a child.
The charity will refer these to statutory agencies if considered to be serious enough to warrant further investigation or if it is felt a family needs support, whilst offering advice and assistance in all cases.
In 2021/22 the NSPCC helpline for adults made 337 referrals about abuse and neglect to agencies in Northern Ireland such as the PSNI and social services - an average of almost one referral each day.
Lauren continued: “I’m really proud of our work at the NSPCC, particularly the work of the helpline.
"It is such a crucial service, and it is a privilege to be trusted by the public and to support them with their concerns. I spoke in the film about a call that really stuck with me; a new mum who was feeling incredibly lonely.
"Since beginning the helpline I’ve noticed a lot of contacts regarding parental and child mental health including self-harm.
"I think since coronavirus and the isolation associated with that, a lot of parents are feeling lonely given that baby clubs etc have only recently opened and it is difficult to find and communicate with other parents feeling the same.
"This was something that I could really relate to being a new mum during the pandemic, and the stress of going to hospital appointments alone.
"I think that’s really taken its toll on parents and it is important that they are receiving the best possible support.”
Lauren’s film is part of a new NSPCC campaign to highlight the helpline and showcase the dedicated staff who work every day to protect children.
Each of the films follows an NSPCC helpline child protection specialist explaining the service and a memorable experience they have had whilst working, showing the important and vital service that the NSPCC helpline delivers.
Talking about her experiences of being one of the ‘faces’ of the new charity campaign, the Tyrone woman said: “I was incredibly nervous taking part in the video but it was such a wonderful opportunity.
"It was exciting visiting our head office in London, meeting colleagues and being able to put a face to their name!
"It was also a wonderful opportunity to speak about our helpline, raise awareness and encourage anyone with child protection concerns to contact us.
"As I said in the video, no concern is ever too small and the helpline is here to help and support as much as possible.”
As with all NSPCC services, the adult helpline relies on support from the public to continue protecting children.
That’s why on June 10, NSPCC are asking communities to come together for its flagship Childhood Day so the charity can take action against child abuse, and raise funds to keep children safe across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Whether organising a sponsored kickabout in the park, a board game, a musical get-together or an online gaming tournament, we want your help to get everyone having fun together for such an important cause.
To watch Lauren’s film visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjdm-zlMfjY
To find out more information about THE NSPCC adult helpline, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/helpline
Supporters can find out more about childhood day at www.nspcc.org.uk/childhoodday.