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UN calls for single child helpline

One number to help them all

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UN telco branch the International Telecommunications Union has called on member nations to standardise their child helpline numbers, to help jet-setting ankle-biters remember who to call.

The proposal to use 116 111 as the standard number around the world comes from Child Helpline International, an organisation that works to support the various child helplines.

Reuters quotes ITU senior director Malcolm Johnson: "Having a single number that will work everywhere will benefit children in need around the world." Quite how many children travel so much they need a single connecting number isn't clear, but if they're that mobile then they probably need all the support they can get.

Childline, the UK charity run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, uses an 0800 number - it lobbied hard when the potential for such numbers appearing on phone bills was mooted. Abused children may need to use their abuser's phone, so it's vital no records get back to the owner. But the technical challenges of ensuring no billing records appear are significant.

We contacted Childline, but the proposal was news to them and they're still deciding how to react.

The ITU reckons 116 111 is already being used in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden. With so many families moving around Europe these days the challenges may well be worth addressing. ®

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