What's your New Year's resolution? Perhaps you can play a part in helping the 50,000 children in England and Wales who are in care because of abuse or neglect? Now don't get me wrong, for most of them, care will be the best option and care can provide an incredibly good home for very troubled young people. But we need to go back a step and stop abuse before it gets to this stage. It's a daunting task but this year has been a good one for progress made on tackling child abuse, and next year I'm determined will be even better.
2013 has seen some horrific cases of child abuse including the trial of the mother of little Daniel Pelka and her partner - who tortured, starved and finally killed him; the trial of the mother of Hamzah Khan - the boy who was left to starve in a cot after he disappeared off the radar of our society; and the truly stomach-churning case of Ian Watkins who plotted to rape babies.
But there have been some huge positives. Figures released by the NSPCC this year show that child murders are at their lowest level in three decades. Reporting of child abuse is, by almost all measures, at its highest level. This isn't because abuse has gone up, it's because people are far more willing and able to report it because of the high profile it's receiving, not least as a consequence of ongoing fallout from the Jimmy Savile scandal. Contrary to popular belief, serious physical abuse and some forms of sexual abuse are slowly falling. There's also been a sharp drop over the last decade in suicides of older teenagers too, although calls to ChildLine from younger and younger people with deeply worrying low levels of self-esteem, show we have a long way to go.
At our headquarters in July, David Cameron announced plans to clamp down on child abuse images, after years of campaigning by the NSPCC and others. And his government, along with technology companies, is also helping to shield young children from adult pornography - something we said is warping young people's views of sex and relationships. New arrangements have been introduced, influenced by the Savile case, to improve how reports of sexual abuse are dealt with by the police and the CPS. Taking pre-recorded video evidence from vulnerable child witnesses is to be trialled in England. Again these are things the NSPCC has pushed for over many years - it is heartening to see politicians responding.
I imagine most of you reading this will be starting to think about New Year's resolutions. Give up drinking for a while? Join a gym? How about a resolution that will change other people's lives and yours too? ChildLine is urgently seeking volunteers to go into schools to talk directly with nine-11-year-old children about different forms of abuse and about staying safe. We also need volunteers for the ChildLine helpline in bases all over the country. You don't need any previous experience and you will be given first class training and support. As well as playing your part in strengthening the resilience of a whole generation of children, you'll become part of a great team. A recent survey of our volunteers found that it improved their happiness, their confidence and their self-esteem.
Your contribution can save a life, literally. Esther Rantzen, the founder of ChildLine, talks of her visit to one Childline base when a counsellor waved for a supervisor to come over. He was on a call from a young person who was on a bridge on their mobile phone threatening to jump. The counsellor spent 30 tense minutes talking to them and eventually convinced them not to jump. Esther asked the counsellor how long he'd been volunteering with ChildLine and he replied 'this is my first shift.'
Another of our counsellors, Colin, once took a call from a young girl who was pregnant and wanted to kill herself. After a long discussion she decided not to take the pills and instead plucked up the courage to tell her mother who turned out to be very supportive. She called back several months later and got through to Colin. She said she'd kept the baby and had decided to name it after him. I imagine what Colin felt then, and still feels to this day, beats any gym membership in the world or a few weeks without a drink.
So go on, volunteer in 2014, and support the children out there who desperately need your help.